UFC on Fuel TV 5: Why Dana White Should Provide More Free MMA Action

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2012

NEW YORK - MARCH 06:   UFC president Dana White signs autographs for fans after a press conference at Radio City Music Hall on March 06, 2012 in New York City.  UFC announced that their third event on the FOX network will take place on Saturday, May 5 from the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

No sport has a brighter future than MMA fighting. Dana White's UFC is flourishing and has yet to reach a ton of untapped markets.

More free viewership will solve that problem. The UFC needs more free programming to continue widening its audience.

The UFC's current deal with Fox entails four shows on cable each year, with six on Fuel TV and eight on FX. UFC took another big step into the European market with UFC on Fuel TV in Nottingham, England on Saturday.

The majority of the organization's revenues comes from pay-per-view sales, but there aren't enough quality cards for this current revenue model to be sustainable. The UFC can extend its reach with free programming, putting more shows on cable, so it can gather more viewers for future pay-per-views.

Besides, who doesn't like free stuff?

Dana White did speak about more shows in UFC's future; what he actually does, though, is up in the air (via MMAjunkie.com):

"When we were doing five shows a year, when we were doing eight shows a year – you can't grow the sport with five or eight shows a year. You can't bring in enough talent, enough guys can't make money. You can't cultivate all these different markets. You have to have fights. To get it done and do it the right way, you've got to have the TV deals."

The UFC should look no further than the WWE business model. Sure, the WWE is more of an entertainment business, but it offers a ton of free content through its two shows, Raw and SmackDown.

While there are matches on those shows that UFC couldn't match in quantity, the WWE spends at least one half of its shows pumping up matches for its pay-per-view events.

Dana White has begun to work creatively to market his product, expanding internationally (with potential shows in India, China and potentially Brazil), but the organization is missing out on opportunities for more viewership.

For example, the UFC could hold more shows on cable with "undercard" matches and pump up its fighters on its pay-per-view shows. The organization needs to turn its fighters into endearing players rather than just boxers and wrestlers who fight in a cage.

Like the WWE, the UFC should strive to be more annual. The canceling of UFC 151 didn't hurt demand, but the UFC missed out on a financial boon and a chance for growth.

Demand hasn't shrunk for UFC since it struck a cable deal, but the organization isn't capitalizing on a golden opportunity.

Dana White can do better, and the UFC can be better. Sometimes you need to throw a bone to do it.