Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp
Every time the UFC holds an event, thousands of fans, desperate for their weekly fix, sign up for Fight Pass, the UFC's new premium video service.
Fans want to see fights. A select few want to see them badly enough to drop $9.99.
Each event is another opportunity to hook us in. Alexander Gustafsson was the tipping point for many. Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva added thousands more.
Resistance is futile. Eventually a fighter you can't wait to see will be available only on an Internet stream. That's when the promotion will get you—at least that's the nefarious and frankly brilliant plan hatched by the masterminds at Zuffa.
The Fight Pass prelims at UFC 171, however, won't contribute much to the UFC's eventual world domination. Not a single bout features two fighters with a Wikipedia profile: the eternal symbol of moderate relevance. There is no killer app here. This is filler in its purest form.
Fight Pass may indeed end up working. It may become an integral part of being a fan and part of the culture that diehards can't do without. But, if so, it won't be because of prelims like this one.
No, it won’t, but I also don’t think that’s really part of the plan. I doubt anyone at UFC headquarters is expecting prelims before pay-per-view cards to spike viewership numbers.
Fight Pass will live and die by the popularity of its exclusive overseas Fight Night events. As my cohort Ben Fowlkes rightly pointed out on last week’s episode of the Co-Main Event Podcast, the current system essentially turns those cards into $9.99 pay-per-views.
Since the UFC doesn’t ask users to agree to any sort of contract when they sign up for the digital network, it seems reasonable to expect Fight Pass subscriptions will climb during months where it features must-see shows, and ebb when it does not.
I’m sure the people at Zuffa have made peace with that. It’s the way they set up the system, after all.
But to your point: Nah, prelims won’t move the needle much. That’s why they’re called prelims.