In what was perhaps the biggest night for the UFC and the sport of MMA, approximately 1.6 to 1.75 million viewers paid their hard-earned money to watch UFC 100 on pay-per-view.
It was a huge night for the sport ,as fans seemed to find something in the card or about the event that helped inspire them to spend their money; never before had the company enjoyed such a massive pay-per-view audience.
Of course, it was the hundredth numbered show, and people love anniversaries, so that probably played a part.
Then, it had big names and compelling matchups: Brock Lesnar (the biggest domestic star the company has ever had) defending his title against the only man to ever beat him in his MMA career (to that point), Frank Mir.
Canadian superstar and reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was also defending his belt against Thiago Alves, and then you had the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter season 9, Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping, slugging it out in a rivalry that had been brewing for months.
But those were just some of the known names involved. UFC 100 was big because there were many established (as in known by the public) names on the card: Stephan Bonnar, Mark Coleman, Mac Danzig, Brock Lesnar, GSP, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping were men that the public had known either thanks to The Ultimate Fighter or an established career in MMA.
And it was also a well-built event with a lot talent spread all though the card and it got a big push in the media. It seemed there was a little something for everyone.
Now, it is still the biggest selling pay-per-view the company has ever known, and as expected, that is the record everyone is waiting to see broken. But will it ever be broken?
Will the UFC ever see another event that produces the same numbers or surpasses those of UFC 100?
Yes, they will.
Granted, it will not be an easy mark to overcome. UFC 148 was supposed to be able to generate those kinds of numbers, but it didn’t, and it seems clear as to why.
One of the biggest things UFC 100 had going for it was name value, and on that night, they had a lot of it.
Now, imagine if you will, another fight card, with matchups like GSP vs. Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem vs. Junior dos Santos, Shogun vs. Rashad Evans and so on. If the UFC wants to see those kinds of numbers again, they need to think about mega-cards with many big names.
But this is known to everyone. Eventually, all records fall, and UFC 100 will fall to second place, then to third, etc. On a long enough timeline, all records end up broken.
In looking back at UFC 100, it’s painfully clear that one of the biggest assets available to the company then that is missing now is Brock Lesnar. Say what you will about the man as a fighter, but he was a walking event maker; just his name being announced for a card got people to marking the time and date on their calendar.
The UFC, and the sport, are making good on their claim to be the universal attraction that speaks any language, and in the long haul, that will be huge in how big the sport will grow. But for now, the UFC suffers from having too many great fighters who come from a different culture and value different things when it comes to entertainment.
Anderson Silva, for all his greatness, was on magazine covers, striking poses that imitated the late, great Michael Jackson, which for Silva, was a wonderful moment. But it also speaks to how different the rest of the world is when it comes to entertainment: The era of Michael Jackson was in decline many years ago in the US.
No matter how legitimate and profound the sport of MMA is, there is still an entertainment aspect to it, just as there is a sporting aspect to it. It’s become so regulated and professionalized that it no longer enjoys the pull it once had for simply being true to its design. Everyone goes to the zoo to see the lion or the grizzly bear, but no one will watch them for very long if they are sleeping.
Once upon a time, fans flocked to the sport because of what it represented, because of what it was. Now, that wild, random aspect is gone, for the most part. Fighters like Brock Lesnar carried that air of unpredictability with them every time they step into the cage, even if the state of their fight plan never changes.
Still, even with all that is missing, the UFC is still the UFC, and the sport is still growing every year, and with that growth will come more superstars that will in turn see bigger fights made on bigger cards.
Until then, if the company wants to see that record broken, they might want to scale back the number of events per year so they can put three “main event” worthy fights on a single card, and having two title fights on said card wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.
Unless, of course, they can coax Lesnar back to the octagon and pay Fedor enough to come out of retirement for one fight. That might sell a few pay-per-views.