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Media/insider fallout from UFC’s debut on Fox

By Zach Arnold | November 13, 2011

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Kevin Haggarty (MMA Mania): Why UFC was a big winner on Saturday night

As an organization, this was a HUGE night. The coverage was sensational. If you have Fuel TV, you were privileged to enjoy insightful and entertaining pre- and post-fight shows, which were unlike anything we’ve really ever seen before as fans. Anybody who is anybody in Hollywood was in attendance. Many new fans tuned in to see just what the UFC is all about and they were treated to a thrilling heavyweight knockout. By most methods of measurement, this was a massive success for an organization that has come a long way since its inaugural foray just a short 18 years ago.

Bruce Dowbiggin (The Globe and Mail): Saturday night showed that UFC proves it’s here to stay

Saturday night was the end-game made real for White as Fox, never a network to let questionable taste get in the way of a good time, brought mixed martial arts out of the fringes and into the network spotlight. Still, Fox Sports president Eric Shanks was taking no chances on making the sport too cool for the room when he told USA Today that “We have to make sure it’s being produced for Martians.”

Richard Sandomir (NY Times): Fox’s UFC broadcast a hit with viewers (5.7 million), especially in 18-34 demographic

Tom Jones (St. Petersburg Times): UFC’s Fox debut was decent on Saturday night

Fox had a decent night Saturday with its first prime-time broadcast of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It seemed like a risk to have only one fight, and as it turned out, the heavyweight title bout lasted less than one round. But at least the fight ended in a knockout, which is better than watching two guys exchange boring holds for a half-hour.

In the end, however, I still think UFC is going to have a difficult time going mainstream, simply because too many folks think it’s just too violent.

Michael Nunez (IBT): UFC was never meant for network television

The flaws of the extreme nature of the sport are only compounded by the quick turnover of UFC champions. The most prominent fighters in the sport haven’t been able to defend their championships more than just a few times. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule, such as Anderson Silva or George St. Pierre, but for the most part, flash knockdowns and the unpredictable nature of mixed-martial arts make it hard for any fan to keep up. Look at Velasquez, who had won his UFC Heavyweight Championship just one fight before losing it to Dos Santos in 64 seconds.

Gary Poole (Esquire): At the Tropicana in Las Vegas, nobody paid attention to UFC on Fox

It should be said that when Dana White convinced Fox to pay him $100 million a year to put his badass jujitsu on national television for the next seven years, boxing people noticed. It should also be said that Manny Pacquiao did not knock anyone out in the first round on Saturday, nor did he look like the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, or even the 10-to-1 favorite. No one dropped to the canvas, and the 38-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez was the one landing the heavy punches. But they were beautiful punches, and even the jabs looked years in the making. This was not Jon Jones, the UFC light-heavyweight who played his badass jujitsu for four months and then signed up for Dana White’s badass jujitsu parade and then became its youngest champion. This was not fucking Rampage Jackson.

Josh Gross (ESPN): After 18 years, MMA reaches adulthood

The notion that a 64-second knockout is somehow bad reeks of a mentality that for so long permeated thinking among this sport’s inner circles. It’s the kind of thought process that prompted workers to step in the Octagon and spray paint over bloodstains prior to the start of the network broadcast on Saturday. It’s this idea that while nothing will satisfy the detractors, every effort must be made to try. That the innumerable reasons so many people love the sport aren’t good enough for those who don’t yet.

So, wait a second — when PRIDE was drawing 20 million viewers on Fuji TV and getting paid a lot a money last decade, that didn’t qualify MMA reaching ‘adulthood’ status because it happened in Japan instead of America? Don’t get me wrong — I’m not someone who thinks that UFC ‘failed’ with the Fox showing on Saturday night. However, it really is incredible to see how major financial MMA benchmarks were accomplished long ago in Japan and it’s not even viewed on the same level as what we’re slowing starting to see develop now outside Asia.

TV By the Numbers: Biggest markets for UFC on Fox debut were Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix

Fascinating takeaway is that the biggest markets in support were not New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Tampa/Orlando, or Chicago. A heavy amount of UFC’s support remains on the West Coast and Midwest. It’s still “a West Coast sport” in the eyes of people in the Eastern part of the States.

