Like a lot of people, I started really becoming an MMA/UFC fan in 2005. The Ultimate Fighter opened a lot of eyes to what Dana White and the Fertitta brothers had turned it into. But for the last few years I could do nothing but be critical of the UFC. They essentially went for the cash then to continue to grow the product. The cards were extremely watered down, and they started to lose the average sports fan. Well they’re thankfully back on the right track.
It’s funny because back in July I wrote a piece after Chris Weidman’s win that the UFC needed that upset. Until that moment, they were on a big time slide and re-reading it today I see some interesting things I was writing about. Nobody that night on twitter was talking about the fights. Sid Sixerio never misses one and tweets about them all the time…not a word that night. Jay Glazer, not a word. Nobody was talking about the UFC, until Chris Weidman caught Anderson Silva being an ass and they’ve been back ever since.
I don’t know how much the numbers showed that interest was fading, but I know amongst the people that I know and talk to the interest was minimal at best. I used to be a huge wrestling fan and during the Monday night war’s you heard a lot of the WWE people talk about how they were winning the fans in the street about a year or more before it started to show up with their TV and PPV numbers, so who knows. But I’m guessing with how smart Dana White is, he knew interest was fading.
In 2009 there pretty much wasn’t anyone who didn’t miss a card and if they did they were bitching about whatever was forcing them to miss it. But by 2012, they were cancelling a card a week prior to the event because Jon Jones refused to take a fight against Chael Sonnen after Dan Henderson was injured in training, and the rest of the card was pathetically weak (nothing against Jake Ellenberger). That was easily the low point and even though I doubt he would ever admit it I’m sure that had to be the wake up call for Dana White to start scaling back the amount of cards they were doing and loading up 1 a month or so.
Well its now paying off big time! They’re back to putting out cards that aren’t just producing 1 blockbuster fight per card, but the under cards are back to being solid as well. And in the last few months we have been given some of the most memorable fights of all time. Of course the Weidman/Silva fight because of how it went down and the fact that it was such an amazing upset, Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson was an incredible fight. Then you had UFC 166 might have been the best card of all time with Cain Velasquez vs Junior Dos Santos….a heavyweight title fight that went the full 5 rounds and exceeded expectations only being the 2nd best fight of the night, being overshadowed by Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez.
Then came last night. Another major title fight that exceeded expectations and really the controversial finish combined with stir that GSP started after the fight will have people intrigued for months. Because that fight was so incredible, people have already forgot about the epic fight that Rory McDonald and Robbie Lawler had. In a span of 3 hours, the UFC Welterweight division has gone from stale to as intriguing as ever with GSP stepping aside (for now, I’m sure he’ll be back in 18 months or so), Hendricks deserving to be the champ, Lawler deserving a title shot, and McDonald will probably end up getting a shot after Lawler gets his. Awesome!
Next PPV up is the rematch between Silva and Weidman and for that tilt it almost won’t matter how good of a fight it is and won’t matter how much they hype the fight. They won’t need to at all. Coming off 3 great cards in a row and having so much going right the last 5 months. The co-main event is Miesha Tate vs Ronda Rousey and thanks to the Ultimate Fighter they won’t have any problem selling that fight either, although Rousey will likely destroy Tate. Travis Browne and Josh Barnett is a pretty big tilt, and Chris Leban is on the card too who never gives you a bad fight (although it remains to be seen if he’ll be on the main card or prelims).
They’re still pumping out a lot of cards, but they have quit putting out a ridiculous number of watered down PPV cards. Weaker cards are now all on free TV, which still allows them to expose and build up their younger fighters, and the PPV’s are back to being “must buy”. What a difference a few months can make but good on the UFC for recognizing their mistake and despite denials in the media they understood what needed to be done and fixed it. That’s what well run companies do. They’re able to own their mistakes and make things right. Poorly run companies, or sports teams, or sports league’s just keep trying to force what they’re doing down everyone’s throat and it just turns fans off. Look at how much critisim the NHL gets for doing that stuff. Not the UFC though. Say what you want about Dana White, they’re on a hot streak and while things aren’t perfect, I would definitely declare them to be back on track and on the rise.
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups