Jonathan Snowden: Today I broke the news to my wife—I couldn't go out Saturday night because the UFC was on. She had no idea, despite being a huge fan of the sport and GSP in particular. She's not alone. Not a single person has asked me about the fight this weekend. Not one. Two years ago, that would have never been the case. And this isn't some run of the mill card. This is St-Pierre, the man Dana White calls the UFC's biggest drawing card. Is this a bad sign for this industry?
Matt Roth: I really don't get it, man. This is supposed to be one of the most anticipated fights of the year. Everyone should be holding fistfuls of dollars just telling Zuffa to shut up and take their money. But that's not happening. None of my friends have asked me if I'm having people over for the fights. They really have no idea that GSP is back. I don't know if it's a terrible sign for the industry, but it's a bad sign that arguably the biggest star in the sport is coming back and no one seems to care. My big question is if the UFC recognizes that maybe they need to scale back the events and add more depth to their cards.
Scott Harris: I wonder if a lot of other fans are like me. Even if semi-consciously, I'm picturing a St-Pierre victory by way of lay-n-pray. I know GSP has talked a lot about finishing more fights, and I don't doubt his sincerity, but there's no way he's going to stand and trade with Carlos Condit in his first live action on a surgically reconstructed knee. It's a matchup that favors the classic GSP playbook, which we all know by heart. All the superfight talk doesn't help, either. Even Dana White is openly discussing the "next step," even if GSP refuses to do so. Who cares about the fight before the fight?
It's also troubling that, even amid the NHL lockout, as of earlier this week the event was still not sold out. I thought Canada was supposed to be the biggest MMA market out there. Have they gone to the well too often? Yeah, maybe. But again, I think the matchup is the key issue, or more specifically, GSP himself. I love me some GSP. He's a legend in his own time. He's extremely smart. He's humble, he's lovable, and he seems like a thoroughly decent guy. But he's boring. In and out of the cage, so help me. He's a cold fish. He's uncooked poutine, hold the cheese and gravy, side of shark cartilage. As big of a fan as I am, I catch myself actively trying to psych myself up for this fight. No one had to do that for Condit and Nick Diaz.
Jonathan Snowden: The problem, in many ways, boils down to frequency. Once a month, the UFC is a good diversion from people's regular lives. It's a chance to have friends over for a barbeque to enjoy some old fashioned American violence. But when events begin airing on what feels like a weekly basis, it's harder to get people involved. It feels like the UFC is a houseguest that just won't go away.&And, to make matters worse, these constant cards means that each event is more than a little watered down. For casual fans, instead of comforting faces, the fighters on the television are little more than strangers. It's hard to get pumped up for "Red corner vs. Blue corner."
Matt Roth: Jon, you bring up a great point. The third fight on the main card? Francis Carmont (who?) vs Tom Lawlor (4-3 in the UFC). It's inexcusable. I'm sure that they're really nice guys, but why are they on a main card? That would never happen two years ago.
Meanwhile, the UFC puts Mark Munoz vs Chris Weidman on Fuel TV. The fact that these events seem to be happening every week is killing interest, including my own. It's hard to get excited for UFC 154 when the majority of these guys should be fighting on an Ultimate Fight Night card.
The fact of the matter is that the UFC is just promoting too many events too close together. If we're having a hard time keeping up with their schedule, what does that say for the casual fan?
Duane Finley: I agree with both of you on the over-saturation part but during two week lapses where there are no events I feel as if I'm missing something. That being said, that longing still won't get me to watch Bellator or MFC.
Whatever over-saturation issues there are will be put to the test soon because in 2013 the UFC is pumping out big cards in back to back fashion. As a fan I dig it.
Matthew Roth: Jon, what's the final word?
Jonathan Snowden: In part, this is all about the decline of The Ultimate Fighter. Perhaps these missing casual fans aren't as informed anymore about the upcoming fights because they are no longer watching the UFC's flagship program. With ESPN still not, for the most part, on board and Sports Illustrated just getting around to writing their first ever MMA profile after 20 years, there still isn't a mainstream presence, at least not the kind the sport deserves. This is one of the greatest sports on the planet and fans don't even know when the events are airing! What a world.