There’s no denying MMA as a quickly rising mainstream sport in America.
There’s no denying UFC’s debut on Fox tonight as a monumental step for the sport.
There’s also no denying the debut as a failure, a worst-case-scenario step back for Dana White, the UFC, and mixed martial arts.
In the scheduled one-hour live special on Fox, marking the first time MMA has been featured in primetime on a major network, heavyweights Cain Valasquez and Junior dos Santos were the lone competitors. What Dana White and the UFC had hoped to be a battle that harvested massive amounts of new fans ended-up being a 64-second nightmare.
Dos Santos’ knockout of Valasquez hit prospectus fans hard, displaying how a $50 pay per view heavyweight fight can TKO their wallets with only seconds of entertainment.
Quick headline bouts occur a fair percent of the time, yet no one cries foul because the ones who are watching are the fans dedicated enough to pay to see the sport. Fox provided a large stage for the UFC and MMA to be greatly criticized.
Robert Menn from MMASpartan says “a lot” of mixed martial art bouts end in the first round. “4oz gloves,” cites Menn, “you can’t get hit, unlike boxing. Mistakes cost you.”
It shows why the WWE and other sports entertainment organizations have found a way to grapple a following for decades. The scripted nature of the wrestling prevents 64-second knockouts. Their primetime shows on multiple networks have successfully grabbed the attention of fans for many years, making their $60 monthly pay per views a multi-million dollar breadwinner.
The UFC is the alternative for matured WWE viewers who want real fights instead of staged matches with soap opera story lines.
And that’s what hurt the UFC tonight.
The night possibly could have been salvaged for the organization with a full card on Fox as opposed to only the main event. In the undercard that was only broadcasted online, five of the nine fights went to decision with only one of the other four ending in the first round.
Obviously, the UFC could not schedule ten fights in primetime TV for financial reasons and contractual reasons with Spike (which ends next year), but the rising sport definitely could have had two other bouts in conjunction with the Valasquez/Cain main event in preparation for what happened tonight.
Even if Spike only allowed one fight to appear on Fox tonight, was the risk really worth it for the UFC? With the high probability of a swift match that would scare away potential pay per view buyers for the foreseeable future and with the fact that their contract with Spike ends next year, why did the UFC not wait?
The knockout was a beauty in the eyes of the beholder — the already dedicated fans of the UFC. But tonight was meant for the new fans who needed to be convinced with a epic duel between two of the best the sport has to offer.