Is The UFC In Decline?

Yesterday, Dave Meltzer reported that UFC 106, headlined by Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin, parted less people from their crisp $50 bill than any show in recent memory. After record setting business at UFC 100, it seemed like the promotion was gliding towards a new and even brighter future. Today, nay sayers are predicting the promotion’s inevitable decline. So which is it? Is the UFC gliding back to Earth after a remarkable three year run as a pay per view powerhouse? Or is this bad showing just a bump in the road to prosperity?

The answer, as it always is, is complicated. The UFC seems set for long term success. But Dana White, the Fertittas, Joe Silva (and Shane McMahon?) have a real problem on their hands. I talked yesterday about the thinning talent pool that is decimating the UFC’s next two shows. It’s a problem that has been building for some time. The UFC has long billed itself as “the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts.” Hyperbole aside, that has been the truth-UFC cards have been stacked with the world’s best talent from top to bottom for years. Recently, unfortunately for fans, that hasn’t been the case. The UFC is advertising the Super Bowl, but providing the Papa Johns Bowl.

Some people have blamed the declining PPV sales on over saturation. I think the issue is that the product they are selling is getting noticeably worse, to the point the audience is figuring out they don’t need to buy. It’s not the number of shows, it’s the quality if the shows.

If these were all solid events, the kind we saw last year and through most of the Zuffa era, this wouldn’t be an issue. But with the talent spread thin between PPV and SPIKE and injuries, all of the sudden they are pawning off cards that aren’t worth $50. It took a couple of months, but the fans are catching on. It’s dangerous to let them get used to not buying every show….just ask Shane McMahon what happened when WWE fans realized they didn’t need $50 on monthly male-o-drama. The UFC is still in the driver’s seat, but putting on substandard shows is the path to oblivion.

The answer is simple: less recognizable fighters in preliminary bouts and free television undercards. Save the best fighters, the fighters fans recognize, for the main cards, whether it be on SPIKE or on PPV. If a show is snakebit, like the two in early 2010, pull the trigger and cancel them (or combine two sub par shows into one acceptable show). The money you lose will be recouped in time, as the core audience will know that when they put their money in Zuffa’s hands, they can expect the best fighters in the world. Not just sometimes – every time.

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