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MMA Notebook – the ghosts of Elite XC & PRIDE continue to resurface

By Zach Arnold | September 17, 2010

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Check out the cast of characters involved in CAMO (the new group attempting to run California’s amateur MMA system). Turi Altavilla from the PRIDE days is involved, and of course Jeremy Lappen is behind all of this. Yes, Jeremy Lappen of WFA and Elite XC fame.

Gareth A Davies has the scoop on who will be at the big UFC Fan Expo in London for the UFC 120 event.

ABC7 in Denver has a bizarre story about a distressed man at a Aspen hotel who claimed he was “a UFC fighter” and ended up getting tased by police. But there’s more to the story and you have to read it…

Urijah Faber will appear at the Sacramento UFL game on Saturday (9/25).

The match-ups for Bellator’s 115-pound women’s tournament are… Megumi Fujii vs. Lisa Ward and Zoila Frausto vs. Jessica Aguilar. I know there are some detractors of women’s MMA on this site, but even those critics can agree that none of the women’s fights are as bad as watching a Cole Konrad MMA fight these days.

Here are the four video clips on ESPN’s site for this week’s MMA Live show: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

A recalibration is needed for UFC on cable television

The Nate Marquardt/Rousimar Palhares show drew a 0.9 cable rating, which is exactly in line with what it should have drawn given the lack of star power on the card. The August 1st event with Jon Jones and Vladimir Matyushenko drew a 0.8 rating on Versus. WEC ratings on Versus are tanking. Urijah Faber is the only drawing card for WEC at this point.

The truth is that UFC is having some rough patches right now in terms of making new stars and they better figure out a new, detailed, creative way of reutilizing their current television properties to create new stars by giving fighters more exposure on the right platforms. It sounds simple, but it’s not. It’s clear that UFC’s brand strength gives them about a 1.0 on cable (and TUF is around a 1.2-1.3 rating for a floor). The company needs to change its vision on how they make new stars and, more importantly, not only how many shows they run but the type of production values (both live and on television) that they use. If you watch a UFC show in 2010, it’s the same on TV as it was several years ago. (WWE is even worse – it looks like they have been stuck on autopilot for the last decade.) Change is needed on many fronts and in order to implement change, the production crew that works for Zuffa needs some time to breathe in order to come up with a new game plan. When you run as many shows as UFC is running, nobody really has any time to recalibrate their operations — it’s just one show after another while struggling to catch your breathe. The oversaturation of product, both on PPV and on cable television, is playing a role in all of this. Not a dramatic one (yet), but certainly it is playing a role.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 25 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

25 Responses to “MMA Notebook – the ghosts of Elite XC & PRIDE continue to resurface”

  1. Light23 says:

    I agree about the staleness of the production. Every show is the exact same. Same cheesy intro that lost it’s effect years ago, some lame superficial opening comments by Goldy and Rogan and then some Goldy voiced promo videos for the fights.

    It’s still the best production of any promotion out there though, and I’m sure it’s a lot better for newer fans who haven’t been watching for years.

    UFC definitely needs to stop running as many shows. When I got into the sport in 2006 they had a numbered event every 4-6 weeks. Now it’s often every 3 weeks, and I think there’s a couple in October that are one week after the other.

    The shows just aren’t as special anymore. It used to be a big event that happened once every month and half or so. Nowadays you finish one event, and you’re counting down the days till the next one hits.

  2. Battleman says:

    I agree with the too many shows / staleness factor around UFC. I haven’t bought a UFC PPV in a few months – since Carwin / Lesnar – but I bought Shark Fights 13. Horrible production value – felt like I was watching a World Class Championship Wrestling event from the Sportatorium in Dallas – but I wanted to see something different. Decent fights – I think the production crew advertising themselves on the mat likely didn’t do themselves any favors…

    I’d say I am a fairly hardcore MMA fan and when I come home to a DVR with a UFN on it and go “oh yeah, forgot about that” I *think* that is saying something.

    On that same night I also recorded the Ultimate Gracie show. After getting over the fact that it felt like an Infomercial for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at first, I thought it was pretty cool with all of the early UFC stuff. Problem I had with it was why? What was it setting up? I’m all for history, I love the Pride history shows, but in the context of this article and the issues with ratings, over-exposure, etc. I kept thinking “why are they doing this?” Its rhetorical, but if anyone has any thoughts I’d love to hear it.

