In what I hope will be a series of fan posts regarding the UFC and their hotly debated decisions in recent memory, I will analyze avenues that have been left in the dark --primarily because they lie beyond the norm. Quite frankly, when you deal with the UFC, it’s an utmost necessity to dig through countless possibilities and what ifs. More often than not the superficial reasons fail to explain the full weight and depth of certain decisions and comments made by the company. I believe that is what often leaves us in a state of restlessness, confusion, and frustration.
In this post, I’ll discuss Dana White’s comment stemming from recent UFC PPVs and fan reactions to "unexciting fights." The comment "If you don’t like it, don’t buy it," has led to numerous fan replies in the nature of "Ok, I won’t. You just lost a customer" and journalists mildly stating that they do not understand the comment at all. In many ways, it should be confusing, since the UFC’s revenues rely heavily on PPVs. How does a company intend to stay afloat and grow when it is telling its customers not to buy its product?
In this post, I’ll only delve into a portion of a larger overall picture of what I think is going on in the UFC, in future posts I hope to flesh out the overall picture. One of the crucial aspects to understanding the comment comes from the fact that the UFC has over 300 fighters (and growing) in their stable, and that they will eventually need to run even more shows than the amount that they are currently running this year (yes these are points that will be fleshed out in future posts). The reason that this plays into the comment is that we have to realize that the UFC must run more shows, if anything to simply pay their fighters.
I think that the UFC will have to run over 35 or so events per year (TV and PPV combined) to meet the demands of their stable. With 35 or so events per year, it is unexpected for the casual fan or even any die-hard fan to buy every single PPV. In the wake of this reality, Dana’s comment becomes a little more palatable –in context he’s stating "only pick what you want to watch, there’s always another event coming around the corner." He doesn’t want people to buy every single fight because it is impossible to satisfy everyone by a single card, trying to do so would be suicidal for an entertainment company in today’s age.
It is increasingly difficult to please everyone in a world where you can get anything and everything you want through some magic box literally at your fingertips. To believe that anyone can build a card that would satisfy everyone is simply delusional. A lot of people may be left unsatisfied by a card that isn’t Heavyweight laden or a card that is focused submission specialists rather than knock-out artists. For crying out loud there are MMA fans who believe that the recent series of Frankie Edgar fights were boring and uneventful, you simply cannot please everyone. The MMA community is filled with a wide array of folks with a large variety of reasons why they choose to watch MMA. Some folks love wrestling, some like wras’lin, others are old boxing fans, Judo fans, and the list goes on. It is expected that a sport meant to combine multiple specialized forms of martial arts would attract such a variety of people who will ultimately view cards in different ways.
What worked before the advent of the internet and the generation of media consumers with infinite appetites will no longer work in today’s world. We have seen such a trend in quite frankly everything in the recent years. The growth of niche communities and the advent on new economic models from Chris Anderson’s "The Long Tail," tell us that consumers are very picky now a day. The best way to cater to everyone is make everything available and allow people to pick and choose what they want to see or hear. This was the basis of Netflix, Rhapsody, iTunes, youTube and every other major media hub out there on the internet that is still running today. Basically if it’s a service advertising something on demand, it is based on the same idea. As the UFC expands, they will have the ability to now cater to every possible taste of each fan. Picking and choosing which fight to buy stands to be a good model for the future of the UFC. Is the comment making sense yet?
So as the UFC increases their yearly output, I am expecting a few things along the way, primarily a revamped on demand service (to add to their current ufc.tv offerings) and nation or region based UFC offerings (hint: India, Australia, UK ). I do believe that the ultimate goal is to offer such a large number of PPVs that it would no longer make sense to buy every single PPV, and fans begin to only buy fights that interest them. I hope that the larger UFC fight library then becomes a service like Netflix allowing people to watch all fights based on a monthly or yearly subscription service and to allow folks to "own" (basically have life-time access) to UFC cards that they buy. I think in such a state, everyone wins, except perhaps overworked journalists, but hey that means more work for more folks. Fans get to watch only the fights that they want to watch. They will only pay the PPV premium to watch certain fights they want to watch live. While it’s great to do a 1.6M buy on a single event, I think the UFC will be more than happy with a series of events with 0.5M draws coupled with happier fans. Happy fans that got the most for their money because they got to choose what to watch rather than have a "card forced down their throat."