The UFC has officially released its general schedule for 2014. While many of the cards are still unknown, there's plenty here to whet fans' appetites.
According to the company's website, the UFC will put on 35 events next year. Fox Sports Live tweeted a breakdown of how those events will be carried on television and pay-per-view.
The year will start out with UFC on Fox on January 25 in the United Center. The other highlights include UFC 169 in New Jersey at the beginning of February and then UFC 170 in Las Vegas later in the month.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the unveiling of the schedule.
Are You Ready for Some Fighting (Then Football)?
One of the cooler elements on the schedule is that UFC 169 will take place on February 1, a day before Super Bowl XLVIII, in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Super Bowl is roughly 10 miles away in East Rutherford at MetLife Stadium.
It's a nice bit of synergy for Fox.
This was a smart move by the UFC. The entire week building up to the Super Bowl is covered by just about every sports outlet in the country. But nothing ever happens. It's just a bunch of players talking platitudes and about how their team is going to win.
With so much of the media focused on the NFL and so little in terms of substance, it's a great chance for the UFC to steal some of that spotlight or at least piggyback on it. Going right up against the Super Bowl is never a good idea. On the other hand, having an event the night before is bound to create buzz and draw in plenty of fans.
UFC Looking to Expand Overseas
The UFC will be taking the fight to Europe and Asia, quite literally, as it looks to gain more of a foothold in international markets.
Per Fox Sports.com's Mike Chiappetta:
The UFC's plans for international expansion continue to be molded into shape as UFC's executive vice president in charge of the European, Middle Eastern and African regions Garry Cook laid out a plan designed to grow the market and eventually stage events that would be specifically produced for local markets. In other words, not designed for U.S. audiences.
The plan would be to create a UFC Fight Night series with a minimum of six events in 2014, and the objective would be to give the UFC's European broadcast partners primetime programming and create regional stars...
For 2014, London has already been targeted for kicking off the series in the spring, while Istanbul was also mentioned as a likely landing spot. Other cities including Dublin, Lodz, Glasgow and Berlin are also frontrunners for events.
Growing overseas can only be a good thing for the UFC.
By scheduling events in foreign countries, it's opening up new revenue streams. Sure, plenty of international fans have probably heard of the UFC, but never before will so many have an opportunity to see fights in person.
The Fight Night series is also a great way to grow new stars. These fighters might get lost in the shuffle in the U.S, but now they can build a reputation on a huge stage closer to home. As they become bigger stars, those international fans will become more interested in the product and gain a rooting interest.
That in turn means more dollars in the UFC's pocket.
Will the Product Get Watered Down?
Slowly but surely, the UFC has been increasing its number of events over the years. Between 2010 and 2014, 11 more cards have been added to the calendar, via TheMMAReport.com's Jason Floyd.
When you think about it, that's a significant number. The schedule has increased by almost a third in the span of five years. It speaks to the growth of UFC and the sport in general.
Clearly, fans will be happy to see more MMA. You do have to wonder when enough will be enough, though. At what point will UFC's ambition begin to hamper the product?
Thirty-five doesn't seem like too many events. Yes, some cards will be letdowns, but that's always going to happen, unless you would rather see five big shows a year.
Fans also run the risk of being burned out by too much UFC. Sure, they'll tune in when the shows are on cable, but some might become wary of shelling out money to see the PPVs every month.
Striking that happy balance will be key for the company in the coming years. With too few events, you're leaving money on the table. With too many events, you risk alienating fans and having absolute stinkers when it comes to the cards.
That hurts the product and can do long-term damage.
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