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Dana White likes to say that MMA will someday be the biggest sport in the world.
Despite that being a ludicrous statement, it's clear that the UFC is building the foundation for the long-term growth of the sport around the world. The promotion is running countless events in Brazil, heading back to Australia in December and planning an extensive list of live events for Singapore, China and Europe in 2014 and beyond.
The UFC truly is going everywhere, as Dana likes to say.
But is that a good thing for fight fans in the United States?
Wednesday night's Fight Night 28 card from Brazil featured a preliminary card chock full of fighters I've never heard of. Viewers who tuned in early saw a card comparable to a Brazilian regional fight card.
And boy, the fights were not good. Two of the early bouts were downright awful in fact and had me reaching for a freshly brewed pot of coffee in order to stay alert and awake.
Thing is, we can complain about mediocre undercards as much as we want. It won't do any good, because this is going to be the norm going forward. As the UFC expands into these markets, it's going to include local fighters on the preliminary card, which will support fighters you're actually aware of in the featured fights.
This is done for two reasons. First, it keeps costs down. Second and more importantly (at least for the future of the company in these markets), it offers the UFC a chance to build up fighters from all over the world in the hopes that a few of them will break through and become headliners in front of their countrymen.
These fights aren't designed to thrill viewers in the United States. Sure, they're available to watch on television if you want, and hardcore fans who just love fighting and don't care about superstars will tune in.
But that's not the point. The UFC is trying to build up future marketable assets around the world. Sometimes, that will lead to moments like Wednesday, when you're facing a broadcast without having the slightest idea of whom you're actually watching. That's not fun for folks who tune in to see stars, but it's a smart business decision for the UFC as it lays the groundwork for global expansion and domination.
That doesn't mean we can't complain about it, though, because we can and will.