UFC on Fox: Have We Learned Anything Yet?

As a student of history, I’ve always been sadly amused by the many ways France found to screw up during the two World Wars.

No, I’m not here to bash the French – unlike many in North America, I still remember a chubby little fellow named Napoleon Bonaparte, who was kicking a** and eating cheese while we were still carving civilization out of the bush here in North America. But still, you can’t help but shake your head at the way the French military learned the lessons (or didn’t) of the World Wars.

Before the First World War, the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian wars were still fresh in the minds of French military planners. “We ‘ave to take back our lost terry-tori!” the thinking went “so our strategy must be attack, attack, attack! The elan (fighting spirit) of our soldiers will carry the day!”

This mentality of “attack no matter what” led to the absolute slaughter at places like Verdun, where wave after wave of French soldiers charged into the teeth of trenches, mortars, and machine guns in bloody futility.

“Sacre bleu!” the French military brass exclaimed after the war, “that strategy was ‘orrible! We lost so many men! For the next war, we should focus on defence, defence, defence!”

So they built the Maginot Line, perhaps the most impressive defensive work in modern history, on the border with Germany. Lesson learned, right? Except when the Germans invaded next in 1940, they launched a lightning attack around the flanks of the Maginot Line, cutting off the French army in their (now uesless) defensive line and bagging the whole country in a matter of weeks.

France learned lessons from the two wars – they were just the wrong lessons. They were too focused on re-fighting the last war, while their enemies were figuring out how to win the next one.

I wonder if the UFC and Fox aren’t making the same mistakes with their strategy for “UFC on Fox”. And more importantly than that – what have the lessons of UFC on Fox really been thus far?

Let’s take a look at the UFC’s thought process for these events so far. We’ll start with the first card, where the thinking went something like:

Big, Important World Title Fights Are All That Matters

For the First UFC on Fox, we got Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight championship of the world – and nothing else.

The thinking here was pretty clear: for our debut effort, fans need to feel they’re watching something truly epic. We don’t have time to introduce a whole card of fighters, so we’ll focus only on the main event, build the two men fighting in it up like gods in the PR, and put make it for the heavyweight championship, which any sports fan can understand the significance of.

The ratings for UFC on Fox 1 shows that, to a large extent, this strategy was successful. However, as Joe and Goldie tell us so often, “anything can happen in MMA.” And having your clash of the titans end in 64 seconds was a jarring letdown for the months of promotion that preceded it. Fans tuned in expecting to see The Hulk vs. Thor. Instead, they got The Hulk vs. Loki (Avengers humour – if you haven’t seen it yet, my condolences on being trapped under that rock all weekend).

So coming off that show, the new motto for UFC on Fox could be summed up roughly as

No Matter What, There Can Be No Quick, Disappointing Finishes

For UFC on Fox 2, the UFC booked three fights that were all pretty much guaranteed to go into deep waters. And instead of relying on months of promotional effort that can, in mere seconds, be flushed away, they booked established stars the MMA fanbase was already familiar with. Micheal Bisping, Chael Sonnen, and Rashad Evans are all known commodities with a proven track record of drawing eyeballs.

What the UFC got was a classic case of “be careful what you wish for”. No quick finishes this time – instead, all three fights went to decision in slower, tactical, mostly wrestling-based affairs with very little drama.

Booking guys like Sonnen or Evans because of their name value with fans is a good idea. But the UFC (and fans too, let’s be honest) seemed to forget that outside of being despised heels, both guys have a reputation for putting on “boring” fights.

And on network TV, we got exactly what we should have expected from both men: Chael Sonnen, with his Greco-Roman based attack and exactly one finish in nine UFC fights, grinding out a win in signature fashion over Mike Bisping. And Rashad Evans, coming off some absolutely despised performances against “Rampage” and Thiago Silva, and with his 1000th title shot on the line, used a similar style to shut down the less experienced Phil Davis.

For my part, I enjoyed all the fights that night. But I’m weird. By and large, fans were left yawning by night’s end instead of cheering. So for this most recent UFC on Fox, the UFC changed up their thinking again to

Exciting Fights Are All That Matters

A 64 second KO. Three plodding decisions in a row. For their third outing on Fox, the UFC evidently decided to sacrifice all on the altar of exciting fights – including big name fighters and world title fights.

And again, the UFC got exactly what they asked for. Top to bottom, all the fights delivered excitement, drama, and some damn exciting finishes. The problem is that this time, no one was watching.

Ok, that’s an exaggeration on the level of “Pedro Rizzo is a credible opponent for Fedor Emelianenko.” But according to the earliest reports, the ratings for this outing on Fox are down significantly from the last two shows. And the reason most folks are jumping to is the lack of “star power” on the card.

I mean sure, Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller was a guaranteed exciting fight – but if you don’t know who Jim Miller or Nate Diaz is in the first place, you won’t be bothered to tune in on a night featuring a big boxing match, an NBA playoff, and perhaps the biggest cinematic event of our lifetimes playing in theatres.

So with three events on the books, and three differing philosophies guiding each one, I put it to you: what should the UFC book for the fourth Fox show? The talk is that Hector Lombard will headline against Brian Stann, but let’s assume for a moment that’s not set in stone. What philosophy should the UFC use to book their next Fox outing? Was one of their previous methodologies the right one – or have they yet to hit upon the right formula for that slam dunk, out of the park UFC on Fox event we’ve all been waiting for?

