A lot of names have been kicked around for the first UFC on Fox. Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Chael Sonnen have been three of the most prominent names talked about. But I don’t know that we’ll see any of these guys on the card. And for one simple reason, this card is not for hardcore fans, but as a way to introduce MMA and the UFC to a new audience. Why wouldn’t you want to use these guys to do that? They are three of the best and most recognizable stars in the sport. But there are problems with all of them being used for that purpose.
Sonnen is a lightning rod for the hardcore fans. People either love him for his attitude and antics or despise him for being a cheat, racist, and fraud. And therein lies the problem, while the Chael haters want to see him get beat, you don’t really want to introduce potential new fans to him right away. He’s had the legal issues, the PED issue and says a lot of stuff that can be construed as racist or homophobic. This event is going to get covered by a different type of media, people with a stronger anti-MMA agenda. There is no need to give those people someone like Chael to exploit towards that end.
Silva and Machida have a different problem, as they both seem to be pretty solid citizens. Their problem is that they don’t speak English. Now there have been rumors about how much English Silva can actually speak, but it doesn’t matter what he knows as long as he chooses not to do it. People have a short attention span. They don’t care for subtitles and they don’t want to listen to questions asked and answered in two languages. Again, hardcore fans are used to it, but FOX will be trying to pull in people who haven’t watched MMA and are accustomed to the NFL, NASCAR, and MLB. Sure MLB has their share of Spanish-speaking players, but let’s be honest, those guys don’t get nearly as much airtime as other players and coaches. Plus, Silva having to fight Saturday could end up making him unavailable anyway.
The point is to educate these new fans about the sport and the fighters. They need the more clean-cut guys, guys who can communicate well, guys with less trouble in their pasts. It’s like when you bring your girlfriend to a family function for the first time; you keep her away from the weird uncle with the plate in his head. Not that you don’t love the guy, but you don’t want her to have to deal with too much too fast. Also, you want to make sure that you are going to get two exciting fights. Fights that you can guarantee will deliver. So who do you bring?
First, Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles needs to be moved from UFC 139 to FOX. These guys do not do boring fights. Plus, you have the advantage of Faber having already been marketed to a larger audience through endorsements and is great as a face to introduce the sport to new fans. He’s solid in interviews and is used to dealing with press. Bowles should also do well representing the sport. The second fight, Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson. Their first fight was quality, very close and I can’t see them having a boring fight either. Again, Franklin has already done a ton of work helping to promote MMA in a variety of areas. We know the story, former math teacher, looks like a tough Jim Carey, and does great in interviews. Henderson would be solid as well, plus he brings the former Olympian status to the table. These four guys would be perfect to handle the spotlight to introduce MMA and the UFC to the new viewers FOX will bring and, as their histories show, they will deliver in the fights. Are these match ups that the hardcore fans are clamoring for? No, but that’s not what this first UFC on FOX is about.