    - Battleman!

  3. Pierre-Luc Allie says:

    Bring the WEC over to the UFC so you hve better content for the Spike’s show. Then use the versus tv contract to create a second tier league. They could brand it like the Nationwide tour. No belts. Anyone who win 3 consecutive fights move on to the UFC.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    Let’s see what the ratings are for the 2 UFC # shows on SpikeTV before any real discussion is made on this one. One bad Fight Night hardly indicates a trend. They have had a bunch of 500,000 PPV Buy shows in a row. It is obviously still popular, just one bad show.

    • Mark says:

      Zach isn’t arguing UFC isn’t popular enough to draw on PPV anymore. He’s arguing they’re having problems making new stars on television now. And how that’s probably making people ignore their free TV shows and just watch the long-time stars on PPV whereas people used to do both.

      TUF is all about coaches now. It used to be the casuals could instantly name TUF winners off the top of their heads. Since like season 7 or 8 they can’t but can tell you all about the coach fight. (And Roy Nelson and Kimbo don’t count because they were known before.)

  5. mr. roadblock says:

    What kind of cops do they have in Aspen that three of them can’t subdue a guy who is 5′9″ 125? Geez.

    UFC has plateaued. They need to be careful to make sure they don’t start regressing.

    I’ve lost a lot of interest in the sport. I’ve been there since day one. My feeling on MMA is been there, done that. I’ll tune in if there’s a fight I really want to see. Aside from Lesnar/Velasquez nothing on the horizon excites me. I’ll DVR Diaz/Noons II and maybe I’ll care more about Jackson/Machida. I have zero desire to see BJ and Hughes again.

  6. Chromium says:

    I don’t think it should be remotely surprising that a UFN where by far the biggest name was a guy who I wouldn’t even rank in the top 25 UFC draws. None of the matches were hugely relevant. Marquardt is a Top 5 MW but he’s coming off a loss and is still a couple fights away from another title shot. The other three main-card fights were LW fights with guys who are mainly still prospects.

    I don’t want to complain about free MMA, but their planning here certainly isn’t above criticism. They’re using this as a lead-in to their staple show’s season premier? I know they’re trying to build their presence on Versus with relatively stacked cards, but, timing notwithstanding would it have killed them to switch out their semi-main event on Versus with the main-event for the UFN? I think Dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson would have drawn more viewers and also helped build up the winner of that fight more for his eventual HW title challenge. It also would have fit the TUF theme, showing a recent TUF winner in a #1 Contender’s Match.

  7. bluerosekiller says:

    Yeah, I’ve got to agree. The UFC product is just scattered all over the place now with little cohesiveness to the shows between UFC FIGHT NIGHT, TUF, ON VERSUS & too many PPVs. Now we’re getting two numbered shows for free on Spike as well…

    Not that getting a couple of no cost shows is something to complain about, it’s just difficult to keep track of for a diehard. Much less the more casual fan.

    I’ve long believed that what the UFC needs is a regularly scheduled weekly show to develope talent or rehabilitate fighters that have had a bad stretch of luck. You know, a sort of FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS for MMA.
    Then they should cut back to just a single PPV per month.

  8. David M says:

    Does anyone know what kind of ratings ESPN Friday night and Tuesday night fights draw?

    I don’t disagree that there are a lot of UFC shows, probably too many, and they all feel alike. However, I’m sure what the UFC has figured out is that having a show in a city draws a lot of attention to the UFC in that city, and that attention transfers not only to buying tickets for the show in that city, but also in terms of buying future PPVs.

    For the life of me I don’t understand why the UFC doesn’t just incorporate the WEC weight divisions into their umbrella; it seems like such an absurdly obvious way to greatly increase the number of high-quality and meaningful fights on UFC shows. Usually the fights between smaller guys are more exciting anyways.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I think a lot of the weight class issues has to do with juggling 2 TV contracts.

      I’m not sure what the ESPN Boxing ratings are, but I do know that ESPN doesn’t pay much for the shows. There was an article a while back on how they were cutting a lot of the expenses for the show.

      Plus, boxing typically skews older, so less advertising dollars compared to a MMA event.

