When the Ultimate Fighting Championship kicked off their agreement with the FOX network last November fight fanatics salivated at the thought of Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos putting on a classic fight for the ages as the heavy-handed combatants battled over the top prize at 265-pounds.
Capturing lightning in a bottle, similar to how Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin did in 2005 was what we wanted, instead we got more of a powerful thunder strike focused at the skull of Cain Velasquez, giving us 64-seconds of action on their debut on the network.
The second offering on FOX offered plenty of star-power with three former UFC title-challengers on the bill but exciting moments were few and far between in the decision-heavy event.
Finally, this past weekend we saw an action-packed event, the sort of event that would get your ‘Average Joe’ viewer to stand up and take notice of this developing sport, the only problem was nobody was watching.
Numbers came in today as a mere 2.4million people on average tuned in to their prime time showcase, this is dramatically down from the 5.7million for the debut last November and 4.7 million for the second offering.
There are a number of reasons for the major decline in viewership:
No football – One of the strongest reasons for the UFC to join the FOX network was the backing of the NFL to support their product and they did it to a tee for their first two events running advertisements during games, even having Cain Velasquez on set with the NFL on FOX crew.
Boxing/NBA Playoffs – Sports are a big part of most males past time, especially those in the 18-34 demographic where most of the UFC’s fan base resides, in this case quite a few might have been paying more attention to the NBA or the under-card to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto fight.
With the marquee boxing match you also have to take into consideration it forced media to choose between the two and they put their focus on the biggest boxing match-up of the year leaving the UFC with little interest.
Fuel TV – The UFC had a great set-up with Spike TV to push them as their main product and they are looking to do the same with Fuel TV, the only issue is Fuel TV is available in far fewer homes, even though Fuel and FX were plastered with adverts, if nobody saw them did it really happen?
Oversaturation – Despite the UFC having a large layoff between events recently we have been treated to a smorgasbord of UFC events over the past few years and it’s made the key viewers who would purchase all your events to begin to pick and choose, even if they are on free television.
No star-power – This is the biggest detriment of them all, there were no current or ex-champions, no outspoken promoters and no marquee names that held a lot of stock to the average consumer – Not to take anything away from Jim Miller or Nate Diaz but they aren’t well-known entities in the UFC.
Top-to-bottom UFC on FOX 3 was one of the most exciting main cards we’ve witnessed in quite some time serving up a bit of everything over four interesting matches with brutal hard-hitting knockouts, slick submission stylists and a hard-fought three-round war.
But this event showed us that just putting together a bunch of interesting fights that will tear the house down won’t grab the market share of the viewers, you need stars.
That brings us to the next UFC on FOX event, the featured fight is scheduled to have the former US Marine Brian Stann squaring off with former Bellator middleweight kingpin Hector Lombard as the evenings main event.
This should serve as an incredibly exciting fight and with these two power-punchers it could end in dramatic, jaw-dropping fashion but Lombard has never fought in the UFC and at best has been seen by several hundred thousand eyeballs at this stage.
The UFC needs to give up a few interesting fights with characters that will rake in a new audience or we could see them be shafted from their prime time slot and hurting their agreement with FOX before it gets off the ground.