It’s been a long time coming, but the UFC is finally on network television. After teasing us for years with, “major announcements” and then delivering things like, “NEW UFC ACTION FIGURES!” Dana White delivered the major announcement that fight fans have been waiting for.
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Alright, so maybe the announcement is a little bigger than that.
UFC IS NOW ON FOX!
Obviously this is a big deal, but before we start watching American Idol every week just to catch a UFC promo, lets step back for a moment and take a look at the pros and cons of the deal.
PRO: Come on, UFC is finally on network television. This is a huge deal. This is what we’ve all wanted for years. We were all excited when EliteXC and Strikeforce got on CBS, but they weren’t UFC. Now the top MMA organization in the world is on one of the five channels that my grandma has access to. Network TV is what every sports organization strives for, and now UFC has reached that goal.
PRO: Changing the format of The Ultimate Fighter. It’s no secret that TUF has pretty much ran its course. They tried to change up the format with the whole “fighting to get into the house thing” but to me, that made it worse because the first couple of episodes were nothing but fights involving guys no one had ever heard of, with some of them being highlights only.
With this new “live” format, it actually puts us, the viewers, into the show. Not only because we get to vote on what fights take place, but because we get to see how things are going in the week prior to the fight. Hopefully it leads to more training and profiling of fighters and less in-house shenanigans that makes the fighters look bad. Plus, the fights will be live, and watching a fight live just feels better than watching it on tape, even if you don’t know the result.
CON: Friday night is a terrible timeslot. Can you name a single show that has survived on Friday? Usually when a show gets moved to the first day of the weekend, it’s because the show is underperforming in the ratings so the network sends it to Rebecca Black’s favorite day so they can cancel it. There is also Friday sports competition for UFC. WWE Smackdown on SyFy and ESPN Friday Night Fights are established at the end of the workweek. Watching the established show, checking out the new show, which combat sport will you chooooooooose?
CON: Over-saturation. MMA over-saturation is already becoming a bit of a trend with the number of shows companies are running on a weekly basis. Now that UFC is going to be on Fox, FX, and FuelTV, we’re looking at more live UFC programming than ever along with the usual PPVs. People are already complaining about the lack of “big time” main events. Get ready to see less “big time” main events with more events.
PRO: Fox has a lot of sports, reality, and original programming that they can use to help market the UFC. They have NFL games every Sunday, MLB every Saturday, NASCAR, NCAA Football and the UEFA Champions League. On the reality front, they have American Idol, X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance, and Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t watch any of those shows, but I hear they’re popular. Then there are shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, House, and Glee, all of which I watch, all of which are very popular. And yeah, I watch Glee, like that should shock you. I’m actually praying for a UFC/Glee mash-up episode titled “UF-GLEE!”
That’s not even counting FX, which has awesome shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, Sons of Anarchy, and Justified. And FuelTV has, well, something involving cars and that show that Brittney Palmer co-hosted the other week. Point is, there is a lot of good programming on Fox and FX and if they’re willing to get behind the UFC and really push the product like I think they are, it should benefit all parties.
PRO: There’s nothing really wrong with the UFC production as is but when they do decide to make changes like they’ve done in recent years, it’s almost always been a positive. Now they’re going to get rid of the gladiator intro and maybe replace it with the Baba O’Riley video that maybe some of you haven’t seen unless you’ve been to a live UFC event. The UFC production staff is very underrated and if they’re allowed to do more and really re-invent the wheel, we could see big things. Sadly, this means the loss of Russell Crowe at the start of every UFC event, but I’m sure the beautiful minds of the UFC production people will make up for it.
CON: Seven years might be too long of a deal. I look at the UFC as a free agent in sports. When you’re a free agent in any sport, you want to cash in on as many big contracts as you can. For most players, they get two or three big money contracts during their playing career. This is UFC’s first major contract and seven years keeps them maybe two years longer then I would have signed for. I feel like five years is always the perfect amount of years to sign for, whether you’re a player or a general manager.
CON: Did you see Joe Rogan during the press conference? He was wearing a suit. JOE ROGAN! IN A SUIT! If Rogan is going to be wearing suits for Fox broadcasts, I’m not sure I can handle it. It just looks so wrong. Like Selena Gomez with Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga in normal clothing.
PRO: Pre and post fight shows for events. For the most part, I enjoy the pre and post fight UFC on Versus events because they make the shows feel like actual sporting events. Every major sport has some sort of studio show before and after the games. I just hope they make the shows for UFC actual studio shows, and not live shows at the arena where we can see the preliminary fights going on in the background. To me, that was the biggest flaw with the Versus pre-show. When I know and see live fights going on, I don’t want to hear about people talking about others things. I want to watch the fight. If UFC does the show from a studio, where the casual audience won’t see any fighting going on, they’re more likely to pay attention to the actual show.
The obvious host for the studio show is Jay Glazer, who is a huge MMA fan and already under contract with Fox. As for the panel, I think Randy Couture, who is one of the most insightful and well-respected MMA fighters in history and Ariel Helwani, who will somehow get out of his NBC Sports/AOL contract in order to sign with Fox, are the best choices. Then have Rachelle Leah, who already works on MMAthletics with Glazer for FoxSports, as a “octagon-side reporter.”
CON: November 12 seems like a really short turnaround. UFC has already announced the first UFC on FOX card to be on November 12, yet they have made no fights official. Right now they have less than three months to get a card together and a lot of their big time fighters have fights scheduled or won’t be ready in time. UFC has to make a splash with the first card in November, especially considering that it’s going up against Manny Pacquiao on PPV. As good as the latest UFC on Versus event was in terms of excitement, that’s not a card that appealed to the masses. My hope is that the somehow get Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson as the main event for the show, but I wouldn’t be banking on that fight headlining. However, I’d say Machida vs. Henderson has a better shot at happening on FOX in November than Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir 3.
It’s really too early to know whether or not this deal will pan out how both parties want and hope it will. Again, to use my free agent analogy, when a team signs a high priced free agent, they’re obviously hoping for the best. They sign that free agent based on what he did in past seasons and what they believe he’s capable of doing in seasons to come. Some free agents, like the New Orleans Saints signing Drew Brees, turn out to be great. Others, like the Washington Redskins signing Albert Haynesworth, turn out to be terrible.
As MMA fans, we hope that Dana White doesn’t fail the conditioning test and instead leads us to the Super Bowl.
*PHOTO CREDIT – FRANCIS SPECKER*