The enormity of the UFCs premier on the FOX network was not lost on the world as the buzz radiating from fight fans was palatable.
However, like most things in life that are built up to astronomical proportions there have been some very vocal criticisms levied at the UFC on FOX main event between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. Perhaps, those criticisms are a bit absurd given the historical significance of the fight as a whole, but, there is no denying that the UFCs impression upon mainstream America could have been a bit smoother as a whole.
Sure, going live on network television for the first time in your company’s history is a daunting task, to say the least. Let’s take a look at the good, and the bad, of the premier of the UFC on FOX.
The Historical Aspect – You can’t deny the fact that Saturday was a huge milestone in the history of the sport that was once infamously referred to as “human cockfighting.” While the UFC is not the first promotion to have an MMA card broadcast on national network television they are clearly the biggest promotion to do so. While Elite XC and Strikeforce beating the UFC to the punch the very real fact remains that the UFC is the straw that stirs the MMA drink. With the UFC already identified as the MMA brand in the world the fact that they are now teaming up with FOX is a huge victory for MMA as a whole. As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
The Fighters – Go big, or go home. If the UFC wanted to put their best foot forward they arguably couldn’t have done better than the two hard-hitting heavyweights in Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. Factor in that this wasn’t just any fight, but the battle for the UFC heavyweight strap and it had all the makings of an explosive night of action, well, at least on paper.
The Production – I’m mixed on my reviews of the overall FOX broadcast but what I did like, and this is important to selling fighters to mainstream America, is that they ran the vignettes of the fighters painting them as the definition of humility (which they both are to a fault). If I wanted to show my mother that MMA fighters are not barbaric, blood-thirsty sociopaths then I couldn’t do any better than introducing her to Velasquez and dos Santos.
Brock The Commentator – With Dana White wilting under the bright lights of a live television broadcast Brock Lesnar was cool, insightful, and humorous as a guest commentator. Of course, Lesnar’s polish isn’t by accident of course given that being a former WWE wrestler sort of requires exemplary commination skills. Still, for a man who looks like he can rip man’s head off with his bare hands, it was good to see a very insightful Lesnar comment of the fight with poise and professionalism. Lesnar was one of the bright moments in the broadcast.
The Fight - Granted, it’s not the UFCs fault that the Velasquez-dos Santos would last shorter than one of my sneezes but you can’t but have been let down after the fight was over so fast. You can’t blame the fighters. After all, fighters fight. That’s what they are paid to do and on Saturday night dos Santos was the much better fighter. Still, you can’t help but wish the UFC would have show the Ben Henderson - Clay Guida fight on tape delay. Now, that was a fight that would sure to garner new fans.
Wait, This isn’t Football? - While there was much polish on the production thanks in large part to both FOX and the UFC trying to put their best foot forward, there was too much of a “NFL on FOX” vibe to it. Actually, as one person on Twitter pointed out, it was like “NFL on FOX” meets the old American Gladiators set. Curt Menefee, who served as the lead host was as vanilla as they come but he did add a flair of professionalism that was important for this event.
Why Are You Yelling, Dana? - Throughout the years we’ve come to appreciate (or despise) UFC President Dana White for his no-holds barred candor and penchant to be as blunt as a baseball bat. All of which is why it was so off-putting to see the F-bomb dropping executive so nervous. The bright lights of live television seemed to prompt White to scream his opinions into the microphone.
For a man who is as usually cool as the other side of the pillow, his stammering non-sequential opinions were not something you’re going to see White put on his personal highlight reel. Of course you can’t be too hard on the guy. After all, this was the biggest moment of his career and he was pretty truthful about his nerves heading into the fight. The UFC may have been better served by having Kenny Florian serve as co-host and relegate White to a smaller role.