      And really, that is why the UFC can still be valuable on TV. Even if they only draw 1 to 1.5 million…. The majority of it is from those young eyeballs which advertisers love. And there will always be liquor companies, and movies companies, and clothing companies looking to get on that programming will never end.

      Not to mention that if you buy space in the octagon, you still get the DVR eyeballs…. Which really makes skews everything compared to a regular show were the majority of people just fast forward through the commercials.

      This all doesn’t mean that should be looking for these sort of ratings of the last Fight Night….. But there are many factors to consider….

    • Your average ESPN Friday Night Fights card pulls a .5, and they pay $30K per show. That’s less than what Zuffa gets for a WEC card for higher ratings. Honestly though, Zuffa could afford to do shows like that and make money if a network was willing.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    Ok, here is my take on the state of the UFC….

    They are in a weird middle ground. They either need to do fewer events or more events. But what they are doing right now just isn’t working. I know my suggestion sounds weird, but let me explain.

    DO FEWER OPTION – Stick to 12 PPV’s a year. Have like 6 to 8 free shows…. And that’s it. Be only for the biggest and the best fighters and do nothing more.

    or

    DO MORE OPTION – Go to a weekly event schedule in addition to the monthly PPV’s. Get the viewers use to tuning in on a weekly basis for the show. Get a guaranteed audience who says: “Hey, it’s Tuesday…. Time to watch the UFC.”

    The way they are doing it right now is far too confusing. They are running too many events with no real way of keeping track unless you are a real hardcore fan. Sometimes a Fight Night is on a Wednesday. Sometimes the free SpikeTV # shows are on a Saturday. And other times the WEC is on a Sunday. WAY TO CONFUSING!! Even though the weekly option is more events…. It really just turns the UFC into a weekly show that you don’t even have to think about to watch every week. Much easier for the casual fan to stay in touch with the sport. They can get fights and all their news in a 2 hour weekly show.

    So it’s not a matter of the number of shows…. It’s how they organize them.

    Oh, and TUF needs to end. It’s been played out.

    • Light23 says:

      I like TUF, just as long as they actually use it to scout promising up and comers. I’m all for it if it has quality fighters, quality coaches and is presented in a positive way.

    • David M says:

      They don’t have the talent to do weekly unless they add in the WEC divisions. Actually, they don’t have the talent to go weekly, period (NOTE: I don’t mean the number of fighters, I mean talent in terms of ability to draw fans to pay to watch/watch on tv, unless they are content with small arenas and low ratings, and are willing to get another broadcast team, because I don’t think Rogan and Goldberg are going to be able to do a show every week plus the PPVs). I would like to see a weekly news-magazine style show where they examine different fighters’ training camps and histories and have the fighters talk about their upcoming fights, but to put asses in seats EVERY WEEK is beyond the realm of possibility I think with their current talent pool.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Not every week has to be live from America. Of the 52 shows….

        1) 6 shows a year are UFC PPV Replays.

        2) 6 shows a year are the best of the prelims from these weekly shows. Alternate every other month on #1 and #2.

        3) 12 shows a year from abroad. Use local drawing talent and build up in each area to do so.

        Already filled 24 of 52 shows without touching North America…..

        4) 8 shows in a year in Canada.

        5) That leaves 20 shows weekly shows a year to do in America. It can be done between Vegas and once NYC is available.

        Make the #1 contender fights a bigger deal. Assume 2 title fights and 2 #1 contender fights per division per year. That gives them 32 “big fights” they can promote on either their PPV’s or their weekly shows.

        It can easily be done if it is done right. They have built out properly enough that they will likely only hit some small bumps in the road.

    • Mark says:

      Running more UFC shows IMO would be suicide period no matter what way they run it.

      They already have a weekly fight show. So axing TUF to put on “TUF minus the star coaches” would be a horrible move. You wouldn’t have any notable names on the show, plus you’d lose your ass doing live broadcasts (which cost an arm and a leg and Spike wants at least a 1.0 rating to justify, ask TNA) so would have to have pre-taped fights, and pre-taped fights outside of TUF (because they’re fought in front of no audience) are never good. Imagine doing a Fight Night that airs 3 weeks later with zero stars and leaked results: who would watch that?

