UFC On FOX 1 has come and gone and everyone can breathe again. Junior dos Santos became the new UFC heavyweight champion by knocking out Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds on Saturday night. The win was quick and definitive, but people are reacting like the debut of the UFC on Fox was a disaster.
See, mixed martial arts fans are constantly fighting an inferiority complex. We love our shirtless dudes rolling around in a cage with a great passion we think that everyone else should love them just as much. It’s a great sport. It has violence, great personalities and a bald, powerful leader of our cult. The UFC is our favorite band and you have to fucking listen to them bro!
So on Saturday night, we had a listening party for their newest album. It turned out to just be a cassingle and I’m not sure if anyone new is going to buy the next album.
As someone who has watched hundreds of events, I was prepared for just about every possible outcome. I was prepared for Dana White to drop an f-bomb or twelve in the preview portion of the show. I was prepared for one of the fighters to open a cut on his opponent’s forehead and have Joe Rogan compare the gash to a goat’s vagina. (It has happened previously.) I was ready for a controversial stoppage of the fight and a disputed champion to emerge. I was ready for 25 minutes of posturing and boring wrestling and I was ready for a knockout 64 seconds into the fight.
The actual production was fine. Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos were introduced to America as two guys who had come from tough backgrounds to rise to the top of their sport. As Dana White exclaimed multiple times, “HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE THIS GUY!?” He was right. Both guys are easy to root for. Either person wins, it’s great.
I think the main problem is that it wasn’t a clean, spectacular, highlight-reel knockout. dos Santos hit Velasquez in the ear and down went the champ. JDS jumped on top and landed a few shots before John McCarthy pulled him off. If this had finished a pay-per-view, it would been wonderful. Today we would all be extolling the virtues of the unbeatable killer that is Junior dos Santos. Instead, everyone is left wringing their hands because “Gosh, I wonder if Joe Boxing Fan and College Q. Football Fan liked it!? Do they approve of my interest!?”
I traded a few e-mails with some “randoms” who had tuned into the fight on Saturday for their first taste of the UFC. I talked to five people (Small Sample Size!) and while they had varying opinions, none of them said anything I’d consider overly negative. Here are the questions I asked and a summation of the answers I got.
What did you think about the broadcast itself? Introduction, analysis,etc?
Some people liked the long introductions to the fighters, while one person said it seemed like it was like the Olympics, where storyline are more important and drawing in casual viewers was the most important thing. Some people liked Dana White being on the broadcast. (“he seems more personable” than other commissioner-types) while another though he should get behind the camera and let the product do the talking.
What did you think about the fight?
Basically, the fight was great while it lasted, but it also sucked because it was so short. And why weren’t there more fights?
Are you any more likely to watch UFC in the future? (Even if it’s just the next UFC on FOX event)
Cain and JDS didn’t convince anyone to buy a pay-per-view. But everyone said they would watch again as long as it was free.
My reaction to their reactions? From the mouths of babes… Everyone’s biggest problem with the FOX debut in the weeks leading up to the event was the fact that Clay Guida and Ben Henderson weren’t going to be shown on television no matter how long or short the championship fight was. This brings us to Dana White, who had an answer for those critics (myself included). Via Yahoo!:
“For anyone to [expletive] about this fight because they didn’t get to see [this fight or] that fight … shut up! You should’ve bought tickets if you wanted to see all the fights,” White said. “And you don’t like to watch them on Facebook? Seriously, shut up.”
He has a point. If you missed the Fight of the Night between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida (like I did) then you have no one to blame but yourself. It was live and free online. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been much more convenient if they had showed it during the telecast, but I see his point. (Full fight video here and here by the way) After less than an hour with a restrained Dana White, casual fans immediately liked or disliked the way he was out in front of the UFC. Dana is a love him or hate him personality.
In the end, the UFC is probably a little more well-known today than it was on Friday. The 5.7 million viewers was a nice little figure (still behind the uber-draw that is Kimbo Slice, but a decent start), but such a quick fight didn’t sell any future pay-per-views. But next time, when the UFC has two or three fights scheduled for a 90 minute show, maybe some non-fans see something like the Bendo-Guida fight and realize “Holy shit, that was awesome.” Then they watch a Fight Night on FX. Then eventually, they get some friends together and order a PPV. Basically, the same way the UFC has always grown. It will happen, there are just a lot more people ready to obsess over ever little aspect of that growth.