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« | Home | »

Memo to ESPN: Mixed martial arts still exists

By Adam Morgan | June 12, 2007

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By Adam Morgan

This blogger seems to be your average UFC fan. He brings up a great question, one I didn’t really even think of. Where is ESPN at with their “mixed martial arts” (read UFC) coverage? The coverage for Ultimate Fight Night tonight is nonexistent. Since UFC 71 and a couple of days following, ESPN’s coverage has steeply fallen off to where it was even before the Mayweather v. De La Hoya fight.

Read on…

As this observant blogger points out, Game 3 of the NBA Finals are tonight. On ABC. ESPN and ABC are in cahoots and NBA ratings are in a complete slump. Game 1 was the worst rated finals opener in prime-time history. Of course they’re not going to advertise UFC Fight Night tonight, they’ve got bigger and better things to worry about. Or do they?

ESPN is doing themselves a disservice by not covering tonight’s fights. The NBA has lost its luster, especially when it’s the Spurs or Detroit in the Finals year in and year out. MMA has parity, excitement, and most important of all, potential. Potential to get more viewers.

I’m not asking that ESPN give all their coverage to UFC Fight Night and none to the NBA. I’m suggesting they give UFC a little love even when they don’t have a “super fight” on the card. They cover every single baseball game of the season. That’s something like 5,000-plus games. They can’t cover an event that draws a prized demographic two or three times a month?

I’m afraid that this is why UFC and mixed martial arts are not yet mainstream. Hype for one event doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Hype for every event, no matter how big or small, is when you’ve made your appearance at the big time.

I expect UFC Fight Night 10 to do better ratings than the NBA Finals tonight.

Will ESPN be kicking themselves on Wednesday?

Topics: Adam Morgan, Media, MMA, UFC | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

20 Responses to “Memo to ESPN: Mixed martial arts still exists”

  1. Euthyphro says:

    The Sports Guy brought up “ultimate fighting” in today’s chat:

    kip (junction city, kansas): You think ultimate fighting will ever be accepted as major sport? I think it’s way better than any other sport right now.

    SportsNation Bill Simmons: We won’t know the answer to this question until something terrible happens during one of these fights. They’ve been incredibly lucky so far.

    Two things I know are true:
    1. The meteoric rise of MMA will eventually slow. This rate of public interest acceleration cannot and will not continue
    2. A death will eventually occur in the cage/ring

    How the UFC and other organizations respond to these occurrences will absolutely determine the future of the sport.

  2. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    I’m a big soccer fan, when Marc Vivien Foé died on the field, it shocked that community. He’s not the only one who has died out there. I’d say that it is most likely inevitable that someone will die in MMA, but that has nothing to do with the fact that there’s a fight going on, it’s the nature of sports in general. You have people pushing their bodies to the limits and beyond, and any weakness will eventually be exposed and place that person in danger.

    ESPN on the other hand, does this all the time. Be happy when the spotlight shines on you, because if you aren’t the NBA, college football, or baseball, you’re not getting coverage on sportscenter on a regular basis.

  3. Matthew Watt says:

    I wish I could respond further, but I have a final exam looming in a short few days, but this is my opinion.

    If/when a death occurs in a mma ring, it will not derail the sport.

    Secondly, can someone tell me the story behind the death of the american dying in a russian mma event? was it even a mma event? what is the story behind this rumor or truth?

  4. Mr. Roadblock says:

    Adam, you solved the mystery by realizing tonight is Game 3 of the NBA Finals. ESPN has done this in the past downplaying the baseball playoffs for Sunday Night football, etc. It will be interesting to see what kind of MMA coverage they do. Will it be similar to their boxing? ESPN’s boxing coverage seems to wax and wane.

  5. Tomer Chen says:

    Secondly, can someone tell me the story behind the death of the american dying in a russian mma event? was it even a mma event? what is the story behind this rumor or truth?

    The person’s name was Douglas Dedge and there’s actually a half decent Wikipedia entry that explains the story of his death. Pretty much, he was banned from fighting in the U.S. due to a condition that saw him having black outs so he went to a country where there was no real regulation in terms of fighter health (Ukraine) and fought there and got killed due to a combination of both the punishment (which doesn’t appear as much in the footage that exists on Youtube) and the condition (which likely multiplied the damage numerous times). Anyway…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Dedge

  6. D. Capitated says:

    ESPN isn’t covering Fight Night because its not that important in the grand scheme of things compared to UFC 72, much less UFC 71, thus not deserving of the same amount of coverage. Its getting about as much as a Contender special, which would typically get a better rating than the last few Fight Nights. And its nowhere near as important to the typical sports fan as Lebron James. C’mon now, is it that tough to understand?