Take note in that TBTN release about the impact of college football on TV ratings in America. I’ve been stating this year that college football is proving to be a formidable challenge for anyone trying to push a PPV or a show on TV against that sport, especially if it involves SEC football.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 34 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

34 Responses to “Media/insider fallout from UFC’s debut on Fox”

  1. nottheface says:

    We know Dana White was somewhat disappointed by the show from his reaction. Be it because he was frustrated that Fox nixed showing a second fight so Bendo/Guida was stuck on Facebook, that his Trojan horse into the Mexican market – Cain Velasquez – went down, or that the fight was so quick it would hurt ratings, whatever the reason his frustration spilled over into an embarrassing post fight performance.

    Numbers-wise, it did OK: it beat Kimbo (although he drew over 7 million at on point so we’ll have to wait for the minute-by-minute ratings) but it didn’t do the huge numbers expected (does anyone remember mmalogic guaranteeing 10-15 million viewers for the first UFC broadcast?) Of course, I also don’t understand the doom and gloom from some people. This wasn’t Strikeforce or Elite XC fighting to stay on the air, the UFC is guaranteed several more tries next year. And one thing they now know for certain, they need to book more fights. How long have we’ve heard the mantra that mma shows aren’t one fight but a whole card? How could Fox ignore this?

    • Megatherium says:

      According to Fox Sports head honcho David Hill it was Dana Whites’ decision to go with the single fight broadcast format and that “maybe,tactically,Dana didn’t play it the right way”.

      This might explain Whites’ irrational lashing out at his fighters in the post-fight Fox broadcast booth rant.

    • Derek says:

      anyone who thought this would do 10-15 million viewers has lost their mind. No one expected this to do 10-15 million viewers unless they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. To think that anyone expected the Ufc to come in and pull MNF, NBA finals or MLb world series ratings on their first card is silly. If networks expected those types of ratings from the ufc they would be spending a heck of a lot more money than 90 million dollars per year.

      If you expect those types of numbers than you will always think that Ufc/mma is failure because It will never achieve those type of numbers n the states. Achieving 6-8 million viewers per card is nothing to sneeze at. That’s a better average than nearly every Stanley Cup does.

      Btw Arnold should know that having success in another country means nothing to the North American audience and comparing the amount of viewers in Japan(when they are so much more focused on network tv than America is)to America is silly. It should of been obvious to him,and everyone, that people meant mma is only entering it’s adulthood in the US. Really it just felt like a pride nuthugger felt the need to tout it’s success and therefore found a way to mention it even though it had nothing to do with really anything.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        Btw Arnold should know that having success in another country means nothing to the North American audience and comparing the amount of viewers in Japan(when they are so much more focused on network tv than America is)to America is silly. It should of been obvious to him,and everyone, that people meant mma is only entering it’s adulthood in the US. Really it just felt like a pride nuthugger felt the need to tout it’s success and therefore found a way to mention it even though it had nothing to do with really anything.

        a) PRIDE was on a major network TV platform in Fuji TV, which is Japan’s largest (outside of Nippon TV). They had success and they had a ton of money flowing before they imploded.

        b) You calling me a PRIDE ‘nuthugger’ given my history as a writer is quite the delicious irony.

        I’m always on someone’s payroll one week to the next, aren’t I? One week it’s DSE, the next Zuffa. It just never stops according to the Internet, does it?

    • Kevin Tomman says:

      So it was Fox’s idea to only have one fight? Morons, i m sure they got much better ratings showing “Cops” ! Dana has every right to be pissed off. I knew that fight wouldnt get out of the first round so i was baffled when it was the only fight? Fox dont blow it again , fans want to see the WHOLE card!!!!!!!!

  2. CAINtheBULL says:

    Gary Poole (Esquire) is not exactly the right guy to gauge when it comes to MMA. He’s very pro boxing and not a fan of MMA at all. Just look at Luke Thomas’ tweets to him.

    Ed. — Yeah, I know… but he’s got the Esquire platform and people read him.

  3. mr. roadblock says:

    A couple of thoughts from a broadcast perspective.

    The FOX production was a huge step up in class from Zuffa PPVs and Spike TV product. I loved the graphics, the set and the lighting. Prefight pieces were much better done.

    Dana is a great analyst prefight. He shouldn’t be on there postfight. He’s too emotional about the product. It’s why I’d never be a good post game analyst talking about the NY Giants.

    Brock Lesnar was great on TV. He could end up being the John Madden of MMA one day.

