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Five Things the UFC Needs to Fix If They Want to Continue Their Upward Trajectory

(When Zuffa purchased the UFC, Dana White actually had hair. There is no punchline, just a fact worth mentioning.)

By Nathan Smith

I have purchased pay per views from the Ultimate Fighting Championship since 1994, where I was welcomed to the sport with Pat Smith turning the face of Scott Morris into a Manwich at UFC 2: No Way Out. It was like heroin after that – I was addicted. Since then, I estimate that I have shelled out well over $5000 on PPVs alone, much less another sizeable chunk of change on tickets to live events and the obligatory UFC merchandise (who can live without the life-sized GSP cardboard cut-out – NOT ME).

Throughout that time I have been an advocate of MMA to the uninformed masses that I’ve encountered at watering holes across this great land. For every, “That UFC shit is just a legalized bar fight” comment, I would swoop in like Dogwelder to defend the UFC and its competitors. It was almost a grass roots effort by the early UFC supporters to educate the ignorant and let them know that this is a real sport filled with unbelievably talented athletes. The edification continues today as many intelligent fans try to shun the perceived stigma that we are a bunch of tatted-up dudes wearing flat-billed TAPOUT hats and driving small-penis-compensating monster trucks while applying ring worm ointment to our wounds.

Then there was the figure-head, the fearless leader that was taking all the media scrutiny head-on and paving the way while holding up his middle finger to the man. After the ZUFFA purchase, Dana White was a perfect fit during the infancy of the UFC’s push towards legitimacy. Adopting rules and weight classes and marketing the shit out of the product culminated in a 7 year deal with FOX and its affiliates. Now the UFC is on the precipice of its fourth nationally televised FOX card and the ratings have plummeted from 5.7 million during UFC on FOX 1 (Cain Velasquez VS Junior Dos Santos) to 2.4 million during UFC on FOX 3 (Nate Diaz VS Jim Miller).

I don’t think it is a coincidence that viewership and PPV buys are down. I have always been a staunch supporter of the brand and even I, a die hard fan, am starting to see chinks in the UFC armor. The reasons have been dissected on CP with various posts but I believe that this is just the beginning of problems for the UFC unless some changes are made pronto. I am not saying that the UFC is in the toilet but as the organization has grown in stature from eviscerating the competition, a standard evolution needs to happen.

So with that in mind, here are five ways that the UFC can move from their current plateau all the way to the mountain top.


(Example A: Deeming matchups like these headliner-worthy.) 

There are (and I can’t believe I am saying this) an overabundance of fights provided (both free or PPVs) throughout the Zuffa calendar year, and the fans have been inundated with this variety of contests. The fact that there are three Zuffa-run cards (UFC on FOX 4, UFC 150 and a Strikeforce event) over the course of the next three weeks illustrates my point exactly. Great, right? Well, seeing how it has been a thoroughly mixed bag of good and bad fight cards, it is not all roses. UFC on FOX 2 showcased every fight going to a decision, TUF LIVE tanked, and who could forget the turd in the swimming pool that was UFC 149.

Sure, it is easy to pick on the bad cards, but there is a mammoth quantity of MEDIO-CORE fighters on the roster due to Zuffa buying most of the competition. So the UFC has gone from 19 fight cards (12 PPV mixed with 7 Fight Night/TUF Finales) in 2007 to holding somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 this year (and that is UFC only events). Yes, we all get to see more fights, but I remember when a UFC card was an event in and of itself. It was a special, once-a-month occasion, and now (with the exception of the occasional championship fight) it seems to have grown a bit monotonous. The UFC needs to trim the herd or start a lower level organization for up-and-comers or wash-outs while keeping the cream of the crop for the main cards. I vaguely recall an organization that accomplished this perfectly (Wicked Exciting Cagefighting?). Wonder what happened to those guys.


Dana White has said on numerous occasions that the difference between the UFC and boxing has a lot to do with promoters as well as the UFC’s ability to put the big fights together. That used to be true. The Potato Nation was fairly vocal about an Anderson Silva vs. GSP bout not that long ago. It never happened. The new flavor of the week is Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones. That is another fight that is more than likely not going to happen, because as we all know, Bones doesn’t want to risk ruining “his greatness.” Hubris, Jon, it has its pratfalls.