      And if you’re going to blame the bad ratings on “nobody knew the show was on”, then that’s saying UFC’s monster advertising juggernaut is dead. And it’s not. They run ads on Spike non-stop and that used to be enough for everybody to tune in.

      The truth is fans are packing discerning eyes now that they didn’t in the 2005-07 “stick on anything and it will be a blockbuster” days. They’re smart enough to know “nobody cares about this guy so why should I watch?” Whereas before they had the belief that every UFC show ever was going to be must see television.

      So now it’s time to give them quality over quantity. Especially since it’s clear even if Strikeforce and Bellator fill in the programming gaps, nobody is going to give half a crap anyway.

  10. cutch says:

    The problem there is that they plan on holding more shows abroad, I think they could do 10 shows overseas (two of which are PPV) and then 10 numbered shows in North America.

    That’s not including TUF Finales, on Versus or UFN’s but assuming they bring in the !45, 135 and in time the 125 divisions.

  11. Scott R says:

    I don’t think TUF Is played out as much as the guys coming out of it recently aren’t having success in the UFC. TUF use to create stars for the Spike specials and draw decent ratings, but lately that hasn’t been the case due to a lack of talent on the TUF seasons.

    Look at the Penn/Pulver season. You had Cole Miller, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon, Nate Diaz, Rob Emerson, Matt Wiman, and Manny Gamburyan all come out of that season to varying degrees of success in the UFC. Now UFC is lucky if the winner and runner-up have a decent shelf life.

    I know it is harder to find the unknown diamond in the rough type with the popularity of MMA now, but it’s tough to get invested in a bunch of fighters when the odds are that only one or two will have any success in the UFC.

  12. David M says:

    I plan on watching TUF this season; I liked the first episode and I like the dynamic between Kos and GSP. Rashad v Rampage season was great too. I think TUF is critical to their success; I am hoping for a Chael versus Anderson season of all Brazilian fighters versus all American fighters.

  13. Zack says:

    MMA has jumped the shark.

  14. As long as people keep buying PPVs they won’t need to change their TV strategy, even if I think it sucks. I dunno, I’m not that upset right now with the UFC’s matchmaking. I think in general they’ve had some dogs of fights like Couture/Toney and crap like that, but the other fights they’ve been setting up and the rematches they’ve shown willing to do immediately are good. Still, at some point they’ll need to give away actual quality fights, not just numbered UFCs that have shitty lineups.

  15. EJ says:

    You know if I didn’t know better i’d swear that things were actually bad for the UFC right now. But thankfully I do, come on now Zach you’re starting to sound like Nate and the rest of the guys at BE with this sky is falling stuff.

    The ratings were lower on the last fight night because of several reasons, 1 was lack of promotion for the show the other that there was no real draw to get casuals interested.

    You’re also reaching to tin in things that don’t go together like trying to compare ratings for the Versus show vs. Spike when they aren’t comparible. Not to mention that the WEC ratings are actually pretty steady and haven’t suffered any dramatic drop off even without draws like the Varner card did.

    Seriously the UFC is having their biggest year ever and now we’re talking about oversaturation the facts don’t back this up at all.

    • Oh Yeah says:

      If hardcores are having viewer fatigue, you don’t think that means anything? It is foolish to ignore the underlying trend just because raw viewership numbers are increasing.

      Not the perfect example, but think about same store sales (existing fan PPV buys) vs. total sales (including new fans/stores). It most definitely is concerning if sales are dropping in each store year over year, even if total sales are increasing.

      • EJ says:

        It would be a problem if facts backed that up but they don’t, the amazing thing to me is how fortunate and successfull the UFC is. Yet all I get is these doom and gloom articles, not every show will have great ratings not every ppv will be huge that’s life. But the UFC continues to grow and expand and succeed in a horrible reccession again there are tons of companies that would love to have that kind of fatigue.

        • Oh Yeah says:

          UFC 108 and its sub-300k buys says that you’re wrong.

          What we have seen is that the supposed “PPV floor” which was thought to be 350-400k a year ago is not actually that high.

          The UFC’s market awareness is growing, so the UFC has been growing their PPV buys. But fans have started to become more discontent with the quality of PPVs as their standards rise. Eventually it will lead to fans cutting down to only the big cards.

          Hell, you should read some of the posts on this website. Every event Mark is able to come up with reasons why each main card fight is not worth watching.

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