That was exhausting.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) monopolized our Saturday (May 31, 2014) by holding two mixed martial arts (MMA) events in one day.
In different parts of the world.
The UFC Fight Night 41: "Munoz vs. Mousasi" Fight Pass event got the party started from inside the O2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany, and lasted roughly five hours from start to finish (results here). After a short break, the action resumed on Fight Pass -- then eventually FOX Sports 1 -- with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3" Finale from Sao Paulo, Brazil (results here).
That one spanned approximately six hours.
The concept of the doubleheader is not uncommon in sports, but as my eyelids started getting heavy during the latter half of the UFC's televised marathon, I was trying to figure out why back-to-back MMA events bother me, and consecutive baseball games don't.
Ya' know, besides the fact that baseball doubleheaders are shorter, even with a rain delay and extra innings.
I think it comes down to talent.
The first doubleheader I ever saw was back in Sept. of '84 (I'm old) when the New York Yankees battled the Baltimore Orioles. Don Mattingly was locked in a race for the American League batting title with fellow pinstripe slugger Dave Winfield.
I had them for 18 innings.
That's in addition to the other stars on the team, like starting pitcher Ron Guidry (who got bombed, but that's beside the point). It was easy to stay invested because all my favorite guys were out there all the time. Not just on offense, but on defense, as well.
Imagine getting a fresh line up after every inning?
That's kind of what it felt like on Saturday. The constant turnover reminded me why I long for grand prix tournaments, dead in MMA (mostly) but alive and well in GLORY kickboxing. PRIDE: "Final Conflict Absolute" comes to mind from 2006, which featured Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Josh Barnett and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Shit, if I knew I was getting Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez twice in one night, then get the fucking popcorn, because I'm locked in.
No such luck.
Instead, we got 3-4 "names" on each card, and then layer of mid-tier talent draped over a bevy of up-and-comers. I don't have a problem with debuting fighters, or combatants who are still trying to earn their spot. Heck, I don't even mind the occasional journeyman.
But spread across 11 hours?
That's asking a bit much. I had a friend back in the day who argued that a "real" baseball fan can turn on any game from any division and be entertained, because they enjoy the sport, and not the individual brands. I'm sure some folks feel that way about "real" MMA fans, too.
Count me out.
It's 2014 and I think it's okay to want more from the sport. And I don't mean more as in "OMG these guys are going at it on Twitter! What a rivalry!" I mean more as in knowing before each fight what the stakes are, and why these guys matter in their respective divisions.
Across the board?
I realize that's unrealistic. But that's why we have "Prelims" before each event. If the promotion doesn't have enough recognizable names, bona fide stars, or just a couple of guys with a clearly-defined narrative to round out the main card, then it's time to scale back the events.
I don't think oversaturation is the problem.
But with 500+ fighters under contract and multiple events each month, the promotion can do a much better job of compartmentalizing its product. That starts with structured booking and better pacing during fight night, especially when a card is riddled with decisions.
We may have to trim the fat.
One of the things I liked about Strikeforce and ProElite (EliteXC) is how both promotions had clearly defined outlets for the bottom half of its roster, both of which prominently featured generation next. Long before she was UFC women's bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey was cutting her teeth in Strikeforce: "Challengers."
Just like Eddie Alvarez was a featured up-and-comer at ShoXC: "Elite Challenger Series," long before he fought in DREAM or captured gold in Bellator.
I know UFC has The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but the problem with that platform, besides the fact that most of the cast does not end up with a contract, is that the contests are "exhibition fights" and hold no value outside the confines of reality television.
Put some of these non pay-per-view (PPV) cards to good use.
And if you're thinking "Sounds great, but I'm not sure I'd be down with watching that," then I encourage you to take another look at this "stacked" line up.
You already are.