When the UFC brass announcing that the most exciting winner on the UFC on FOX 4 card will be next in line for a LHW title shot, we were all a bit confused. Two things MUST happen for this announcement to hold any credence. First off, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has to turn Brandon Vera’s nose into Cung Le’s toe and earn the #1 contender status. Secondly, Dan Henderson must land his H-Bomb on the chin of Bones and put him to sleep. Then we get Hendo VS Shogun II for the LHW championship of the world, a notion that has already given me (and all of you people) a half-chub. Let’s be perfectly honest, although it is possible for these scenarios to play out, the likelihood of both materializing is a stretch. The UFC used to make the real main event fights happen. The BJ Penn vs Matt Hughes and GSP fights and the Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz fights were all must-see TV and the ratings proved it.

Click the “next” tab to learn yourself three more ways the UFC can turn things around…

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Cagepotato Comments

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drainplugofideas- August 6, 2012 at 11:50 am
One more thing. Get rid of the caged fence. I've never been to a live card because I know I couldn't see anything. Replace the cage wtih a flexible plexi-glass. Put some rubber posts at the corners so it can flex a bit.
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bigashs2- August 3, 2012 at 5:50 am
Can I add in a #6? Fighter introductions. From the time the first fighter walks out, to Buffer mic-hugging Herb before he starts the fight, 10 minutes can go by.

They need to speed up the intros. Remember in early PRIDE days, when they introduced the fighters as they were making their way to the ring? That. Shaving off 5 minutes per fight could really up the pace of the cards. Something I've been feeling has become bloated with all the hullabaloo before fights start.
eddiehaymaker- August 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm
fair comment but its incorrect-yeah the pride lady would do an intro as the fighters walked down but they also did ANOTHER intro in Japanese when the fighters were in the ring
eddiehaymaker- August 3, 2012 at 4:02 am
All good points except 5 - he will mellow out as he gets older - believe me! Just get rid of this interim BS altogether-1 champ -you wanna look after the poor guy who got hurt?cool let him have no1 contender status on their return-its a no brainer.
superfights...meh of course the real obstacle is the ufc not wanting to set precedents with huge purses for superfights.fighters could fight at catchweight for no titles and there would be no dramatic "lost stock" that really is a BS excuse.
the ufc needs to stop being so gaddamn greedy-how much money do 5 guys really need for gods sake.
put on LESS ppv's and better quality tv is the answer but they are hooked on profit so we wont see that.
somebody should tell em you cant take it with ya pal.

RwilsonR- August 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm
1,3,4 make sense. As much as I'd love #2 as a fan, you ruin one champion when you make champion vs champion matches unless they both have totally cleared all challengers. Even then it is tough. This isn't boxing, where there is a weight class every six ounces, with eight different "world champion" belts per weight class. I'd love to see Jones vs Anderson, but a few champs that are 20lbs different in weight doesn't always mean you need a super fight. And #5 is just stupid. He's one of the biggest reasons for the sport being where it is, and is just as popular to love and hate as the athletes. Nobody wants Mark Ratner boring people at press conferences instead. The biggest one you left off the list I guess is something the UFC cant really control - unified rules, reffing and judging that are applied more equitably and equally. This is the biggest current problem.
The12ozCurls- August 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm
The judging rules have been updated and there are the unified rules of MMA. The problem is that Cecil Peoples and guys just like him are able to be sanctioned. "Leg kicks don't win fights." Really? Ask Tank Abbott after his fight with Pedro Rizzo. I agree with the gripe though. More former fighters like Ricardo Almeida (who is a sanctioned MMA judge) really need to be scoring the cards but then you run into bias due to friendships/training partners type of stuff. Regardless, if Randy Couture, Keith Hackney and Almeida judged a fight and it was a somewhat "controversial" decision - who would bitch. Those guys have been in there and know what wins a fight. Damn! I might have to write a little piece on that for the site now. Thanks RW for the weird inspiration. LOL.
El Chavo- August 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm
Dude. Dope article.
ctastrophe- August 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I agree that year-round, total testosterone testing would curtail concerns about TRT as it would prove that people on the therapy have not been going heavy on the dosing to gain an edge.

But I would like to point out that, out of the 35 men and 1 woman who have failed steroid tests, only 1 was on TRT and his blood test showed that he was within the normal human range of testosterone. I think there should be year-round testing for all competitors; There's no reason to think that just because a guy is on TRT that he is more likely to be bringing his testosterone levels above normal.

