BJ Penn. That's been the lone draw for the lower weight classes of the UFC. Now, with the addition of the Flyweight division the UFC has one more weight class to figure out how to market.
Outside of UFC 129, the Toronto stadium show featuring GSP vs. Jake Shields, Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick and Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida, no pay-per-view featuring a lighter weight championship has produced more than 375,000 buys since BJ fell out of the 155 title picture.
The average of those pay-per-views has been 291,000 buys. When the UFC gave the fans a UFC Bantamweight Championship fight for free on Versus it failed to crack the one million viewer mark. However, the fact that it was aired on Versus plays in to that statistic.
For whatever reason these weight classes have yet to capture the attention of the casual fan. Leaving the UFC with mediocre ratings and buys for their shows headlined by some of the most technically sound and exciting fighters in the game.
What can the UFC do to market these exciting fighters and their respective weight classes to increase their value? Here are five ways I think they can tackle the problem.
This is something the UFC has done previously. UFC 129. Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick was the co-main to GSP's massive star. The UFC attempted the same thing with UFC 148 by having Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber booked under the blockbuster rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
But the UFC needs to keep trying.
While the UFC is currently planning to have BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald co-main event to the UFC Heavyweight Championship in September if what Demetrious Johnson told Ariel Helwani is true, that he is healthy and wants to fight in September, then the Flyweight championship should be your new co-main event.
The contrast between the lightest and heaviest weight classes would be an exciting idea. Not to mention Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez is a fight that will get a lot of attention and draw eyes to the event.
The attempts the UFC have made are appreciated, but only one has been successful thus far. They need to continue finding avenues to put these elite athletes in front of their biggest audiences.
OK, I know they have done this one too. But much like the previous slide, it is something they need to re-visit.
As UFC President Dana White said in this video from MMAFighting.com, The Ultimate Fighter was dropped on FX. Once they find the proper date and time for the show the series should return to its formerly solid ratings.
Introducing a flyweight and bantamweight season should give the divisions some connection with the casual fanbase.
Highlighting the divisions weekly on a live rendition of The Ultimate Fighter would offer more exciting fights on a weekly basis. And who does not want more exciting fights?
And it would not hurt if the coaches fought for free on the finale either. Preferably someone the audience already identifies with.
The all-heavyweight PPV went smoothly. An all-bantamweight, featherweight or flyweight show would also.
While the depth may not currently be there for an all-flyweight card the other divisions certainly have the talent. It would be fun to showcase it fight after fight after fight.
Headline the card with a title fight or two battling for the top contenders spot. That card will give you exciting fights, a lot of potential finishes and a significant main event to sell to the public.
By making it free on FX you open it up to be seen by millions. Viewers can become fans of the division after being in awe of the speed they bring to the Octagon. That opens up more buys when they begin to show up on posters for PPV events.
An all FX event for any of those divisions would be an excellent way to showcase the talent.
Primetime is typically set aside for the events the UFC deem to be big. But fans are already drawn to fights like Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans. While Primetime is a nice addition to those cards, it does not add the value it would to the lighter weights.
Imagine UFC Primetime featuring Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar, Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez or Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber or Renan Barao.
The public will finally get to see those fighters outside of the cage. A look in to their lives. The Junior dos Santos' and GSP's of the world get enough coverage that the fans know them. They do not know the lighter weights.
If the UFC could produce episodes for the lighter weight classes then perhaps the audience would be more inclined to watch shows headlined by them.
The hardcore fanbase and media know the personalities of these fighters and they are bright. Show that to the world.
Take the idea from the previous slide and make whoever those two are the headliner for a FOX event.
I am not talking about Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller. Two fighters the general public know little to nothing about fighting for a shot to a title they are not enthusiastic about. I am talking about building the show with a Primetime and utilizing FOX's extraordinary promotion abilities to bring a title fight to the masses.
The combination of a Primetime, FOX and a championship fight would give the UFC a platform to elevate whichever division they chose.
And what if they blew it out? What if the UFC decided to put two championships on the line?
Headline the card with Cruz vs. the winner of Faber vs. Barao. Set them up for a Primetime. And for the co-main? The Flyweight championship.
The idea is to introduce and promote the champions of the division. Those fights, on their own, would only grab 225,000-300,000 buys on PPV. Whereas, if promoted properly, the FOX card could draw millions of viewers.
Fans will buy cards if they connect and like the stars. As much fun as Johnson vs. Benavidez will be it is not a draw right now. Show the world why they are. Let the Cruz's, Barao's, Johnson's, Benavidez's and others show the network television audience why they should order their next title fight.
Bring them to FOX. It will pay off in the long run.