The UFC is the class of the sport of mixed martial arts. It always has been, and I’m damn near sure it always will be. It has been nearly 15 years since I first witnessed a UFC event. I fell in love with it nearly instantly. However, a whole lot has changed since then.
During this summer, the UFC will hold 5 events between June 22nd and July 21st. That’s essentially essentially 5 events in the span of just 1 month.
A half dozen years ago, the UFC held only 10 events in the entire year. Now they will put on 5 cards in just 1 month. That’s tremendous growth — a 170% increase in the number of event in a 6 year period.
Can the sport support this type of growth?
I could watch UFC programming more than any other sport’s programming. Still, I have to bring up this question. Is there such a thing as too much UFC?
The UFC will hold nearly as many event’s this summer as they did in all of 2005. Back in the day, a UFC event was must see television. Over saturating the market with content is never a good thing. I’d argue that the Ultimate Fighting Championship could be dangerously close to approaching this point.
Starbucks was cannibalizing its own customer base. The UFC could creep into that same territory.
To be clear; I’m not talking about cash flow problems for the UFC. The point is — has the UFC lost some of its caché? Has some of the big event status been given away?
It was not hard to fill a card when there were a dozen events a year. Now the UFC is looking at just about tripling that event number in 2012. Of course, as the sport has flourished, more talent is available for the UFC to pick from. Still, with this large increase in the number events, there seems to be a strain placed on matchmaking. Is there enough true main card caliber talent? Specifically, the problem becomes more clear in the case of injuries.
Take the upcoming UFC 147 card, for example.
The 147 card brings the UFC back to Brazil. The main event was scheduled pit two natives against each other — Vitor Belfort versus Wanderlei Silva. After a Belfort training injury, Rich Franklin was brought in as a replacement. That, coupled with numerous other injuries, has left the card rather sparse.
Remember this is a PPV card. That first ‘p’ stands for pay. You could make an argument that the 147 card was barely up to par prior to some of these injuries. The UFC knows it, too. The UFC has offered to provide a full refund to ticket holders that wish to return their tickets.
Another tangible result that shows the UFC’s recent under-performance are the PPV buyrates in general. They have been rather lackluster over the past couple years. It has been speculated that UFC 147 may have one of the lowest buyrates in close to a decade. For comparison sake, UFC 55 received just 125,000 for an Arlovski vs. Buentello main event. That even took place in December 2005. The UFC has not dropped below 200,00 buys since.
Could 147 be the one to drop back under 200k buys?