If you're a fight fan looking for a way to burn through some spare cash in August, you've got options. Between UFC 133
last weekend and UFC 134
later in the month, the committed MMA
fan is likely to add a hundred bucks to the cable bill this month just to keep up with all the pay-per-view action.
But upstart promotion MMA Fight Pit is hoping you'll consider adding an extra thirty dollars to that tally on Saturday night when it debuts with a card full of familiar names like Jens Pulver
, Houston Alexander
, Razak Al-Hassan
, Jamie Yager
, and Junie Browning
All these men have two things in common: 1) they used to fight in the UFC
, and 2) they don't anymore. So how do you convince people to pay money to see them fight after the UFC has decided it can't even use them on free cable TV fight cards anymore?
"I think people are looking for an alternative to UFC events these days as well, and I think this is a card, as a fan, that I want to see," said Torry Crooks, one of the promoters behind Saturday night's event in Albuquerque, N.M. "These are some of my heroes that are on this card. These are guys who have a chance of making their way back, or as we expand as a promotion, going on to bigger and better things with us."
In other words, the one thing we know about these promoters is that they're optimistic.
It's a tough time to hit up fight fans for some cash. One week after UFC 133 and two weeks after Strikeforce
: Fedor vs. Henderson, MMA Fight Pit is squeezing in on a rare open Saturday night, but it's also doing so just one day after a Strikeforce: Challengers card on Showtime and one day before a free UFC card on Versus. Even if it is available for twenty bucks less than a UFC pay-per-view, the main selling point is still fighters who the UFC decided it could do without.
That makes for a tricky little marketing tango. The main reason most fans know these names is because of UFC exposure, but now that the UFC is done exposing them, how much value remains?
The answer changes as you go down the card. Alexander still has the appeal of a slugger who's long on power and short on defense. With Pulver, there's the sense we're seeing the final act in a great career
, and whether it's going to be a tragedy or a redemption story is still unclear. Browning brings little more than the allure of chaos, and after coming in more than seven pounds over the 155-pound limit for his bout
, he seems poised to deliver.
Put them all together and you do have something resembling a draw, but is it the kind of draw fight fans are really going to pay $30 for?
A few probably will. Maybe they'll be the independently wealthy types, or maybe just teenagers indiscriminately running up their parents' cable bill with no thought to the consequences. But if the last few years worth of would-be competitors to the UFC have taught us anything, it's that it's hard enough to sell tickets with UFC castoffs, but almost impossible to do well on pay-per-view with them.
Then again, maybe it depends on how you measure success.
MMA Fight Pit promoter Crooks said he was encouraged by the early response from fans, who in his opinion, "either want to see these guys win or they're controversial characters and they want to see them get beat up. Either way, it's a fight they want to watch. We're not as expensive as the UFC on pay-per-view, and I think people are hungry for an alternative."
And who knows, maybe he's right. It's just hard to imagine that fans have thirty bucks worth of hunger in them for this particular alternative, and on this particular Saturday night.