UFC 125: Resolution was the last time the Ultimate Fighting Championship had a name attached to their pay-per-view. Since that time they have stuck with just listing the main event fight. It is, and has been, the wrong move.
The UFC had built their events around more than one fight, and by naming their events for just the main event they are telling the fans that it is the only one that matters. It is the complete opposite of what they had built their organization on.
It has been the difference between MMA and boxing. Mixed martial arts was built on four to six main-card bouts filling the pay-per-view, and boxing was built on the singular main event. Fans never paid attention to the undercard bouts in boxing, but that was different in MMA.
UFC 67 is a prime example. It was titled “All or Nothing” and featured the UFC debuts of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Mirko Cro Cop as well as the UFC Middleweight Championship bout between Anderson Silva and Travis Lutter. The card was not built around Silva vs. Lutter.
Fans tuned in at 10 p.m. ET to watch fights and not a fighter. And once the main event concluded they stayed tuned in as the UFC aired a preliminary fight with the extra time they had. Casual fans barely knew Tyson Griffin and didn't know Frankie Edgar at all, and they got a potential fight of the year contender. Had it been boxing, or what the UFC does now, those fans would have turned off the PPV.
The fans were buying the brand. Now they are being told to buy the fighters. It is not working.
UFC 125: Resolution was held on January 1,, 2011. A tough day to have an event. Folks were out celebrating the new year amidst a recession, but the event still drew 270,000 buys.
The epic clash between Edgar and Maynard was a draw and the UFC booked the rematch for October 8th. UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard III only did 225,000 buys. Nearly 50,000 less buys with an additional title bout between Jose Aldo and the ever popular Kenny Florian.
That can only be seen as a failure.
When asked to buy a PPV for a particular fighter or fight the public loses interest for everyone not at the peak of the sport. Only a select few can draw the big numbers. Yet, when the UFC named each event and were asking people to just buy the brand based on its history of an exciting night of fights they did better. It makes sense.
To the hardcore fan base who pays attention to every single fight it is a moot point. But for the casual fan it is a psychological trick. When it is “UFC: Fighter vs. Fighter” fans feel they can save their money until a bigger fight happens, but when it is “UFC: Subtitle” fans believe they will receive a night of fun fights regardless of who is on the card.
It is a simple change that has cost the UFC a significant number of PPV buys.
It will not add hundreds of thousands of buys to every event, but it will add several thousand. That adds up over time.
The UFC needs to get the casual fan to buy back into the brand itself and not its fighters. The pressure will be off of them when a main event falls apart and they are scrambling to replace it. The average PPV buyer will simply be expecting fun fights even if they do not know the fighters.
That is what made the UFC so successful to begin with. Naming each UFC event after the main event is failing them. It was a subtle change that has had a significant impact on the bottom line over time. It is time for Dana White and the Fertitta's to go back to adding a cheesy title to the events.
It was a clever trick. They made the fans care about the brand first and the fighters second. What fights were on the card was secondary to what they believed they were going to get—a fun night of fights.
The UFC needs to make the fans buy back into the brand.