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Long UFC Event Break Serving Its Purpose: Fan’s Take
UFC President Dana White and his organization have been in a tough position with fans for years, trying to keep so many millions of people happy while also navigating the uncharted waters of mixed martial arts as a marquee sport and a global phenomenon for the first time.
After the addition of the featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight classes as well as the signing of a contract to bring fights to Fox and other networks, many fans began to complain about the product being "watered down" or that fight cards were happening too frequently, saying that the feel of a big-time event had been lost in the transition.
Personally, as someone who watches virtually every UFC card and can't get enough, I never felt that way. The abundance of fights was always a positive thing because of the new talent the organization had acquired and the allure of the new weight classes.
But now, after a wait of more than a month since the last supplemental card, UFC on FX 2 on March 5, and a wait of even longer since the last proper UFC pay-per-view card, UFC 144 in Japan on Feb. 25, the near- absence of perhaps my favorite sports organization in its usual form is becoming a little too difficult to deal with.
All of a sudden, next week's Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva matchup looks like the second coming of Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell and the following major fight card featuring Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans in Atlanta on April 21 has become one of the most anticipated fights I can remember wanting to see.
While The Ultimate Fighter Live has been entertaining, it's just not the same as seeing true professionals with big personalities fighting on the big stage. The minimalist atmosphere of the crowd featuring only fellow TUF house fighters and a handful of personnel doesn't get my blood pumping the way crowds at big-time UFC events do, and the action is solid but not nearly the same as what you'd see on a typical pay-per-view card.
The UFC has ramped up its programming to levels we as fans have never seen in terms of frequency, but now I'm starting to see the light. Spacing out the events is a viable strategy that has to continue to happen.
There are a few problems with this approach as well, however, first and foremost among them the inactivity of some of the sport's biggest stars. It seems like it's been years since I've seen Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre fight, for example, although politics and injuries, respectively, have factored in.
But I do know that the next time either of them hits the Octagon, it will be a spectacle the likes of which I haven't seen in months, and White knows that the pay-per-view sales will reflect it if other fans feel the same way as me. I suspect that they're feeling the exact same way right now.
The complainers will always be there, but it's simply not good business sense to hold a major pay-per-view event within every single month and I believe that this break has been good for the UFC brand in general.
There are upsides to a quantity-based approach but for the time being, the UFC's recent plan of spacing out the big fights early in the year could pay big dividends once things get serious again inside the Octagon and title belts are on the line for the sport's top names.
If we can survive months on end without college football and the NFL, we can handle a month break in regards to the UFC's signature pay-per-view every now and then, too.
Nick Meyer is a longtime MMA fan from Metro Detroit.
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