Monday 14 November 2011

Duckman on UFC on FOX

One night stands – great aren’t they? What do you mean you don’t know? You mean to tell me you’ve never had one? Not once? Not even a five minute knee trembler in a damp pub car park? Really? Poor, poor you. What a sheltered life you have lead. I actually feel quite sorry for you now. Wait, look, I’m sorry, don’t cry. I’m sure your life has been great. Please. Ok how’s this for a deal - I’ll get you one for Christmas! How’s that? Granted, I can’t guarantee it’ll be enjoyable, memorable or indeed legal, but at least you’ll be able to say you’ve done it.

Although once you’ve joined the ‘one nighters’ club you could find that the hype outweighs the actual event. In fact it usually does. Don’t get me wrong, at the right time and with the right person, a one night stand can be awesome. It isn’t always about guilt and leaving before the lights come on you know. Sometimes a clumsy and slightly embarrassing one night stand can actually be the start of a beautiful new relationship.

For anyone who has read the title of this article, then read the two opening paragraphs and STILL hasn’t worked out I’m writing about UFC’s debut on FOX this weekend – get out. No, seriously, get out right now. This isn’t the right place for you. You’re looking for the kind of wrestling/MMA opinion and comment that usually comes on three large, brightly coloured, cardboard pages that are marked as ‘waterproof’ and ‘chewable.’ Just Google something like, ‘me like punching’ and I’m sure you’ll end up in the right place…the message board perhaps? Now there’s an example of evolution in reverse if ever I’ve seen one…

So then, for those of you who do remain (all three of you), please bear with me as today Duckman isn’t interested in wrestling. Today it’s all about the morning after the night before and what we’ve learned about the UFC’s big debut on network TV with FOX. Now, before anyone complains, I know this isn’t about wrestling and that might cause a few people to question what they’re reading. I mean you’ve come to WLH, so no doubt you want to read about wrestling.

You’ll just have to trust me, non believers, this is a damn big deal for MMA in general, not just the UFC and I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about it. But fear not, I have a purely wrestling related article currently gestating and it will soon be given to the world. In other words – normal service with Duckman on WLH will be resumed soon!

With that disclaimer out the way, what ‘s the main news coming out of the ‘biggest night in MMA history?’ Well, first things first – we’ve got a NEW UFC Heavyweight Champion, namely the brutally powerful and technically excellent Brazilian striker – Junior Dos Santos. He did what many pundits and fans didn’t think he could - hand Cain Velasquez his first ever loss in the UFC. Not just any old loss though. This was one of those losses that will end up being a question on the UFC Trivial Pursuit game (due to be released in time for Christmas 2015).

It was the defining moment of Dos Santos’ career and a finish that’ll play over and over again on UFC TV. It was as brutal and final a finish as he could have hoped for; an over hand right of epic proportions, powered by two hundred and forty plus pounds of Brazilian fighter, connected with Velasquez just above the right ear and he was done. A few more punches on the ground to seal the deal and 65 seconds into round one, the fight was done! New Heavyweight Champion! Awesome, right? Not totally…

I’m one of the lucky MMA fans who live in the UK and therefore all of my UFC viewing is free and sometimes the coverage is even better than what is broadcast in the states. This show was the perfect example of that advantage.

In the weeks building up to the show a lot was written, bitched and shouted about the fact that FOX had decided to air only one fight during the hour long broadcast, namely the main event . Their reasoning was simple and understandable - this was a taster for non-UFC fans to see what the sport is all about. FOX wanted big names and a big fight to go with them. Even the most causal fan will read or hear the words, “heavyweight championship of the world” and understand that it’s a big deal. So the call was made to air a ton of hype videos and interviews and then just the Heavyweight Title fight.

So why am I lucky being a UFC fan in the UK? Well, our version of the show had THE fight of the night on it and what a great fight it was – one of the best of the year. Benson Henderson defeated Clay Guida in an epic, fast paced, highly skilled and extremely exciting 3 round unanimous decision to become the new number one contender to the Lightweight Title. This was the fight that most commentators and fans believed should have been shown on Saturday night and you know something? They were right.

This was 15 minutes of the very best of MMA, the perfect appetizer to the main course Heavyweight Title showdown and a fight that would have easily hooked a lot of casual viewers. The action was so exciting, so intense and so unpredictable that both Henderson and Guida would have been made stars if the fight was shown on FOX. Problem was, they didn’t show it and with the featured fight going less than ninety seconds, this would have been a great way to fill some time and give new viewers a different ‘flavour’ of MMA from the big dudes.

It’s important to note that this was a decision made by FOX for this particular show. UFC could have put up more of a fight to ensure Henderson/Guida was broadcast but given the early stages of the deal, I’m not surprised they went along with what FOX wanted. Plus if you’ve got a net connection and a Facebook page, you could have watched the fight online.

Don’t be scared though homie (copyright the AWESOME Nick Diaz), when the FOX specials officially start airing next year they will have more than one fight and will be more along the lines of the usual non PPV shows the UFC produces. However as a fan of MMA I can’t help feel that a HUGE opportunity was missed to bring in casual fans by not airing the Henderson/Guida fight.

