If you haven’t heard, the UFC’s Bantamweight Champion, Dominick Cruz, is headed into a more or less predictable title defense against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Ariel Helwani at NBCSports.com was the first to report the booking, with the UFC later confirming it via Twitter.
That’s not the shocking part. The shocking part of the report is that the 135 pound title fight will be broadcast for free on the Versus network on October 1, 2011. To get an understanding on how rare it is for a title fight to appear on free television, the last free championship fight to appear on cable was between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Dan Henderson, where they battled for the Light Heavyweight Title at UFC 75 in September of 2007.
So why now? And why on Versus and not Spike TV? I’ll tell you why. And I’ll give you three great reasons.
Number one, is because these guys are former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) fighters. The WEC, before the UFC eventually absorbed them, had a television deal with the Versus network to broadcast their events, so the familiarity is there. Not only that, these two are most likely still on their WEC contracts and don’t have pay-per-view bonuses in their agreements, so they won’t take a monetary hit by doing the free show.
Number two, to quiet the fans that are constantly complaining, errrrr, asking for better fights on free television events. Dana White can’t go one free show without fans complaining that the fight match-ups were lackluster. Well, ask and you shall receive. If anyone complains about this event (UFC on Versus 6), someone needs to smack them. This is an excellent fight, and you better eat it up. Title fights on free TV only come around every 4 years.
And number three, the biggest reason, is that it is a power play. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the UFC is making this title fight happen on Versus to create leverage against their current television partner, Spike TV, all while pushing for a network (NBC) deal. NBC Universal owns the Versus network. The UFC wants a major TV deal. If they can show the brass over at NBC that they can pull huge numbers on their smaller property, it would increase the likelihood of their dream of landing a major network coming to fruition. And Spike TV will be paying attention. If they want to keep UFC programming on their channel, the price just went up. When the numbers hit a million-plus viewers and NBC gets word, the price will go through the roof.
Make no mistake about it, this is fantastic news. Everybody wins (except Spike). But don’t think the UFC is doing it for you and me, the fan. At least, not totally.