(Saffiedine! Lim! Eleven fighters we’re so confident you won’t know that we aren’t even going to bother showing you their faces! Props to Michael Sempervive for the image.)
By Seth Falvo
With all of the coverage that UFC Fight Pass has been receiving, it’s hard to believe that it has only been two weeks since the launch of the network. So far, opinions have ranged from “pathetic cash grab” to “everything a fight fan could possibly want.” In an effort to evaluate Fight Pass up to this point, here are ten ways of looking at the network, arranged in no particular order.
1.) Should You Buy Fight Pass? Well, Should You Buy Netflix?
“Netflix for Fight Fans” is how Lorenzo Fertitta summed up the service, and honestly, that sounds about right. Fight Pass offers exclusive content in the form of international events and preliminary fights – just like how Netflix offers Orange is the New Black – but its selling point is its archives. If you already own all of your favorite fight cards on DVD and are only interested in watching the UFC’s pay-per-views, then Fight Pass has nothing to offer you. For the rest of us, it’s a matter of whether archives and international cards are worth $9.99 per month.
2.) It Isn’t Nearly the Bargain that Supporters Claim It Is.
The Netflix analogy doesn’t quite hold up though. I use my Netflix account every day, and regardless of who I’m watching it with, I can find something on there that everyone will enjoy. I’m not about to sit down and watch old fights on a daily basis, and unless the original documentaries that the UFC is promising us are downright spectacular, I doubt that my non-fight fan friends are going to want to watch Fight Pass with me. This doesn’t mean that Fight Pass is a waste of money, but let’s not pretend that paying $119.88 per year to watch old fights and Facebook preliminaries is the best thing to ever happen to MMA fans, either.
3.) It Isn’t Nearly the Insult That Detractors Claim It Is.
4.) It’s a Work in Progress (That We May Be Paying to Test).
So far, Fight Pass has been pretty rough around the edges; to an extent, that is to be expected from a two week-old network. But will Fight Pass be 100% by the time we’re asked to pay for it? The UFC is optimistic that the entire video library will be available by then, but what about the other issues that fans have been having? Time will tell, but don’t act too surprised if it isn’t 100% by March 1.
5.) The WWE Network is a Much Better Value.
MMA Mania seems to think so. Bloody Elbow seems to think so. MMAFighting.com even wrote a piece that was surprisingly favorable of the WWE Network. So no, it isn’t just pro-wrestling fanboys like me who are saying this (although yeah, I’ve been shouting it from the mountaintops).
6.) UFC Fight Pass and the WWE Network Really Aren’t That Different.
The WWE Network is offering pay-per-view events for the same price that UFC Fight Pass is offering international events with mostly unknown prospects. Believe it or not, from a business standpoint, both products are actually more similar than they appear to be. The WWE business model isn’t build around the success of its pay-per-view events the way that the UFC business model is. Given both the rise of the UFC and the storyline-driven cable product that the WWE produces (this makes it necessary to recap what happened at each PPV on cable so that fans who didn’t buy the card can still follow the story), the WWE’s move away from pay-per-view has been long overdue; most WWE PPVs don’t break 300,000 buys. In that sense, both companies are essentially offering original programming that only their most hardcore fans were previously willing to pay for – as well as their archives – on their digital networks.
7.) Come on, There Isn’t a Fair Way to Compare the UFC Product to the WWE Product.
Did point #6 really just compare the WWE Royal Rumble to a UFC Fight Pass card full of unknown Turkish prospects? Oh man, that’s adorable. In our attempts to determine whether UFC Fight Pass is worth the asking price, we’re pretty much comparing an NBA game to an AND1 mixtape. “The mixtape gave away the coolest stuff they’ve seen this year, while last night’s NBA game was just another regular season contest between two teams I don’t care about. And there was only one 360 windmill dunk! NBA hates its fans! Will boycott until they fix!” Doesn’t that sound stupid? Well, now you know how you sound when you go on your “The WWE books PPV events to be more important to the WWE Universe storylines than minor league sports!” rants.
8.) Is This the Beginning of the End for “Free” Fights?
Cable costs money – that’s why the word “free” is in quotations – but is there a chance that the days of fans not directly paying the UFC to watch fights are numbered? We’ve already lost our one true form of legal free UFC fights – Facebook preliminaries – to Fight Pass. How many times is the UFC going to have its minor league Fox Sports 1 cards be outdrawn by actual minor league MMA organizations before those cards are moved to Fight Pass as well? If that happens, how long before the UFC decides to use the flyweight title fights and the other divisions’ contendership bouts on Fox to beef up their pay-per-views, and move strictly to Fight Pass and PPV? If Fight Pass is successful enough to make cable programming an afterthought, don’t be surprised if the UFC slowly begins to drift away from it, the same way that the WWE has pulled the plug on pay-per-view.
9.) Forget The UFC, Is This the Future of Cable?
How many of you only watch a few TV shows, and couldn’t be bothered keeping up with television unless you’re extremely bored? How many of you only own cable so you can watch sports? For that matter, how many of you only watch MMA? Anyone here only watch the UFC?
Since we’re already thinking about a world where UFC fights only exist on Fight Pass and pay-per-view, why not one where people who only watch a few things on TV cancel their cable packages and purchase their favorite digital networks? For far less money than the premium cable package that I currently pay for, I could own several digital networks that give me access to basically anything I could possibly want to watch regarding my interests. And I could access it all anywhere that I have an Internet connection. If Fight Pass and the WWE Network are both successful enough, don’t be surprised to see other companies follow their footsteps.
10.) The Way That You, The Reader, Look At UFC Fight Pass.
Which is obviously the correct way, and anyone who thinks that numbers one through nine are even remotely relevant is a complete idiot. Of course, the correct way to look at UFC Fight Pass is….
Don’t be shy. Let us know how you view UFC Fight Pass in the comments section.