Even to the most ardent MMA fan, the cards that have been put on UFC on Fuel have been—to put it nicely—lacking in relevance.
That won't be the case on Saturday when UFC on Fuel 7 goes down.
A bantamweight interim title fight between Renan Barao and Michael McDonald headlining the card means that this event has a relevance usually reserved for FX cards at minimum. That's a move that should be welcomed by UFC fans watching on TV at home and abroad.
Make no mistake, this isn't a complaint about the strength or weakness of past cards on Fuel. Considering the amount of money the company stands to gain from pay-per-view sales, it's nice to see free fights regardless of the fighter's position in the pecking order.
Cung Le vs. Rich Franklin was a fun matchup. For fans in China, that's a huge fight. However, neither carry the relevance in their weight division that Barao or McDonald possess (regardless of what Anderson Silva thinks of Cung Le).
From a business standpoint, it makes no sense to regularly put title fights on cards that air for free on a station that many don't have. To expect that is unrealistic. However, it was a smart move for the UFC to add a title match to this specific event.
Firstly, it acknowledges a large fanbase that often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to live events.
England has existed as a strong market for the UFC for a long time. The organization made its first stop in 2002 and has re-appeared in the country sporadically. This event will be the first one in the country since 2010.
The fact that the UFC was willing to put a title fight on the free card shows a dedication to building the brand in the country. For an organization looking for international expansion that's a great decision.
Aside from rewarding the fans of England with a quality fight, the extra attention of a title fight will also provide the rising prospects on the card a chance to shine.
From Paul Sass to Jimi Manuwa to Gunnar Nelson, this card features some of the most promising international talent that the UFC has to offer. While it may have been a more conventional move to put a hometown fighter in the main event, the main event of Barao and McDonald should attract more TV viewers.
If the UFC really wants to make its presence felt internationally, it has to nail these events overseas. With a solid main event between two major players in their division, they did just that with UFC on Fuel 7.
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