I legitimately don’t know. And my fear is the UFC is in the process of building the Maginot Line, when they should be getting ready for blitzkrieg.

15 Responses to “ UFC on Fox: Have We Learned Anything Yet? ”

  1. RealMMA says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated... Thumb up 5 Thumb down 18

  2. Donald Duck says:

    Self serving revisionist history is my favorite kind of rhetoric.


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  3. Dean says:

    First off, great article. I don’t watch very much TV but I’m wondering if they had commercials leading up to and promoting the last event? I don’t see the issue being a “star power” issue as when Forrest/Bonner first went toe to toe nobody knew who they were and yet people were calling their buddies and telling them to turn to Spike to watch what was happening. The first fight aired may have started the ship sinking as it was a huge build up, a quick fight and then replay after replay when they should have shown a more exciting fight from earlier on the card like Bendo/Guida.
    I did like the production on this last card and how they intro’d the fighters before the fight to give new fans an idea of what they were about to get into, which makes it more exciting as you can’t help but pick a favorite. I think they are definitely bringing the value up but as you mentioned, the viewership is dropping. Why? Promoting the event to a main stream audience isn’t easy. Jack up the commercials and hopefully interest picks up.
    I think that Spike was a better fit for the UFC as its viewers are typically on their channel for what are deemed, male oriented programs.
    Finally, to RealMMA, this sport is still growing and is picking up mainstream fans at a still, alarming rate. More young people are getting into all kinds of training and if it weren’t for the “make believe president” and some of his ideas and passion MMA would still be an underground, small sport. Oh, and Fedor is by far, not the greatest MMA fighter of all time, nor is he very smart IMO. He has not proven himself by fighting the best competition in the world nor had he made the kind of money he should have. That, to me, has tarnished his legacy and hurt his chances of ever being able to claim the #1 status.
    Sorry bout the novel guys.

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  4. harry balls says:

    “Also the same guys that bashes the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Fedor Emelianenko.”

    hahahahahaha. the dumbest businessman of all time maybe. Fighting a bunch of also-rans does not a legend make.

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  5. Verbal Guard says:

    Student of History discussing 3 events on a 7 year deal?

    You go girl.

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  6. Stampede says:

    @Verbal Guard is correct

    @Harry Balls is incorrect. Fedor is one of the greatest of all time. Only an “I’ve been a fan since the first Ultimate Fighter” newbie would make such a statement

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  7. Dean says:

    @Stamped, the Fedor debate could go on forever and he is one of the guys I loved watching regardless of who he was fighting but one of the greatest? He could have cemented his legacy and that claim but other than CroCop and Nog, who did he smash to give him GOAT status? Entertaining, yes! Wins over relevant opposition, not so much. Just my opinion though.

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  8. Dean says:

    For the record, Ive been a fan a bit longer than the first TUF. Juss sayin

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  9. h.h.h says:

    Wow, you got horrible taste in movies

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  10. Nick Angela says:

    “Generals always fight the last war, especially if they happened to have won it.”

    You have to love the French and their “appease, retreat, surrender, collaborate” mentality. I hear those old bunkers make damn nice wine cellars.

    Can I get a Sichelschnitt? Great piece, BTW.

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  11. Elton Hobson says:

    Wow. Lots of feedback here guys. Let’s see here…

    @Verbal Guard not quite sure what you’re getting at. 3 events is still history, no? Especially since I’m basically asking you what your opinion is instead of foisting mine on you. Or are you making fun of history nerds? Or women? Ahahahah help a brother out here :p

    @h.h.h I get it. You’re just mad because Blade Trinity tanked, am I right? And The Rock is in the new G.I Joe movie, John Cena has his own thing going…and there’s you, playing second fiddle to Justin freakin’ Bieber in Floyd Mayweather’s entourage Saturday night.

    Yes, I decided to make a bunch of HHH jokes. Seriously though, Avengers is like crack for my nerd brain…or to put it in terms you’ll understand: It is The Game, and IT IS THAT. DAMN. GOOD

    As for the Fedor debate that’s somehow broken out here (doesn’t it always?) well, I happen to think he’s the man. I also think he’s still the greatest heavyweight champion in MMA history in any organization so far.

    And finally, I think in 10 years he’ll be remembered as a overrated, protected has-been with a padded record and terrible management. It’s not true, but M-1’s actions have pretty much guaranteed that’s the version of history folks will remember.

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  12. Wuzjustsayin says:

    Keep up the good work!

    Agree or disagree love your articles. Always refreshing to read a well done piece that gets the pot stirring.

    (Haters Make You Famous)

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  13. Huffy says:

    The poor ratings had as much to do with what the UFC was going up against as it did with the lack of star power. Mayweather/Cotto and the NBA playoffs sucked up a lot of the casual viewers. The fact that it released smack dab in the middle of the biggest film in box-office history and it’s no wonder why Fox didn’t waste any money promoting it. As for title fights the UFC is probably reluctant. Those account for a massive portion of it’s PPV profits, to give them away for free would affect them financially. People need to just calm down about the ratings. The Fox deal is for eight freaking years; both parties are aware that it’s going to take time to turn a very niche product into a consistent ratings powerhouse.

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  14. Donald Duck says:

    And given the sham that the Mayweather/Cotto fight was I would be surprised if the UFC doesn’t try again to go up against a boxing event soon. It won’t take viewers long to decide to watch ‘real fights’ over ‘fixed boxing’.

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  15. harry balls says:

    Man do Fedor fans get butthurt easily.

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