UFC Fight Night 34: the UFC may be getting too big for its britches
UFC Fight Night 34 was in Singapore this week, and while the fights were entertaining enough, the card was one more step by the UFC to go global. But there are two sides to that coin: on the one side it’s good because people everywhere can train try to become a fighter in the promotion, or fans can watch and follow local talent; on the flip side, the monster becomes too big for its britches, too big to follow.
In the past the UFC has had competition. In the early 2000s, PRIDE in Japan was a formidable alternative to the UFC. A lot of fans preferred the rules and boxing ring (which is totally inappropriate for MMA), as well as the intrigue of fighters from places like Russia and Japan. The WEC held the best of the lighter weight classes. By purchasing those promotions, the UFC gained the contracts and a lock on the best fighters.
In 2011, One Fighting Championship---now recognized as the largest MMA promotion in Asia---started in Singapore. The UFC isn’t going to sit idly by and watch the huge Asian potential slip to another promotion, hence Fight Night 34. The UFC head-butted with PRIDE and isn’t likely to want that again.
Despite the tough, entertaining five-rounder between Belgium’s Tarec Saffiedine and South Korea’s Hyun Gyu Lim at Fight Night 34, a fan who has been watching the UFC for over ten years knew only one fighter on the card featuring eighteen fighters.
"It was like watching a promotion I'd never seen," Eric said.
Imagine a hockey or football league that extended worldwide. It would be nearly impossible for all but the most fanatical to follow all the teams and players. As the UFC pushes outward with its product, more and more fans know fewer and fewer of the fighters, and knowing the fighters is key to enjoying the sport to its fullest. It’s why the UFC profiles fighters the week prior to a fight.
Fight Night 34 in Singapore was held Saturday morning our time, but televised in the evening, so results were posting on Facebook and Twitter ahead of the telecast here. While watching online was available, not everyone has that option. Despite all the amazing free televised events offered, the best UFC cards are pay per view, so being a UFC fan becomes far more expensive than being an NFL, NHL, or MLB fan.
There are baseball fans who watch every game they can, fans who have player names and copious amounts of stats memorized, but that’s a rare breed. Most fans have the rest of their lives to live and need to limit their time and exposure to their favourite sport. This is the choice UFC fans are having to make now that events are so frequent and spread throughout all the time zones.
When something get too big--- a tree looming over our roof, a 7’6” human body, or the population of a planet---disaster can strike. In this case, the UFC needs to carefully plan and map where they are going, how, and what it means for fans and potential increasing or diminishing returns. Dana White and owners the Fertitta brothers need to remind themselves that the many of the greatest Emperors fell after reaching too far.
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