The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, and its rise has been nothing if not spectacular.
Its foundation was simple: arrange for two men to fight in a cage, hype them up and watch them fight.
Rinse and repeat.
This method of delivering fights was so effective for the promotion because of its stellar execution and consistency. When a big fight was supposed to happen, it did. The fans were happy, the fighters were happy and, of course, the UFC was happy.
With this in mind, let us turn to a troubling issue from both a fan's and the UFC's standpoint.
More and more frequently, we hear of fighters dropping out of big fights with injuries—sometimes severe, sometimes questionable. But the result is always the same: we, the fans, are disappointed.
Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva.
Brian Stann vs. Hector Lombard.
Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber.
The list of hyped fights, which are now gone with the wind, goes on and on...and these are just from the past few months.
How much are we supposed to take? How many times can we be hopeful for a big fight, only to be immediately dropped on our heads?
Replacement fights are, first and foremost, always of a lesser caliber on paper. Let's return to our list and look at the substitute fight for each matchup I've posted:
Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva
Tim Boetsch vs. Hector Lombard
Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber
In each instance, we are left with a vastly less-interesting matchup than was originally planned.
No Vitor means no bad blood, no TUF Brazil coaches matchup and no Brazilian war.
No Brian Stann likely means no standup war, no bloodbath that we so greedily anticipated.
Finally, no Dominick Cruz means no trilogy matchup, no closure for the close decision in their second meeting and no fitting end to a great season of TUF Live.
The UFC may be MMA's largest promotion, but even it feels the sting of these changes. Fans are becoming more and more hardcore by the day, but do not think for a second that a considerable amount passes on the $55 pay-per-view fee after hearing a top fighter will no longer grace his or her big screen TV.
Making this worse, our digital world enables matchups to be analyzed with immediacy. As soon as a fight is announced, breakdowns of the matchup emerge and forums worldwide are buzzing with anticipation.
When the rug is pulled out of these matchups, everyone loses.
Right now this trend is still OK, but it is certainly starting to get old. If the UFC would like to continue its meteoric rise to the top of the sporting world, it needs to gain traction and find the consistency in matchups that got it where it is today.
The fans are losing their patience.
And when their fists tighten with frustration, their wallets do the same.