UFC on Fox: Debut Meets Hype but Offers Blueprint for Improvement
All the fights from UFC on Fox 1 are in the memory banks. Now that the lights are extinguished and the ratings tabulated, it's fair to ask whether this watershed television event lived up to the hype that surrounded it.
I think it did, but there are areas in need of polish.
First thing's first: When the updated ratings came out, they revealed an average viewership of 5.7 million, enough to outperform nearly every college football game that day. It also exceeded the average viewership of MMA's first foray into network broadcast television—that 2008 EliteXC event, with that guy named Kimbo Slice—which averaged 4.3 million viewers, although it did peak higher with 6.5 million.
Take those numbers, add in a riveting (though short) heavyweight title fight, and you've really got something you can build on.
That's all you can really ask out of the UFC's very first foray into broadcast TV. Success: achieved. Now for the building areas.
Dana White doesn't want to hear it, but there should be more than one fight on these cards. I know the UFC is in spoon-feeding mode at this point, and that's cool. I get that. But the UFC should be working to push out more than just two individual fighters. Even if you don't want to give all the fights away, at least acknowledge that other fights happened that evening, maybe in the form of some highlights or a rundown of the results.
Claiming that Facebook and premium channel Fox Deportes are adequate stand-ins for regular coverage just doesn't pass the smell test. I imagine they'll take this into account moving forward, though.
Speaking of White, I wonder if he might want to consider ratcheting down his level of involvement in the broadcast. I think his presence on the screen is very important, and I always enjoy what he has to say. But he's the big boss man. It's confusing and strange to watch him hobnob with Curt Menefee and break down fight strategies. Doesn't he have people to do that for him? Shouldn't he hold himself above that fray a little bit?
I like how they do it in the pay-per-view broadcasts. Joe Rogan interviews him for a few minutes, gets his thoughts on the evening and that's that. I realize this is a different animal, but there should still be some dividing lines.
It was a great night for the UFC, both as a fight promotion and an organization. The show was well-produced and free of controversy. Those are no small tasks these days, for anyone.
The ratings prove that this is a worthwhile enterprise. There are kinks to work out, but here at the outset of what will be at least a seven-year relationship, things are looking pretty good. You may not want to break out the flight suit just yet, but the first mission has been accomplished.
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