Matchmaking, Not Piracy Is The Problem With UFC PPV Business

Matt Hamill vs. Rampage JacksonJon Jones vs. Rampage Jackson delivered as advertised, a mismatch sold for $50. Dana White likes to bash boxing for their mismatched main-events but a look at the 2011 UFC PPV schedule looks more like cash for clunkers than a company delivering as advertised.

One of the biggest stories in sports this year was the UFC’s $90 million deal with Fox television. Some critics asked why Fox would back in the Brinks trucks for a company on the downside? Now Dana White would tell you different, but ratings patterns and pay per view numbers speak of a company at a crossroads.

The biggest indicator here is pay per view business. The UFC were rolling in the dough since 2007 cleaning up the pay per view business with exciting fights and star-studded headliners. Yet early projections of 2011 show a big drop in buyrates and a company that will be lucky to match the 7.175 million buys of 2009.

Dana White would tell you that it all comes down to piracy. Granted, I do believe that Internet piracy has hit the pay per view business hard. However, I still think that a big fight will create buzz and influence a fan to pay $50 and invite some friends over for a UFC party rather than struggle to find a halfway decent stream sitting in front of his computer and watching it by him or herself. Piracy is just a convenient excuse for a company that has no shame in spinning more b.s. to their fans than a presidential political debate.

The UFC should be ashamed of themselves for the garbage that they have asked their fans to pay $50 to watch in 2011. I get it, injuries happen and you don’t always get the big match. Yet I am tired of this injury excuse, as much as I am the piracy excuse. Either cut down on pay per views which would leave more big time fighters available in case of injury or just don’t charge for a crap main-event that anyone with an MMA brain knows is a huge mismatch!

I went back and took a look at the UFC 2011 pay per view schedule following UFC 135 and you can judge for yourself how many of these fights on paper you would want to pay $50 to watch and how many of these fights would barely pass for a Spike TV Fight Night main-event.

UFC 125: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard for the UFC lightweight championship
UFC 126: Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort for the UFC middlewieght championship
UFC 127: B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch
UFC 128: Mauricio Shogun Rua vs. Jon Jones for the UFC ligh heavyweight championship
UFC 129: Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields for the UFC welterweight championship
UFC 130: Rampage Jackson vs. Matt Hamill
UFC 131: Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin
UFC 132: Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber for the UFC bantamweight championship
UFC 133: Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans
UFC 134: Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami for the UFC middlewieght championship
UFC 135: Jon Jones vs. Rampage Jackson for the UFC light heavyweight championship

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Out of those eleven main-events, how many would you seriously call a UFC headlining fight? How many of these fights presented enough of an even matchup that you thought you’d get a great fight for your money? On paper, I’d say four, and I am being generous with GSP vs. Shields. That leaves you with seven headliners that anyone with an objective eye saw as a one-sided fight. Let’s go further into the schedule and look at how many of those four fights actually delivered the great fight Dana White told you that you would get in the main-event.

I would say Gray vs. Edgar and Cruz vs. Faber were it. I liked Penn vs. Fitch but selling that as a main-event was just criminal. Ironically, those were probably the least appealing fights to casual MMA fans on the list. GSP vs. Shields was as one-sided as most thought it would be and Jones vs. Rua was nothing more than a glorified sparring session for Bones. So of eleven main-events in 2011, thus far only two have delivered the headlining fight you were promised before ordering the fight.

What bugs me is that you have the same sell going into every fight from Dana White and Joe Rogan on the Countdown on the shows. Remember how Yushin Okami was the greatest fighter from Japan? Remember how Vitor Belfort was the only guy who could give Anderson Silva a real challenge? Remember how the “old” Rampage would show up to fight Bones? Remember how Tito Ortiz was back? I mean the carnival sell from these shysters just goes on and on with these mismatches to the point that it makes you sick.

The schedule does not get that much better for the UFC in 2011. One of the only two legitamite UFC main-event fights on the scheduled was just canceled because the challenger didn’t show up for a press conference. So instead now you will be sold a bill of goods for a few months about how Carlos Condit is even more dangerous than Nick Diaz is to GSP’s title. Check out the schedule and decide for yourself how many of these fights are the real deal or more cash for clunkers.

UFC 136: Gray vs. Maynard III
UFC 137: St-Pierre vs. Condit for the UFC welterweight title
UFC 138: Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz (free on Spike TV)
UFC 139: Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua
UFC 140: Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
UFC 141: Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem

Let’s take Leben vs. Munoz out of the equation since it is a free fight and look at the other five main-events that will be sold on pay per view. I would say just one has any chance of delivering the kind of main-event you hope to see for your $50 and that is UFC 136. Lesnar vs. Overeem will deliver either a fast knockout or a long drawn out snoozer. Selling Frank Mir in any main-event after his last two pay per view outings is an outright insult. GSP vs. Condit is another glorified sparring session for the champ. Henderson vs. Rua is intriguing, but certainly not worth a main-event slot with a $50 price tag.

Dana White called boxing promoter Bob Arum a “greedy pig” back in August. I don’t think there is much of a difference when it comes to greed between the two fight promoters. Taking money with a smile for shows headlined by Matt Hamill vs. Rampage Jackson, Frank Mir vs. Big Nog, and Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans is just as greedy in my opinion.

The bottom line here is that the UFC can cry injuries and piracy all they want but the fact of the matter is that the quality of pay per view main-events are the problem. Fans are smart enough in 2011 to see through the phony sell and know a mismatch when they see it. With even fewer quality headlining fights on the table for 2012, it could be a grim year in the Zuffa offices for Joe Silva and the other shills responsible for these lackluster main-events.

Boxing is doing it to you again,” UFC president Dana White said in 2009. “They’re giving you the fight that you don’t want. Nobody asked for this fight with Mayweather and – what’s his name? What’s his name? Nobody even knows. Nobody in this room even knows who Floyd’s fighting.

Sadly Dana White has been doing it again and again and again to UFC fans in 2011.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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