@Mr. Nathan Smith

To get on TRT most (legit) doctors will make you take least 2 total testosterone tests, a few weeks apart, in addition to other tests to see if you have Primary or Secondary Hypogonadism. This includes thyroid, pituitary, diabetes, estrogen, CBC panels, and other tests to make sure that your low T isn't being caused by something other than your testicles. Sure, there are shady doctors who will only get a Total T test (which you can get after coming down from doing steroids before your own production kicks back in so as to get a low score) and write out a script after that - the bare minimum to cover their ass if the DEA comes after them. But the NSAC requires that there be a history of blood-work to support one's need for TRT. That's what they did with Marquardt: He was told he could apply for a TUE as long as he discontinued TRT for 10 weeks and then get another test to confirm his inability to make testosterone.

Being on TRT only gives someone a "pharmaceutical edge" in that he can use a medication to bring his levels to the same as someone who has a fully functioning body. What is the difference if a guy has a Total T score of 700ng/dL through his own natural production, or if he has a Total T score of 700ng/dL by way of testosterone injections?

The harm obviously comes from guys abusing it. But why should those who need it and use it as it's supposed to be banned from competing because there are people who are trying to work the system? Thyroid, diabetes, and asthma meds are abused by guys trying to cut weight, but we never see the outcry against people who need them. Why the focus on TRT and not other potential sources of abuse?
The12ozCurls- August 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm
I understand that TRT is a legitemate medication but it is also a performance enhancer for those that do not necessitate the administration of the drug. I was not saying eliminate TRT or those that use it. I just think there needs to be a more stringent policy to obtain a TUE for it. As far as TRT users levels "same as someone who has a fully functioning body" - I believe that Chael tested something crazy - like 14:1 T to E. So essentially that is not the same level.
Regardless, thank you for the info that I was way 2 lazy to look up. I appreciate it.
Dizzylittlelord- August 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm
theyre taking the piss with the crappy maincard fights and then wondering why they arnt getting as many views, give the people a title fight, fox fights have been incredibly mediocre and its embarrassing. the number 1 contender i understand waiting for the champ. interim champions should be defending their belt and if they lose it they dont deserve it in the first place. frank mir got stripped of his after a long lay off gsp has been out an age and wont fight till the end of the year. cruz wont fight till next year. its bullshit
FilmDrunk- August 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm
Dana can be a prick sometimes (I've been blocked from his twitter ever since shortly after the first time he fired Torres), but he's a genuine UFC fan who speaks plainly. He's got his problems, but show me another sports commissioner who does a better job and is more liked than Dana White. I haven't seen anyone else do it better.
MediumRare- August 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm
Agreed on 1, 2, 3 and 5.
But 4 - who gives a fuck if they juice. Most do so let 'em be.
I used to swing from Dana's nuts. And MMA wouldn't be here without him. But he lost me exactly at the point when he supported SOPA and then dared hackers to attack his site. He's out of touch and needs to fire his entire legal dept.
cman- August 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm
Agreed doley. The DW meet and greet is the toughest ticket. He's blunt and honest with fans. Its refreshing still.
FightZen- August 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm
I think the worst thing Zuffa can do is let fighters stop fighting to keep their rank. If the fighters want to be selfish, than it's Dana's job to move on with out them. All things considered, the UFC takes care of their fighters, ie paying for surgeries, back stage bonuses, marketing summits. They're only expected to fight 2/3 times a year, reasonably. C'mon guys... get some fans!
Fried Taco- August 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm
Less PPV and more free fights or at least on a cable channel people can subscribe to. Maybe even that rumored UFC channel!
shatterproof- August 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Year-round testing would really curtail the main concern with TRT... it's not the replacement therapy that's the problem, it's the suspicion that most are using excessive amounts while training then cycling off to a proper TRT level before the fight. If we're going to allow fighters to get exemptions for TRT rather than forcing them into retirement then we need to make sure they are not using it to cheat... Those who need it legitimately can still use it and those who use it to cheat will be caught and punished.
Cheeseburger Eddie- August 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm
shortly after publishing this article, Nathan awakens nude strapped to a chair with no bottom like in that James Bond movie with DW standing in front of him twirling a large knotted rope...
The12ozCurls- August 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm
DW is gonna be pissed.
The fact is that I am already missing my legs and roll around on a 1970s-style skateboard pan-handling like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places.
Doyley21- August 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm
1-4 great work, 5? wtf? People are as excited at press conferences to hear Dana talk as they are the fighters half the time, getting rid of him would be bad. #6 YELLOW CARDS
Get Off Me- August 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm
1.Make rules changes to the sport that encourage fighting(fighters not advancing on the ground for 60 consecutive seconds get stood up)if they had 5rd title fights approved, surely Zuffa can introduce new rules to their UFC brand...many organizations have unique rules.

