Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
When the UFC debuted on network television on Nov. 12, 2011, it did so with a heavyweight championship fight on FOX that culminated in a 64 second knockout.
And while the bout itself pulled big time ratings, to the tune of 8.8 million viewers, the entire event broadcast did significantly less, garnering 5.7 on average throughout the hour long broadcast.
The blame for that lies in the fact that the fight was so short. Interest was there, but it was never allowed to build through a long war of attrition. No one viewer got the chance to shoot a buddy a text telling them to "turn the fight on, this one is crazy."
They definitely would have had that chance if Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua had met one week sooner.
In the main event of UFC 139 last night (Sat., Nov. 19, 2011) in San Jose, "Hendo" and "Shogun" engaged in a fight already regarded as one of the greatest of all time, a five round epic clash of titans.
You would think UFC President Dana White would have wanted something like that for his promotion's first foray into network TV. And you would be wrong.
If you could have like a (Rua-Henderson) type fight on TV, I mean, imagine what the number would get to. But that's not the fight you want for your first time on network television," said White at the UFC 139 post-fight press conference. "I said it before and I'll say it again: if I could go back in a time machine and do the FOX fight over again, it would be done the same exact way. Exactly the same way. The hardcores can bitch about that fight, I could care less what they think about that fight. I don't care. And people are like, 'Oh, you don't care what the fans think?' No, I do not care what you think. That fight had to go the way that it went because none of you guys understands what goes on behind the scenes. If that fight that happened tonight went on FOX for the first time ever, let me tell you what, I would not be having a good time these last five or six days."
That seems like an interesting stance to take at first but when giving it a closer examination, maybe White has a good point.
After all, before the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos fight ever popped off, photos were taken showing members of the UFC crew painting over blood inside the Octagon.
Clean presentation or conscious decision to avoid looking barbaric?
Silly as that may sound, detractors of MMA are still out in force. In fact, before the FOX broadcast, protesters gathered outside UFC headquarters to voice their disapproval of the promotion and called for FOX to cut all ties with the organization.
That didn't happen, of course, but it's definitely something that has to be taken into consideration. And that's likely why White wouldn't have wanted a bloody, brutal war the likes of which Henderson and "Shogun" had last night.
Brand new eyes may not have been happy with that as the appetizer, which is really all Velasquez vs. dos Santos was meant to be. And it was just that.
So maybe it worked out in the end. Then again, what are the chances the next UFC on FOX main event will come anywhere near the level of epic Henderson vs. Rua reached?