Exciting heavyweight title fight easy sell to hardcore and casual fans alike
How would I describe the decision to have this fight headline the UFC’s first foray onto network television?
In a word: perfect.
While numerous rumors circulated in the weeks following the announced partnership between the UFC and FOX and in the hours leading up to this call, the selection of the heavyweight title fight to carry the first broadcast on FOX is really the best choice the UFC could have made.
For whatever reason, people are instinctively drawn to heavyweight fights.
We’ve seen it throughout the years with boxing, where the biggest names and biggest draws have always come from the big boy ranks. Though Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are the top draws now, that has as much to do with the unexciting jabfests routinely delivered by The Brothers Klitschko.
Though the same hasn’t always held true in mixed martial arts, where diehard fans are drawn to quality fights from various divisions, casual fans and newcomers don’t want to see technically brilliant welterweights or a fast-paced lightweight contest.
Unskilled heavyweight Internet sensation Kimbo Slice twice drew more than four millions viewers to CBS fighting for EliteXC. Fedor Emelianenko delivered in excess of five million viewers for his Strikeforce debut against Brett Rogers.
People love heavyweight fights, and now their going to get the top two heavyweights in the sport vying for the UFC championship. An energized UFC President Dana White said it’s going to be even more than that too.
“I think if you’re going to go out on your first fight on the biggest network in the country, you go with your best foot forward. We’re going with a heavyweight fight that is going to be a barn-burner; these guys are going to go at it. It’s going to be exciting. It’s more than just a heavyweight title; it’s two heavyweights that I know are going to perform and put on a great fight.
“You guys know very well, and I’ve said it many times,” White continued, addressing the assembled media members on the call. “I put on all the bells and whistles and do all the good stuff, and then those guys have to go in there and do their job when it’s time.
“If you look over the last ten years, I can count on one hand how many fights have sucked, alright? And you tell me the last time you saw Junior dos Santos or Cain Velasquez in a boring fight. I’m literally betting everything that it’s not going to happen.”
The answer to White’s question is that it hasn’t happened yet. Both Velasquez and dos Santos have delivered entertaining bouts throughout their UFC careers, and pitting them together should produce more of the same.
That’s why the decision to pull this pairing from their originally scheduled place atop the UFC 139 pay-per-view card makes perfect sense. Of any possible match-ups that could have been put together for this card, this clash for the heavyweight championship runs the lowest risk of falling short of expectations.
Many people wondered if the UFC would bring middleweight champion Anderson Silva back on a quick turnaround to headline this event following his easy win at UFC 134. As electric as Silva can be, he’s also delivered two of the least entertaining title fights in recent memory, his UFC 112 win of Demian Maia and his UFC 97 victory over Thales Leites before that.
Georges St-Pierre is far more well-known than Velasquez and dos Santos, but he too can be less than exciting inside the cage. While lighter weight fighters have routinely delivered spirited affairs, they don’t carry the same explosive potential a heavyweight pairing often delivers.
That’s why banking on Velasquez and dos Santos is a tremendous decision.
While neither fighter is the most recognizable name in the organization, White countered a question about whether they considered going with a more well-known pairing for the FOX debut with great candor.
“Tell me which one of our guys is (mainstream)? Every time somebody tries to tell me we’re mainstream — we’re not mainstream. Mainstream is when you walk down any major street in America and ask them if they know what basketball is. That is mainstream.
“What we’re getting here is we’re getting the opportunity to become mainstream. We’re not sitting around patting ourselves on our backs saying we made it; now’s the time to work. Now’s the time to deliver.”
The bout will serves as the lone fight on the one-hour broadcast. While FOX Sports President Eric Shanks joked that a quick finish would result in an airing of Simon Cowell’s new show The X-Factor, he added that such an event would likely lead to airing a “Best of the Night” style compilation of the highlights for the rest of the November 12 fight card.
Shanks also announced that advertising for the first UFC on FOX event will begin to be seen on the network tomorrow during the initial weekend of NCAA football, and that they will be rolling out the red carpet in Anaheim before the event, literally.
“I will say one thing that we will be doing is launching the UFC on FOX with a Super Bowl-style red carpet and tailgate party with every star in Hollywood and every dignitary that we need to get out there to launch this thing. It will be a la Super Bowl tailgate and Super Bowl red carpet, but with a huge party outside before the event.”
This event is poised to go down as the next historical moment in the development of the organization and the sport as a whole. White rounded out the call by likening the opportunities on FOX to the last watershed moment in the company’s history.
“The way we look at this fight, this is our Forrest Griffin–Stephan Bonnar, now on a huge, massive platform, and we need to deliver. And there is no doubt in my mind, and I will be anything and everything — and I am betting that — that these guys are going to deliver.”