2.Fix the live experience....get rid of the camera men around the octagon and get rid of the media section on the floor, put them up in the rafters where they belong.
There is a reason the UFC can come and sell 55k+ in Toronto but when they return can fill 17k seats across the much as Dana says live shows are amazing blah blah, anyone who goes to live events know's most of the time you end up watching a screen because so camera guy is in your line of sight.
3.Work with comissions to test fighters year round...not banning TRT so much(although that would be best for the sports legitimacy+growth) avoid fighters testing positive and ruining fights that are being promoted. Testing fighters is expensive, but what's the cost of promoting JDS/Reem and then having the fight cancelled??? Zuffa needs to find a way to do this, tax the fighters, pay themselves or a combination of both....get it done and have these fighters tested constantly to clean the image of the sport up, only time ESPN covers UFC is when TRT is the topic.
4.RANKINGS!!! transparent rankings for fans to follow, this creates interest, all other major sports today have this as well, no more "in the mix" or off the cuff title shots etc...have clear cut rankings, fighter is injured next available ranking fighter get's the shot. I can't believe the UFC has not done this one yet, it's so obviously needed.
blaphtome- August 2, 2012 at 11:58 am
I'm with you on 1-3. 4, Not so much; if the media would shut the fuck up about it, it wouldn't be such a big deal. Fact is tons of guys who train have these issues. It's easy to talk shit about TRT from a keyboard, but there have been tons of studies indicating that the insane training these athletes endure absolutely does fuck with the endocrine system. Not just the endurance training, but head trauma are both proven causes of hypogonadism. Do you understand anything about the consequences of not replacing hormones for even the average joe, much less guys going to war in a cage. Yeah, their supposed to compromise their health, because of how John Q Fucktard (not you, public perception) feels about "steroids", meanwhile I can't turn on the TV without hearing someone talk about "low T". TRT, won't make you superman; it only makes you a bit more like your younger self. In the end the same guys are gonna be the best, because of the technical level involved. What will fuck the sport up is these guys having to compete hormonally deficient, because people who don't know what the fuck their talking about want to constantly turn genuine medical issues into political ones.