While the Heavyweight Title fight was the draw and the focal point of the show, they had an undercard fight available that would have helped establish what MMA is all about prior to the heavyweight title fight airing. Very similar to the booking used in WCW in the late 90s. The big names in the main event would get the asses in the seats. But the athletic and state of the art style of the workers on the undercard keep those asses in the seats and bring them back for more in the future.

As it stood, fans in the US watching the show on FOX got 30 minutes of interviews, comment and hype videos, then 10 plus minutes of walk outs and introductions, 60 seconds of fighting and then another 10 minutes talking about the 60 seconds of fighting. If I was a first time viewer to the UFC I’d have been let down by what I’d seen. Although from my perspective, having had the Henderson/Guida fight on the version of the show I watched, I loved the whole hour!

That being said, I think you’d have to be very naïve to believe that the future of the UFC on FOX can be judged off one event. Even with all the hype and the biggest Title in the UFC on the line, this wasn’t even the first official show on FOX. It was a taster. It was a teaser. Granted a huge fight happened and a Title changed hands but in terms of showing the wider public what MMA and the stars of the UFC are all about but I just can’t help feel there’s so much more to come from this deal. We haven’t even scratched the surface with just what UFC on FOX can do for both companies.

There’s no doubt both sides can learn a lot from this show but the early signs are promising. The rating information is in and UFC on FOX drew an average of 5.7 million viewers for the one hour show. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number topped 6.5 million if the fight had gone on longer and perhaps been more of a back and forth war. These days word of mouth travels so quickly on Twitter and Facebook that if a classic fight had unfolded on Saturday, the rating would certainly have increased. Then again that’s the problem with a shoot sport, sometimes shit happens that you have no power over.

According to FOX, it was the most watched professional fight since boxing heavyweights Lennox Lewis and Vladimir Klitschko drew 7 million viewers to their HBO fight in 2003. The network also says it projects it’s on course to win its key demographics, including the coveted 18-to-34-year old age group. That demographic Vince is desperate to bring back to WWE. Still not in competition though, right Vince?

Interestingly the biggest news from the fight was the reaction in Brazil as one of their fellow countrymen captured the biggest Title in a sport that has it’s roots firmly planted in Brazil. A TV viewing audience of approximately SIXTY MILLION watched the fight live on Brazilian TV. A viewership percentage of over 35%! As Dos Santos said when he heard those numbers, “wow, I’m famous!” Damn right you are buddy!

Now THAT is a number that UFC, FOX and everyone else involved in MMA should take a note of. There’s an practically untapped market in Brazil that could easily propel UFC/MMA into being one of the most watched sports on the planet in a few years time. Personally I think they’re on their way there but the market in Brazil could certainly speed the process up. With JDS now standing at the top of the MMA world and Anderson Silva universally accepted as the best pound for pound fighter in the world, plus the absolutely rabid reaction to everything UFC by the fans in Brazil, the pieces are falling nicely into place to open that market up and take UFC/MMA to the next level.

Away from all the numbers and the hype surrounding the debut on FOX what have we actually learned? Well, we’ve learned that JDS throws wicked punches like no one else in the sport. We’ve learned that perhaps Cain Velasquez wasn’t fully healthy for the fight. We’ve learned that there is a market for MMA on network TV and with the right kind of promotion and most importantly, the right kind of show, some big ratings could be drawn. Conversely we’ve learned that if you have a one fight show and that fight goes sixty seconds, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan!

The big test will be once the UFC on FOX programme gets going next year and we can judge how many new PPV viewers are being attracted to UFC. THAT is the whole crux of the matter because just like pro-wrestling, UFC draws a huge chunk of its income from PPV buys. The success of UFC on FOX will of course be judged by the wider public on the ratings they draw. That’s not the key measure though and it’s going to be very interesting to see if UFC will be able to use their position on FOX to hype upcoming PPVs.

All in all you have to call this event a success. The rating is strong and solid in the demographics UFC and FOX are hunting down. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the UFC and in particular Dos Santos. Plus the door is open for a rematch once Cain is healthy and back to winning ways – a rematch on PPV that could draw some big money. On top of all that we’ve got the small matter of Dos Santos’ next opponent, either Alistair Overeem or Brock Lesnar who will face off at the end of December for that right.

So there you have it. UFC on FOX, one of the most significant moments in MMA history and a glimpse into the future of UFC on network TV. So tell me, was your one night stand with the UFC on FOX as good for you as it was for me? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show, the lack of Henderson/Guida on the TV show, if you were viewing UFC for the first time, what did you think?

Thanks for reading and continuing to support Wrestling’s Last Hope. Be sure to check out all the other recent articles by the talented dudes here. There are also two great audio interviews on the site with indy legend Homicide and future star Adam Cole, so give them a listen and give Stu some feedback for his future interviews and audio show appearances. And finally, don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @WLHDuckman.

Ok, that’s an article written and cheap plugs done…time to fly!

Until next time…




  1. Fast fights are really what made me stop watching boxing...though I agree at the end of the day this isn't going to slow UFC down at all. Moving to FOX will be huge for them.

    In fact, I've always thought TNA should do something like this instead of PPVs. Build towards having a free supershow on a station that could provide more viewers instead of putting on a show that only a fraction of their audience wants to see.