Posts Tagged ‘UFC on FOX’

Will the UFC’s first FOX venture change MMA?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

With the UFC’s first major network-TV event arriving this Saturday night, it’s worth revisiting the ramifications of such a venture. Does Saturday mark the dawn of a new era in mixed martial arts or is the significance overhyped? Will Velasquez vs. Dos Santos enthral millions of viewers or fall on its face?

To get sense of what Saturday means, let’s look at two factors: media exposure and fight quality.

At this point, it would be a shock if Saturday’s heavyweight title bout didn’t end up as the highest-rated free-TV MMA event ever. It may not feel like FOX has gone overboard with promotion, opting for plugs during NFL telecasts, ads sprinkled throughout primetime and the odd studio interview  But we can’t underestimate how many more eyeballs watch FOX than watch Spike TV – or pay-per-view, for that matter. Even the UFC Primetime preview show, which first aired on a lazy Sunday afternoon, drew record ratings for the UFC.

So it’s safe to say that, at least in terms of exposure, Saturday’s card is extremely significant for MMA. However, that doesn’t mean the first UFC on Fox telecast is guaranteed to explode the sport into widespread popularity.

To me, fight quality is just as important as the viewership itself. If you’re an MMA purist, you may hate it when a newbie fan gets bored by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and other forms of grappling. However, even if it’s unfair, it’s a simple truth that the ground game takes longer for a new fan to learn. A wild striking affair is more likely to first-timers over. So, for example, if Velasquez takes Dos Santos down and lays on top of him for five rounds, the result could be disastrous for the UFC. The same people who didn’t give the sport a chance before will turn off their TV believing their skepticism was validated.

The good news is that we’re fairly likely to see a great fight on Saturday. Velasquez a is world-class wrester who remains very active on the ground and Dos Santos is a world-class boxer with great hand speed and power. Both guys finish opponents more often than not. So it’s fair to expect fireworks.

However, a thrilling fight isn’t guaranteed – and neither is a widespread explosion in MMA popularity. If the stars align and we’re treated to an epic heavyweight war, the Earth might move, but the UFC is probably better off expecting incremental gains for now.

The UFC on FOX: What it means

Monday, September 5th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

Well, this should be exciting. As you’ve probably heard in the MMA community over the last week, the UFC and FOX will debut their massive TV partnership on November 12, with Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos battling it out for heavyweight title live. It will mark the first-ever UFC event, let alone title fight, on network television.

Many casual fans out there are wondering: what does the partnership really mean? How will it change the sport and how it’s perceived? Let’s break down a few changes we should notice.

1. More mainstream promotion.

As the top network in America, FOX obviously has a lot of influence, and it’s charged with the task of being the first major network to acknowledge mixed martial arts as a sport and not something barbaric. FOX has already begun its work. It promoted the Velasquez/Dos Santos fight during a baseball game over the weekend.

2. A shift to a cleaner image.

During the initial press conference when the UFC and FOX announced their agreement, I noticed that the accompanying highlight clips were “clean.” Lots of submissions and, when there was striking, we saw no blood. The UFC is also changing its opening title credits, saying goodbye to the gladiator imagery and (probably) the hardcore heavy metal. The transition to mainstream TV is all about trying to show the layman viewer that MMA is not the “dangerous,” violent sport people think it is.

3. More pressure on fighters to sell bouts.

With the UFC’s advent of mandatory Twitter posting for all athletes, it already took a step in this direction before the FOX deal. But fighter personalities will be much more important as millions of new viewers get to know who they are. This could be a challenge for a guy like Cain Velasquez whereas the Forrest Griffins and Rich Franklins of the world will flourish.

4. “Babying” the audience.

When asked about how he intends to fill the hour-long time slot for the heavyweight title fight, Dana White explained that a lot of introductory programming is in order. Many new viewers will have to learn the rules and be taught the basics of the game, such as what BJJ, Muay Thai, the clinch, full mount, and other terms mean. It may be temporarily frustrating for the diehards.

5. A major leg up on boxing.

Sorry, boxing, but unless you put Manny Pacquiao on NBC, ABC or CBS, you’re officially behind in the race to be the world’s top combat sport.
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