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UFC: The Promotion Should Go Big or Go Home on Thanksgiving Weekend

Oct 19, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Dana White speaks during the press conference following UFC 166 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor
Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2013

There's an old saying in sports: go big or go home.

This Saturday the UFC will go to the airwaves with The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale, an event headlined by Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard. An alright headliner for a UFC brand that has historically been weak in terms of star power, but a fight that doesn't really do either.

It's not big, but it's not so small that it's a sign of the UFC going home, either.

It's a safe bet that we all like Diaz—watching him fight, if not listening to him talk—and Maynard is always at his best with something to prove, which applies against Diaz specifically and in his career overall at this point.

In the midst of a turkey-induced coma, possibly dabbing iodine on the wounds procured during Black Friday battles around America, it's easy to see the appeal to the average fan of sitting down and watching a good ol' fashioned donneybrook.

With that in mind, a thought: Why not give them the biggest free donneybrook of the year live on FOX?

The UFC calendar has several can't-miss events. Super Bowl weekend, Independence Day and New Year's are all pay-per-view shows that are guaranteed to have the biggest headliners of the year.

What it doesn't have yet is a date on free television that everyone knows to associate with the UFC in a similar fashion.

Make that Thanksgiving and it's a guaranteed success.

The audience is already captive, as stated. FOX is airing football on Thursday and Sunday, leaving both Friday and Saturday night available for a big UFC show—something they put off in early December anyway, and could likely move ahead a few weeks.

If the promotion went big with a title fight that matters to the casual viewer the ratings would be insane.

Sure, there are potential hurdles.

The UFC would have to be willing to accept a loss on pay-per-view buys for one big show a year.

FOX would have to be receptive to the idea and be willing to push it as an event as big as, or bigger than, Thanksgiving football.

Advertisers would be expected to treat it as such when it came time to buy ad space.

Fans would have to be willing to stay home and commit to watching the event.

But if all those stars aligned just imagine what it would look like for the UFC.

Jon Jones headlining on Thanksgiving weekend, live and free on FOX.

Ronda Rousey at the top of the card, live and free on FOX.

Cain Velasquez, back on FOX for the first time since 2011, defending the heavyweight title live and free.

People would go crazy. Having a chance to showcase the top talent in the sport without the $60 price tag could do wonders. The undercard would almost be irrelevant with a proper big name headlining.

Perhaps all of this is a pipedream. Perhaps the FOX era is destined to be one of the flyweight title headliners and Benson Henderson fights.

But if it's not, if the UFC is serious about the FOX partnership and about challenging the NFL as the premier sports organization in existence, what better place to stake a claim than on an NFL broadcast partner in the middle of the biggest NFL weekend on the calendar.

In the midst of all the turkey, shopping and football, there's definitely room for the UFC. They just need to go big or go home.

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