For the last six years of his professional fighting life, anybody that wanted to see Jon Fitch perform had to plunk down at least $45 to see him compete on pay-per-view.
The last time Fitch fought on free television was in 2007, when he defeated Roan Carneiro as part of the UFC Fight Night 10 show that aired live on Spike TV. Since then, however, he has been a part of pay-per-view broadcasts while fighting in the UFC.
Now, with his main event fight coming up against Josh Burkman for the third World Series of Fighting card that will air live for free on NBC Sports Network, Fitch is speaking out against the idea that big fights have to take place on pay-per-view in MMA.
"It's time that we bury this dinosaur that is pay-per-view," Fitch told Bleacher Report recently. "It's such a ridiculous thing that we live in 2013 and people still think that pay-per-view is still a viable and realistic form of selling anything.
"People just need to get on the bandwagon of free television. It starts with supporting World Series (of Fighting) on June 14 on NBC Sports Network."
The only promotion that has ever had success with pay-per-view in mixed martial arts is the UFC. Several other organizations have tried the format to launch or boost their brand, but everyone short of the UFC has fallen flat on its face.
Fitch believes that the UFC holding on so tightly to pay-per-view as the top spot for the biggest fights is actually preventing the sport from reaching the next plateau in terms of overall growth. He also knows that while big time boxing stars like Floyd Mayweather are pulling in over $30 million dollars per fight, the pay-per-view format has virtually killed boxing's relevancy in the American sports landscape.
"I think we're over it. I think it's what killed boxing," Fitch said. "Because they used to show boxing—a long time ago boxing used to be on ABC Sports and stuff like that. It was on free TV. Like Muhammed Ali fought on free television. When these promoters start being greedy and start seeing the money in pay-per-view, they went that route, and it really is unfair to the fans. It's a ripoff."
It's so much of a ripoff, Fitch is shocked that fans still pay to see any fight on television when there are a million different ways to see things for free.
"With technology today, I don't see how everybody doesn't pirate it free anyways," Fitch stated. "Just get on board for free TV, and I think that needs to be the end of pay-per-view."
Fitch will pick up his career on free television for his next fight, and he hopes more promotions will follow suit. The UFC does have a landmark deal with Fox where more and more original programming will be allowed to air for free in the coming years.
In the big picture, Fitch knows that as big as MMA has gotten over the last decade, he can only imagine how much bigger it could be if people weren't forced to pay for to see the best in the world compete.
"I think so, just for the willingness of these companies to put it on free TV, is showing some acceptance," Fitch said. "Once you start seeing some bigger sponsors getting on board, some bigger corporate sponsors getting on board, that's really going to be the key to turning this into a top-level sport like the NBA and NFL."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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