A quick show of hands: How many of you taters would wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday to catch Fight Night 34: Saffiedine vs.
Ellenberger Lim? Of those of you who raised your hands, how many of you would be willing to *pay* for the right to view said card?
These are just two of the most baffling questions being posed by the UFC, who earlier today (sort of) unveiled a new, subscription-based digital network dedicated to streaming all of the international “Fight Night” cards too low-level to even merit a spot on the FS2 schedule. Said Lorenzo Fertitta:
The UFC has always been ahead of the game in the digital world. The UFC was the first major sporting organization to embrace social media and the first to offer live pay-per-view events across multiple digital platforms. The new digital network continues that tradition of innovation, bringing unrivaled choice to UFC fans.
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. 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.
That’s right, kids! For the low, low price of money, you can access garbage-ass international cards featuring sub-UFC level fighters, instead of, you know, just continuing to stream those fights illegally! HOW CAN THIS STRATEGY POSSIBLY FAIL?
Look, I am as hardcore an MMA fan as it gets when it comes to watching fights (at least, I was). I’ve never met a set of Facebook prelims I couldn’t joyfully drunkblog my way through, and I firmly believe that a fight card cannot be solely judged by the name power of the fighters competing on it. But if last weekend’s TUF 18 Finale proved anything, it’s that throwing a bunch of sub-UFC level fighters on a card and praying for the best is a recipe for disaster. So what did I do midway through those abysmal FS1 prelims (which were jerked between FS channels on account of an Iowa State football game, FYI)? I tuned out, waited to hear which fights — or in this case, fight – were worth watching and streamed them the next day. How many of you did the same, and will continue to do the same when faced with these run of the mill cards?
Simply put, it isn’t a coincidence that the TUF 16 and TUF 17 finales provided far more memorable moments and exciting finishes than the TUF 18 finale did. Both of the former cards featured a handful of fighters who had actually proven themselves to be UFC-worthy, fighters who delivered results that were expected of them. Us MMA fans are a passionate bunch; that much Lorenzo has right. Which is why I find it all the more insulting that he thinks we will fork over our hard-earned cash to view fight cards packed to the brim with the Royston Wee’s of the world (no offense).
Take a look over the Fight Night 34 card; you will find that just 8 fighters competing on it are notable enough to have a Wikipedia page. That’s one less than the TUF 18 Finale. Is there a possibility that this card churns out more exciting finishes than any other card this year? Sure, but its highly more likely that Fight Night 34 ends up as just another subpar UFC card that is all but forgotten about the moment it is over. We’ll have the completely-untested-yet-somehow-UFC-level fighters to thank when it does.
If the UFC is so insistent on putting out Strikeforce Challengers-level cards to “expand their international brand,” that’s fine (although one would think that actually delivering PPV-level cards to those areas would accomplish this in a more timely fashion). But expecting fans, American or otherwise, to pay for these sheep cards audaciously masquerading in wolf’s clothing is a more laughably misguided business venture than asking them to pay $45 for a card headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Rampage Jackson.