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UFC: Will Expansion Have a Negative Impact on Some Markets?

NEW YORK - MARCH 06:   UFC president Dana White speaks at 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
James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

With Dana White set on global domination, it has become apparent that certain markets must settle for whatever scraps the UFC decides to throw their way.

The general consensus throughout the MMA media appears to be that the UFC currently stages too many events.

Their relatively shallow roster is not sufficient to satisfy the current schedule. Moreover, the sudden, inexplicable frailty of their athletes has only compounded the issue.

The result of this is that Joe Silva is like the little boy with his finger in the dyke, trying to hold the schedule together by booking cards that are at least vaguely watchable.

The media has failed to properly assess the issue, however. While some argue that the UFC’s schedule exceeds demand for the product, the truth is that there is no such thing as too much MMA.

There can be too much premium content, such as pay-per-views, but the notion that the sport’s fans want fewer shows in general is false—at least in this writer’s opinion.

Some may want a reduced schedule in order to promote card depth, but if the roster could support the current schedule, those same people would doubtless be in favour of more shows being promoted.

Dana White and Co. are not guilty of oversaturating the market, but they are guilty of overextending themselves. That is why they continue to expand. They need more countries to become invested in the sport and more youngsters to start on the path to an eventual career in MMA.

Unfortunately for those markets that have already been tapped—particularly those that were less successful than had been anticipated—they are likely to witness fewer and fewer events on their soil.

Let’s take the UK as an example.

The UFC already knows where it stands with the British fans. It is a middling market that need only be stoked once per year in order to maintain the UFC’s modest presence. More importantly, the inconvenient time disparity between the UK and the U.S. means that PPV is almost out of the question.

While the UFC expands into untapped territories like India and China, markets like the UK—and indeed much of Europe—can expect to be largely overlooked.

We value loyalty, and Dana’s relationship with the fans has, in some ways, created the illusion that he will sacrifice profit for the purpose of demonstrating his fidelity, but sometimes we forget that White and the Fertitta’s are running a business. Their loyalty generally only extends as far as it benefits their bottom line.

Fans incessantly badger the UFC President on Twitter, demanding that he take his travelling circus to wherever is most convenient for them—and as a Scotsman, believe me when I say that I can sympathise.

The problem is that the UFC’s ambition precludes them from satisfying its countless customers. They have already made their choice.

They cannot shoot for global domination and continue to sate ailing markets that have repeatedly proven their limitations, even if those markets contain loyal consumers of the product.

It is time for us to accept that some markets will exist in a state of purgatory while the UFC maintains its prohibitive ambition, despite its limited resources.

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