The last time the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) staged a pay-per-view (PPV) event that failed to crack the 200,000 buy marker was Oct. 7, 2005, when UFC 55: "Fury" reached just 125,000 consumers.
Paying ones, anyway.
On the surface, that's a pretty impressive feat. It's been seven years straight that every PPV show staged by the UFC, no matter the headlining fight, has sold at least 200,000 buys. During this same time span, Fedor Emelianenko headlined shows (before his losses, mind you) were drawing 50,000.
Success like this means money, and lots of it. And what do people with a lot of money want? You guessed it -- more money.
That's why UFC President Dana White has been pushing hard for more fights. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) has now expanded to international waters, hitting Brazil and Australia with more countries to come. White predicted there will soon be a time when his promotion will run two separate shows in two separate geographical locations at the same time.
The closest we'll come to that at present time is the situation presenting itself this upcoming weekend. On Friday night (June 22), UFC on FX 4: "Maynard vs. Guida" goes down at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The very next night, UFC 147: "Silva vs. Franklin 2" takes place at the Mineirinho Arena in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The first event is free but the second airs via pay-per-view (PPV). And from the looks of it, it's going to bomb. We're talking swan dive into the asphalt.
There are many reasons for this, injuries being the easiest to point our collective finger at. UFC 147 was supposed to feature Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen part two before it got moved to UFC 148 for reasons that are still unclear, though confusion over a proper venue was blamed. Perhaps the promotion knew it made a mistake thinking it could host such a big fight on such a small card.
That left Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva to pick up the slack. And that's okay, even if the match-up was terribly uneven, because they're both Brazilian heroes coming off a long stint coaching against each other in the first edition of TUF Brazil.
Ultimately, "The Phenom" broke his hand and now we're left with "The Axe Murderer" taking on Rich Franklin in a rematch from a bout no one wanted to see when it first took place three years ago.
Over-saturation is also a problem, and perhaps the bigger of the two. I would argue as much, in fact, because it's Dana White's relentless need to continue staging events that helped us get to this point to begin with. Quite frankly, the UFC doesn't have a roster thick enough to support this many events, as evidenced by how utterly bleak it looks when fighters start going down with injuries.
Anyone excited about Urijah Faber vs. Renan Barao? Thought so.
It's almost arrogant to ask fans to shell out $60 for an event that isn't much more than a glorified TUF Finale. There's a case to be made that UFC on FX 4, a free show, is superior to UFC 147, a pay show.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) doesn't have an offseason like other major sports. That means fans will determine when they take a break from the sport they love and believe me, they will. The National Football League (NFL) is an absolute juggernaut but its season runs for just five months of the year. This gives the fanbase time to build anticipation for the next season, to reinvigorate and focus its energy on what's to come while fondly remembering what already was.
With the UFC, we no longer get that. Because just as soon as UFC on FX 4 finishes up, we're being asked to gear up for UFC 147. That's ridiculous.
You could make the argument that the NFL runs games on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays and still draws a big audience. To which I would say, yes, that's true. But imagine a game on Sunday night featuring the Cleveland Browns taking on the St. Louis Rams. It's a football game, so it will draw a nice crowd. But it's nothing particularly special, easy to skip and catch the score later.
Now imagine the very next night, the Dallas Cowboys would be taking on the New York Giants. That's the game football fans would focus their attention on, Browns vs. Rams be damned.
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing and if given the option, sports fans will pick and choose. When you add money into the mix, the Browns vs. Rams suddenly looks more appealing if it's free compared to the Cowboys vs. Giants, even if it's being sold as the better game.
Essentially, UFC on FX 4 should draw a decent crowd for some decent fights. And UFC 147 may have done the same if fans weren't being asked to pay for it. But because they are, don't be surprised if they create their own mini-offseason and wait for UFC 148 to roll around.
After all, that's when the Super Bowl of MMA will be taking place.
It should be fun to witness the fallout if UFC 147 garners just 150,000 buys on PPV. You know, doom and gloom and all that.