The UFC's events have grown stale and generic.
Minor events on Fuel TV have the exact same boring, flat look as major pay-per-view and Fox cards. Shows held in far-off lands are indiscernible from those held in typical locales like Las Vegas.
But it's not only the events that are too similar to one another. The fighters have this problem as well.
"Muscles, shaved head, tattoos, shorts loaded up with ads, black gloves" describes a stunning amount of fighters on the UFC's roster.
Because of these two issues, recent fight cards tend to form one amorphous, largely forgettable blob in the minds of fans. The various UFC on Fuel, UFC on Fox and UFC on FX cards might as well be a giant katamari of bad tribal tats, "I respect him, he's a great opponent" interviews and Bud Light ads.
How can the UFC spice up its product? Read and find out!
When it comes to entrances, the UFC can learn tons from the WWE.
If the show is big enough, the WWE doesn't do entrances half-assed. It builds titanic structures in the venue and have a long ramp out to the ring to show just how monumentally significant the in-ring happenings are.
For example, wrestlers making their way to the squared circle in automated ring-carts at WrestleMania III did justice to Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and the other high-profile matches on the card. The matches were so huge in importance that the entrances and ambiance had to reflect it—or would it have been better if they took a long walk down a routine path where they were so close to the fans that the more adventurous ones could steal hats from the competitors?
Furthermore, the UFC can create arenas to differentiate between events. If you watch the WWE, you'll know almost immediately if you're watching SmackDown, Raw or a PPV.
And this isn't even mentioning the UFC's old rival, Pride Fighting Championships, who always did a remarkable job with its entrances, making the fight card feel truly grand in scale.
Why not have some sort of different arena structure or ramp to make events on Fuel, FX, Fox and PPVs unique?
As it stands now, they're all identical, and all lacking flavor. Events that are being watched by millions on FOX or on PPVs that determine the fate of the UFC are exact copies of events where no-name fighters compete for crumbs.
This shouldn't be.
After seeing the Head and Shoulders logo in the bottom left corner, I was wondering how all the fighters kept their hair so shiny and flake-free...
The Octagon is littered with advertisements ranging from the tiny to the obnoxiously huge.
The same is true for the very broadcast itself. Take a shot every time you hear Mike Goldberg yell "CORN NUTS! The official snack of the UFC!" and you'll succumb to alcohol poisoning before the start of the main event.
And what about having to sit through a movie preview on UFC PPVs?
Obviously, the UFC is a business that seeks to make money, and selling ad space and air time is a great way to achieve that.
However, there is a point where the rapacious pursuit of money is unbecoming. The UFC is reaching that point.
Scale down the ads and make things look cleaner, sleeker.
Pro wrestlers have iconic gear. Practically everyone remembers Hulk Hogan's "Hulk Rules" tank top and his red-and-yellow color scheme.
MMA fighters, too, have notable attire. Anderson Silva has his signature black-and-yellow tights. BJ Penn has his white shorts with the black belt drawn on the waistline. And Chuck Liddell's icicle shorts are without peer regarding notable clothing in MMA!
Wouldn't it be nice if more athletes in MMA sought to have fight regalia that they'd be remembered for long after they left the Octagon? Or is seeing the same pair of standard shorts for the millionth time really a better alternative?
Of course, this solution to the UFC's staleness lies more with the fighters rather than the UFC itself. Also, in-cage wardrobes have to adhere to the unified rules of MMA, so they can't get too imaginative.
But this doesn't mean that the UFC can't help matters. Why does every fighter have to wear black gloves? Throw some diversity into the mix and let fighters pick different colors.
The UFC went to Macao, China, this past November.
The only aspect of the UFC's promotion of the event that indicated it was being held in a distant, rarely visited location was the poster—which had some Chinese-looking patterns on the side and a picture of Bruce Lee.
Fans should be able to realize within a few minutes of watching an event that's taking place overseas that the event is, in fact, taking place overseas—that there's something special about this card compared to others.
The UFC doesn't have to erect giant statues of that nation's great heroes on each side of the Octagon, but just putting the flag of the hosting nation on the canvas of the Octagon in lieu of some of the medium-sized ads would be a great start.
UFC fighter Erik Perez after a victory.
In other words, he's not partial to novel, entertaining entrances to the Octagon.
The only man who has recently received a pass was Erik Perez, who wore a luchador mask. White allowed the mask because it was a "warrior thing." To elaborate on White's laconic explanation, the luchador mask carries immense cultural significance in Mexico.
That country also happens to be one that the UFC is targeting for expansion.
Thus, there's much to be gained from letting Perez and perhaps other Mexican fighters down the line wear masks like that.
Unfortunately, White is still fervently anti-entrance antics for others. In the same interview with MMAjunkie, he said:
You guys know how I feel about guys acting like idiots walking out to the octagon; I can't stand it. You're going in there to fight. This isn't pro wrestling. But he's got a reason for why he does it, and they sat down, they explained it to me, and I'm cool with it.
All the other goofy [expletive] that happens? I can't stand it. To explain to you how painful it is for me to sit there and watch a guy walk 25 feet to the octagon acting like a moron, it hurts me. It hurts me, and I can't stand it.
White's opinion is understandable, but misguided. As long as what happens in the cage isn't predetermined, MMA won't be professional wrestling.
Fans will almost always remember a unique entrance. And sometimes they'll remember an entrance instead of a name, "The guy who walked out with a predator mask is fighting!"
Letting a fighter amuse the audience and help differentiate himself from the unwashed masses of fighters with their last names tattooed on their body is only a positive thing.
White and the UFC should understand this.
The WWE promotes pro wrestling—a form of brutal theater. Storylines are fabricated, matches are predetermined, and there's plenty of pomp and circumstance thrown into the mix.
The UFC promotes mixed martial arts—a combat sport where matches don't have scripted finishes. The vicissitudes of the sport can leave a man who's within seconds of victory suddenly unconscious on the canvas, broken.
What happens in the squared circle and what happens in the Octagon are dissimilar. What happens outside these structures is not. The sports can be promoted in similar fashion, and promoting an MMA fight by using techniques found in pro wrestling does not diminish or cheapen the sport in any way.
Letting a fighter wear a mask or having the titans of the UFC roster enter the arena from a massive superstructure complete with pyrotechnics do nothing to make what happens in the cage less real.
These promotional tools would only enhance the UFC and the personalities within it, making the in-Octagon events—the reason people buy the PPV in the first place—that much more meaningful, that much more legendary in scale.
Furthermore, to those who are trying to rid the UFC of any sports entertainment influences, what could be more sports entertainment than the UFC's current trend of handing title shots to fighters coming off a loss?