This week, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers announced that UFC has entered into a seven-year television deal with Fox Sports. The deal includes moving The Ultimate Fighter reality show to F/X and delivering four free fights per year on affiliate Fox networks.
The question is, will this be good for MMA and the UFC in particular?
The answer is a resounding yes.
With free fights aired on one of the most-watched sports networks in North America, more of the general public will be exposed to MMA and the UFC.
Before switching to pay-per-view, boxing was accessible on radio and then television to the general public. It was as "American" as football, baseball and basketball. Some say the demise of boxing was when it moved to the PPV medium.
The UFC began on PPV and has built a hardcore fanbase. Current UFC skeptics are people who wouldn't pay $50.00 to watch a sport they're not sure they'll like.
A little whiff of the octagon will convert a number of such couch potatoes.
There's a reason pushers give you the first taste for free.
Likewise, more people will be exposed to The Ultimate Fighter reality show and will become initiated into the cult of Zuffa.
Free UFC fights will be tailored to give a taste of good fighting without diminishing the value of PPV feasts.
Yes, some will maybe buy one less event in a given year due to the four free events, but the number of new fans that will start purchasing one or more PPVs yearly will offset the loss. At least, that's the plan.
And it will probably work.
Dana White and the Fertittas know they have locked in their red-meat-eating, beer-swilling neanderthals in the 18-to-34 demographic. These addicts will never stop injecting at least two or three PPVs per year.
But the Zuffa beast wants more followers and the mainstream is the only place to find them.