5. Your idea is "Fuck the horse that got you here"? This mode of thought is what's wrong with this country in general. "He's done so much for the company, but fuck him; on to bigger and better things." That dude's quite obviously devoted his life to the UFC and the kind of assholes who would whine about Dana's rough edges aren't the kind of people I wanna see around events anyway, and I'd venture to say most fans would agree. Bottom line, like him or not, his dedication deserves loyalty.
arse-tex- August 2, 2012 at 11:53 am
Great article... i agree with everything, and appreciate other diehards like yourself who strive to educate the ignorant about our beloved sport. although, i would not like to see the change of dana as leader and mouthpiece. the ufc die hards would not easily accept a change like that (ex. some fans' negative response to john anik calling fights... but rogan and goldberg need breaks with so many events... i'm sure dana could use more breaks as well as time goes on). dana, although everyone may not agree with every decision that he has been made, over-all does an excellent job, and no one would do it better and with more genuine passion (he's running a huge business and it is not possible to please everyone all the time... and sometimes shit happens, like injuries). this passion of he and the other ufc figure heads and commentators has fueled our own shared passion for mma. i still feel the fights people want to see are usually made (or at least attempted to be made). over the course of hundreds of events, there will be some that aren't as good as others. it has to be that way due to chance. i did not rent the last pay-per-view, although if i wasn't so broke i would have anyway, but the free undercard was simply awesome (there has been little talk about that). The ppv cost should have been reduced (more) for that one. The comment by shatterproof was a good one, although i would like to see 1 ppv every month... so it truly feels like an "event"... my friends and i discuss it all month and congregate to watch it like the monthly mma superbowl (with a fightnight maybe once a month too). strikeforce should (outloud) be called the ufc minor leagues. lay and pray should not be allowed for long. offensive bjj should be scored as highly as a takedown. trt should be banned completely... plain and simple... not allowed... sorry guys, if you're too old to be a title contender, yet fans still want to see you fight, put on super fights between aging veterans (ex.liddell vs. franklin) as co-main events. and stop letting big named fighters have so much say so on who they fight (i agree with you completely...carlos condit should not be allowed to wait around holding an interim belt... complete bullshit, and shogun should not have been allowed to reject glover teixeira for brandon vera. the ufc is a business, and shogun's camp is not in charge of it. i would like for title shots to seem more earned than how they are given sometimes, although again, shit does happen from time to time and the business still has to run. die hards like yourself and anyone who is reading my stupid comment are who have really made this sport continue to grow. we're the ones buying and watching the ufc events, and continuing to bring new folks in to the circle. maybe the ufc doesn't need to try to be more generally popular than football... why does it have to be? money is being made, and new fans are coming in all the time (look at all the local fights going on and mma schools opening up everywhere... this shit ain't going nowhere... there are going to continually be awesome fighters coming up... this is only the beginning).
mofu69- August 2, 2012 at 11:19 am
Bro, when you yourself turn a dying company to a billion dollar company then maybe your opinion will count. In the meantime, don't you think Dana White and company know what the problems are and are trying to fix it? Like what Dana always says, there's always something in the background that's nobody sees. Yeah. let's put you in charge of the UFC and see what happens. It'll probably die in a few years. No thanks. If you think there's too much UFC then don't watch all of them. Just watch the pay-per=view. There are a lot of things that affect a main injuriessssss? So just relax and let Dana and company take our great sport to the next level. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have a lot of great free entertainment.
TheJimSkillet- August 2, 2012 at 10:54 am
I think like most people who bother to read something like cagepotato i'm not a casual fan. That being said I don't believe the ufc is holding to many events its that they are holding way to many PPV events. The quality is irrelevant to most hardcore fans they may complain on a message board but they are still buying virtually all of them $55 a pop or not. Listening to interviews with Dana White I think that they recognize this problem and their long term goal as I understand it is to get a real network sports deal at sometime in the future in much the same way as the NFL, NBA, and MLB have that way they can move away from the PPV model which inherently limits their capacity for growth. That however requires them to balance ratings on fox and FX with the need for profit and revenue that the PPV cards provide
drainplugofideas- August 2, 2012 at 10:44 am
Damn I wanted to say something but Shatterproof nailed it. BY FAR the #1 problem is the over-saturation of PPV fights. I think the 2nd problem is how fucking long it takes between fights. The UFC does their big and always the same pre and post fight traditions. Who else has the whole walkout > bruce buffer intro > post fight routine totally memorized?

How about this? Get rid of TUF, and replace it with a quality half hour weekly program that follows upcoming fighters. This way you can build up the fighters as characters, but avoid the general crappyness of the TUF talent pool. I'm thinking something like the HBO 24/7 series. Have just 4, yes 4, PPV's a year. Make them big, promote the shit out of them, and make them really meaningful. With the rest of the year have free cards on fox with a couple marquee fights that have the whole pageantry, but then for the other fighters go ahead and cram them in quicker. I'm thinking faster walkout, quicker introduction.

This all boils down to the UFC needing to create a better tier system instead of treating all fighters about the same. Here's one more idea (God I should be the one running this show), how about for the guys trying to establish themselves have a 1 round 10 minute fight with maybe a minute break at the 5 minute mark? 15 minutes seems like forever when the fighters suck. This way the UFC could sift through their overinflated talent pool and begin to make some meaningful cuts.
Stak40- August 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm
wouldnt that be a 2 round fight which is what TUF does now?
Ringo- August 2, 2012 at 10:42 am
I agree on all points, also agree with Desmo, 148 wasn't that good either and something tells me that this saturday fights are not going to be any good, also the married with children reference for the win!
Desmo- August 2, 2012 at 10:12 am
Agree with your first three, especially two and three. Jones saying he wants to keep his sponsorships at the cost of what us fans want is bullshit. That's just going to turn UFC into boxing, where guys won't fight each other because of money (think Mayweather/Pacquaio, where Floyd actually had a deal on the table but Manny didn't take it because he felt he wasn't getting paid enough). And Condit is a piece of shit. If you don't defend your title at least once a year, injury or not, you lose it, end of story.

I don't agree that Dana should go, but I do think he needs a reality check. UFC 148 sucked too, most people ignored the rest of the card because we all wanted to see the Spider/Sonnen rematch. Between 148 and 149 that was a lot of terrible fighting and wasted money.
cman- August 2, 2012 at 9:25 am
All good except 3 out of your first 4 I don't see happening with anyone other than Dana at the helm