What impact will being on FOX Network have for the UFC?
This weekend, on November 12, 2011, FOX Network will air an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight for the first time, thrusting the burgeoning sport into the public spotlight. Existing solely on Pay-Per-View, SPIKE TV and the VS Channel for the past six years, the audience has been understandably limited. The UFC will now begin to reach a much larger audience, and this increased exposure may turn mixed martial arts into a mainstream sport.
Commonly compared to boxing, promoters of the respective sports are often at odds. Boxing, once considered one of the most popular sports in America, has taken a slow but steady decline since its move to the pay-per-view model in the 80's. Removing the option to see free, high quality boxing on a major network, the move decreased the amount of exposure the sport received and resulted in a reliance on a select few superstar boxers to drive the sport's popularity. As those stand-out boxers aged and started to retire, the popular interest in the sport dropped dramatically. The UFC has taken the exact opposite approach, as having the UFC on FOX is a step towards the direction that once had boxing situated as the second most popular sport in the nation. Dana White, CEO of UFC, has bold plans for his company. He's stated on many occasions that his goal is to make Mixed Martial Arts the most popular sport in the world. Once a boxing promoter himself, one wonders if Dana White has applied his intimate knowledge of boxing's failing distribution system to the UFC's expansion strategy.
Unlike any televised card before it, the UFC on FOX this weekend will air only one fight; a Heavyweight Championship bout between number one contender Junior dos Santos and current champion Cain Velasquez. In what may seem like a risky maneuver, the mainstream public's first impression of the UFC will rest largely on the shoulders of these two men. However, anyone familiar with these two athletes knows that fireworks are in store tomorrow night. Two of the most exciting fighters in the most interest generating weight division are going to collide in a storm of talent, gritty determination, and killer instinct. Both men come from humble upbringings, and performing an exciting finish over their opponent would likely shower them with instant mainstream stardom and etch them into the sport's history books.
The impact of having the UFC on FOX is yet to be known, but the UFC seems to be doing everything just right in order to make their promotion a household name. Taking lessons learned from boxing and applying it to their strategy, airing a guaranteed barn-burner of a fight as their introduction to the mainstream public, and realizing the importance of giving free fights to their fans are all crucial to achieving the next level of popularity and accomplishing their goal of becoming the most popular sport in the world. Tune in on Saturday evening to witness the first step in what looks to be an exciting future for the world of mixed martial arts.