    On another broadcast note, boy oh boy, did the HBO crew must have gotten a stern talking to prefight. Because they swallowed their pride and all got in lock-step with their lies about how good Manny looked in that fight. You could tell that Lampley and Emmanuel Stewart were dying inside as they were trying to come up with reasons why Manny should have gotten the win during the postfight wrap up. LOL.

    • Mark says:

      Brock really was great. He came off like a total star, like he was happy to be there without an ounce of a “surly about doing PR” attitude that he’s stereotyped to have. He must be on antidepressants now or something. :)

  4. Emmanuel S. says:

    I wouldn’t call having millions of people tune in to watch a professional wrestler get armbar’d or Bob Sapp do anything of any sort as “adulthood.” Teenhood, perhaps. Hair Metal era might be another word for it. The tie-dye phase.

  5. Kelvin Hunt says:

    I thought the ratings were good all things considered…the bigger question is…what in the world would Zuffa had done if they had to cancel the fight because both guys were injured? They ONLY promoted this one fight for 2 months…also…either JDS was amped up beyond believe after winning or he had ALOT of cortisone shots…with the way he went down on BOTH knees and then leaned all the way back with his back on the canvas during his post fight celebration after supposedly tearing his meniscus 11 days earlier.

  6. mark says:

    Kevin Haggarty must be trying to be the new Kevin Iole. That was embarrassing writing, like “Stephanie McMahon press release about Raw Guest Hosts” bad. “Anybody who was anybody in Hollywood was there”? Really? So why did FOX only show Mandy Moore, GSP and Michael Strahan?

  7. Mark says:

    That Kid Nate article on Bloody Elbow on the HW division is a summary of the backlash brewing against it after the FOX show.

    I remember in 2010 it was the best thing UFC had going and these guys were going to bury the legacy of the PRIDE heavyweights by being so mega super awesome.

    Then fast forward to November 2011: Velasquez looks like a flash in the pan, nobody believes in Dos Santos holding the title long term, nobody cares about Carwin, Struve is hit & miss. And it looks like if Brock gets past Overeem (who people in 2010 said was a joke being highly ranked and is now ranked #4 by the UFC hilariously) he’s going to get the title again and probably beat Velasquez in a rematch, ending the great heavyweight hopes era. Then we go back to the days of “Nobody watches UFC for Heavyweights because the division is so shallow” talking points.

    Good lord, we could even get a Lesnar/Mir 3 title fight in 2012 if this continues.

    • Kelvin Hunt says:

      I haven’t read that article..but I wouldn’t say the division is ’shallow’ per se…I’d say that athletes now are much different than in PRIDE’s heyday…which means the percentages of a fighter going on a run like Fedor are pretty small nowadays.

      But back to the shallow arguement…the HW will always be shallow to a degree until MMA’s paydays get large enough to attract more true heavyweights that want to fight.

    • edub says:

      Don’t confuse you not thinking Dos Santos can hold the title long term with “nobody believes”.

      This crop of HWs is better than Pride’s. The top guys just fight each other more often instead of having one off fights against Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Pawel Nastula, etc..

      • Mark says:

        Have you read message boards lately? The “Brock will get the belt back immediately” talk far outweighs the Junior fans.

        I’d love him to knock everybody out. He’s exciting, he’s a nice guy, I have nothing against him. But Lesnar is going to take him down in 3 seconds and keep him there and there isn’t a thing he can do about it.

        • edub says:

          I do read plenty of message boards, and the overwhelming talk I have seen is for an eventual match up between Overeem and JDS (Brock not even making it to the JDS match up).

          I’m not saying little two saints can or can’t keep the belt for a while. What I’m saying is there is plenty of chatter on line who think he can at least make a few defenses.

          To think Brock coming off of another long layoff, and more surgery is a lock to steamroll both JDS and Overeem is definitely not something I agree with though.

    • david m says:

      Who is going to beat J2S? He has already showed he can outpunch with ease the hardest hitter in the division (Carwin), destroy the 2nd best fighter (Cain), and really, who else is there who is going to give him a fight? Barnett? Laughable. Brock? I guess he is intriguing because he is so goddamned big and so violent/good at wrestling, but he has no stomach for striking and J2S would tag that ass. Overeem folds like a tent as soon as someone hits him, and is nowhere near as good a striker as J2, and who else is there? Mir? Laughable. The only guy I think would have a decent shot against J2S is Jon Jones.

