With the cancellation of UFC Manila, the next instalment of the fighting championship will be four weeks after UFC 204. For the fans that is a veritable starvation period having already enjoyed 31 events throughout the first 40 weeks of 2016. And it sparked the thought – is too much ever enough?
I must say the fast pace of the events has at times left me to rue the lack of coverage and hype over upcoming fights. There is definitely more room to encourage the debate over tactics with certain pundits throwing out some excellent content. Added to this is the fact that individual’s storylines can often get lost without necessary research, and indeed this could be a contributing factor to the current brash self-promoting atmosphere within the UFC as each fighter must vie for limited airspace.
Evidently, the UFC is a capitalist company so it will take any and every opportunity to cash in. As an organisation it has indulged in somewhat of a broadcasting monopoly of recent times in the mixed martial arts world. Subsequently, it has hoovered up the shining talent from smaller promotions leading to a swollen roster and with so many fighters available they have been able to increase the number of events held. But in my opinion that has come at a price with lacklustre cards and foregone conclusions. The UFC is rightly seen by many as the pinnacle of the sport, thus in my opinion should not be a proving ground for young talent.
Despite the surge of popularity brought about first by fighter-cum-actress Ronda Rousey and latterly supplemented by the notorious Conor McGregor, mixed martial arts remains a niche sport. It does not enjoy the same air time as American football, basketball, soccer or even rugby in the respective markets. Thus the balance between broadcasting continuous events to stay in the media attention versus entertaining cards to attract new fans will always be a tricky one to strike.
A curveball notion to muse over to counteract this quandary is that of an off season break like the other sports MMA is competing with. This would afford a holiday for both fans and fighters to avoid the constant deluge of action. Plus it would also signal an opportunity to revisit the rankings and match make appropriately, which has sadly been lost in recent times. The flip side being fighter inactivity and loss of wages – especially if they suffer injury.
So what do I think is the right balance? Fortnightly cards. One numbered event and one fight night. This allows for adequate promotion, in depth dissection and will not dilute the talent. Each fight will then have meaning and impact upon the rankings to help lure new fans. Supplement these with young prospect tournaments in the Ultimate Fighter series and increase the emphasis on sister promotions broadcast on Fight Pass. Thus each component will have a clear function and essentially still provide a weekly fix for the hardcore fans. But this way the showpiece will remain exactly that, a showpiece.