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The UFC Can Learn a Lesson From Bellator: How to Promote Bad Fights

(Photo via Getty)

By Matt Saccaro

The UFC said “Hey, did you hear there’s UFC FIGHTS™ on tonight? The finest athletes in the world are facing off and it’ll be action packed. Watch it!”

So we took their word for it, and watched. The athletes faced off, but they weren’t the finest in the world, and it wasn’t action packed. The athletes were green, regional-caliber competitors and there was more labored breathing and bouts of stalling than action.

Then the next event came. “It’s FIGHT WEEEEEEK! UFC FIGHTS™ are on again. The finest athletes in the world are doing battle in the Octagon™. Be sure to watch!”

We were skeptical, but being loyal MMA fans, we watched again. We were let down again. We voiced our concerns, only to be told we weren’t Real Fans if we didn’t appreciate the fights the UFC gave us. Not wanting to lose our MMA streed cred, we watched the next event that promised the top 1% of fighters battling in the Superbowl of MMA only to be disappointed.

This is what being an MMA fan has been like for the past year or two–especially since the UFC went full “World Fucking Domination” on us.

Fight cards are tougher to sit through because the talent levels are lower. Sometimes there’s two of these regional-level, star-sparse cards on the same day! And I’m not ragging on UFC Fight Night 42 specifically; on paper the card was pretty decent for a free Fight Night Card. I’m referring to the general lowering of the bar in terms of card quality that’s become undeniable as of late. The most insulting part is all these events are, for the most part, marketed the same way: Here’s awesome UFC Fights. They’ll be good. Watch them or you’re not an MMA fan.

And judging by the decline in interest (and PPV buys), lots of viewers decided they weren’t fans. And I’m not going to go on for much longer because I’ve written about the issue of over-saturation extensively on CagePotato, but the UFC can learn an important lesson from Bellator regarding how it promotes less-than-stellar fights: Be honest.

Bellator 121 was easily the worst card (on paper) the Viacom-owned promotion had put together in a while. The best fight it offered was a match between James Thompson and Eric freakin’ Prindle. Fans and media didn’t care about Bellator 121 unless they were mocking it. “Oh, James Thompson is in the so-called #2 promotion in 2014. LOL.”

But then this trailer came out:

Yes, it’s a little cheesy at times but in some ways it’s unabashedly honest. There’s never been a better trailer for a worse fight.

Am I saying the UFC should promote all their Fight Night cards as “OMG BACON AND PIZZA FIGHTS AMAZEBALLS”? No. What I’m saying is that the UFC’s current method of promoting low-level fights is factually bankrupt and without substance.

Remember the Strikeforce: Challengers series? It was Strikeforce’s low-level show devoted to their lesser-known fighters and prospects. Perhaps the UFC should start promoting their Fight Night cards as something similar rather than a generic night of UFC action. Saying a barista is a world-beater when he clearly isn’t makes your word meaningless. Saying the pound-for-pound best fighter alive is whoever’s headlining the next card makes your word meaningless. Strikeforce never tried to pass off a Challengers as one of it’s A-level events. The UFC does the opposite. All of its shows are presented as equal in quality because they all have the UFC brand attached. This is a mistake because it teaches the viewer to associate the brand with an inferior product (poor fighters and poor fights). Sometimes a jobber is just a jobber. The UFC would do well to remember that.

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