UFC Network Announcement Is Troubling

The UFC is gearing up for its most ambitious year in its 20 year existence. The MMA giant is scheduled to unleash close to 50 live events in 2014. The company will air many on an exclusive network in what I believe is the beginning of a long ending to UFC as we know it.

I have no qualms admitting that I am hardly the UFC fan today I was 20, 10, 5, even one year ago. The handful of shows I miss has now turned into the handful of shows I catch over the course of a year. There is just too much UFC and the announcement of this network confirms it.

The UFC will reportedly launch its own network in 2014. The new network will be available online and will offer access to streaming live events around the world, international The Ultimate Fighter seasons, as well as the UFC library for a monthly fee. Lorenzo Fertitta told USA Today that he wants to make sure every fan has the access to catch all of the events.

The UFC’s expansion into international markets, and the extended calendar of events, is certainly part of the reason it makes sense to launch the digital network in 2014,” Fertitta said. “UFC fans are the most passionate fans in the world, and we want to ensure they can see every fight and every event no matter where in the world the octagon may be.

I look at this as the beginning of the end. Don’t get me wrong. I think the end came this year when the company just oversaturated itself to the point that even hardcore fans began missing shows. No longer was every UFC event a must-see show. Contrary, most events were watered down to the point where only a select few events actually mattered.

The news about this network is troubling. What this tells me is that the fans aren’t the only ones losing interest. The UFC’s partner FOX Sports is losing interest as well. We were all told that once FOX launched their new networks, that the UFC would be a key part of the programming. The idea that FOX is passing on these shows tells me that this is not news to be celebrated. Let’s charge people to watch shows that our own broadcast partner isn’t even interested in producing!

One of the biggest if not the biggest problem with the UFC is its inability to create superstars. With Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva on the way out, Jon Jones is about it. What is troubling about that is that Jones doesn’t draw anywhere comparable to what UFC stars of his level have drawn in the past. Who is the big draw past Jones? Don’t say Cain Velasquez until you look at the buyrate he drew against JDS. It is Jones and everyone else and that isn’t going to change.

By holding all of these events, fans can no longer invest their interest into an up and coming star. Fans won’t be able to see all of their favorite fighter’s fights as easily as they did before. Take Alexander Gustaffson for example. He will be headlining the O2 Arena event which is only accessible by live stream. How do you take a guy like him who most fans don’t see fight and then expect him to draw in another featured fight against Bones or anyone else? He is just one example. It will be almost impossible to create homegrown stars with this many shows, 14 or so not even accessible to casual fans.

This also puts the MMA media in play. How many media outlets are going to pay to send their reporters or columnists to 50 live events? Does MMA coverage offer the kind of ROI on this investment? It is telling when Dave Meltzer who has been reporting on the UFC for 20 years readily admits on his podcast that it is probably time to stop covering all of the events. He is making that choice, how many MMA writers will have that choice made for them by their employer?

The UFC is in trouble. At some point the bubble is going to burst and it isn’t going to be pretty. The promotion is making it near impossible for fans to religiously follow the company and that can’t be good for anyone. When your own television partner is passing on your shows, you know you are in trouble.

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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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