      • Alan Conceicao says:

        I dunno, its not like JDS hasn’t lost before. I love the argument Overeem isn’t near as good a striker as Junior in spite of winning the K-1 Grand Prix. How about waiting to see the guy make a title defense before we go about calling him unbeatable? Shouldn’t everyone have learned by now about how untouchable these guys often are from the way Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, Lyoto Machida, Shogun Rua, Miguel Torres, etc etc’s title reigns went?

        • david m says:

          Look man, I am a huge kickboxing fan. My training background is Thai boxing. I used to watch K1 all the time in the 90s on video and into the early 2000s. K1 is abysmal now. There is no talent pool. Overeem has a shit chin. From Badr Hari to Shogun to Liddell to lil Nog to Kharitonov, he has shown a consistent ability to crumple as soon as he can’t bully his opponent. The idea that he is a better striker than Junior holds no weight with me. Overeem got outstruck by Werdum for fuck’s sake. Junior would blast him into bolivian.

          What does the fact that Junior lost via armbar 4 years ago have to do with him now? I don’t think J2S is unbeatable, I was just stating that none of the current top-tier contenders strike me as having the combination of skills necessary to beat him. That can always change.

        • Kelvin Hunt says:

          Solid point Alan…after all…Miguel Torres is on the prelims on the upcoming UFC 139 card…the game changes FAST.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          What I would say to you is this: Until we see JDS go through and really take it to the division by consistently dismantling top contender after top contender, I’m not about to make the argument that he is an unstoppable force of nature. Either man who wins the Lesnar/Overeem fight is a hugely dangerous opponent for him and one I can certainly see theoretically beating Junior Dos Santos handily based on the skills the possess (as well as their ability to utilize them against ranked, relevant competition). I can even see them going on to lose their first title defense also.

          To me, the heavyweight class has a degree of parity among the guys in it as far as their varying skills and talents intersect stylistically amongst fighting each other at the very top. Once you leave the top 5-6 guys at heavyweight, I think the talent level decreases appreciably. That number might even be smaller when you consider that Carwin is essentially damaged goods and (IMO) probably should stop fighting given his neurological issues.

      • Mark says:

        Actually the only guy people say will guaranteed beat Junior is Brock. He’s a gorilla wrestler who will have his way with Junior unless he gets a KO within seconds. And that is not happening.

        If Cain isn’t metally ruined he could beat Lesnar again, since he’s a bad style match up. But Lesnar is the worst kind of fighter JDS could possibly face. Anybody who says different is thinking biased.

        • edub says:

          He is a terrible match up stylistically for JDS, when he is the healthy beast that demolished Frank Mir almost three years ago.

          There’s not much evidence lately of that guy still being around though.

  8. [...] Arnold did a really nice roundup of the fallout over at Fight Opinion. Lots of clashing opinions. Like most of you, I watched the facebook fights [...]

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    The UFC just got 5.7 Million viewers for a program, and all I see on many websites are complaints.

    There is critical analysis, and then there is what the MMA internet fanbase brings. Which is a constant negativity surrounding anything in the sport.

    MMA will always be a niche sport. But it will be a very strong niche sport. There is no reason to need to justify the strength of shows anymore….

    • Mark says:

      What happened to UFC is going to be bigger than soccer and NFL?

      What happened to people saying UFC would get twice Elite XC’s ratings with a title fight?

      Don’t make me pull up old quotes, people. :)

      • Kelvin Hunt says:

        Ha…I don’t know about about soccer…but I do believe that MMA can surpass the NFL on a worldwide scale…

        NFL outside of America is relatively small.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I don’t think anybody on this website has ever said that the UFC will become bigger then soccer.

        The UFC might already be bigger then the NFL worldwide. That’s not saying much…. The NFL is a tiny piece of the entire worlds sports appetite.

        • IceMuncher says:

          Only if the US isn’t considered part of “worldwide”. The US population is 360 million, the EU combined is ~ 500 million. The UFC would have to become “football popular” in most of Europe to get close to the NFL’s numbers.

  10. Light23 says:

    The fight itself drew 8.8 million, which is very respectable.

  11. [...] fallout from UFC’s debut on Fox | Fight Opinion Fascinating takeaway is that the biggest markets in support were not New York, Boston, [...]

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