  7. Adam Morgan says:

    D. Capitated,

    While I see your point, part of the reason it’s not as important as LeBron is because it’s not getting that kind of exposure. Honestly, the card is better than UFC 72. We’ll see how much play ESPN gives UFC 72 aside from the weigh-ins being aired live.

  8. chairibofjustice says:

    I could go without having ESPN cover MMA for a little while.

  9. Michaelthebox says:

    Better than UFC 72? 72 is awfully weak, and its still a mile ahead of this fight night.

  10. Mr. Roadblock says:

    Tonight’s card could have some interesting fights. Stout/Fischer is a perfect TV main event. UFC 72 is the type of card you used to see on Tuesday Night Fights on USA Network. Good fights between up and comers. Not what you would term huge or momentous fights and that’s why they weren’t on HBO, Showtime or PPV. It’s too bad UFC 72 isn’t being used on free TV to bring fans in. Nobody would be complaining about the card if it didn’t cost $35 or whatever it is.

  11. D. Capitated says:

    While I see your point, part of the reason it’s not as important as LeBron is because it’s not getting that kind of exposure. Honestly, the card is better than UFC 72. We’ll see how much play ESPN gives UFC 72 aside from the weigh-ins being aired live.

    Whether or not the fights are more competitive or even significantly better, Griffin and Franklin are “names” and Sam Stout is nobody. Were people really expecting that this was gonna get hyped all over Sportscenter for like an entire week leading up to it? In the grand scheme of things, its no more an important show than WEC’s live show (also no coverage) or numerous TKO and ICON shows (no coverage either).

    Hell, if the San Francisco Giants are playing tonight and there was no NBA Finals, that might lead before the UFC tommorrow morning. Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be on before anything about the UFC pretty much ever tommorrow morning, short of Dana White and Chuck Liddell dying in a plane crash. Hell, aside from scores, let’s look at the top stories on ESPN.com and SI.com.

    ESPN:
    -NBA Finals
    -Dale Earnhardt Jr to Hendrick
    -Pacman drops appeal, to serve one-year NFL ban
    -Ailing Mickelson will tee it up at U.S. Open
    -Smith out of hospital; ‘devastated’ by friend’s death

    SI.com
    – NBA Finals
    – Angry Daly says: ‘I am the victim’
    – Pacman drops appeal | Vegas cops pursue case
    – Dale Jr. moving to Hendrick in swap

    Again, which of those stories do you see this particular UFN taking precidence over? I can’t wait to see how people react to the general lack of media attention UFC 72 will get as well.

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    Just like boxing, they will only cover the big events. If they were more serious, they wouldn’t have outsourced their coverage to Sherdog.com

  13. Ivan Trembow says:

    I agree that it doesn’t make any sense, and it also made no sense for Sports Illustrated to have the UFC on their cover prior to UFC 71, and then not even acknowledge the results of UFC 71 in Sports Illustrated in any way… not even in a tiny news brief like they would have for a boxing match.

  14. Zach Arnold says:

    It makes sense if you’ve followed ESPN for a long time.

    This is the same media conglomeration that took Game 1 of the Cleveland/San Antonio NBA Finals and simulcast the opening minutes on all three networks (ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2) pre-empting soccer programming on ESPN2. The NBA Finals ratings are down 25% from last year and the least marketable team in the history of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs, need all the media push they can get just to keep heads above water.

    Plus, can you really say that anyone outside of diehard MMA fans cared about tonight’s UFC event? Honestly?

  15. Jeff Gass says:

    Guys, I have been a big boxing fan for over 20 years and I have seen this time and again with ESPN and other “mainstream” sports news. They ONLY will cover boxing when it is a huge mega fight. That is it. They have a weekly show called Friday Night Fights on ESPN2 and they do not even cover the results of that show on Sports Center or any other of their shows. Do not expect them to be any different with MMA. They just use the big fight to build hype for that event only, giving them a chance to act like they know what they are covering. Trust me, the people in charge at ESPN (and sports illustrated) are all part of the same stick and ball fraternity media fraternity that dominates the air waves and it will never change. This is the same thing they do with Soccer. They don’t understand it, don’t like it, so they won’t cover it unless they have to (The World Cup). MMA is harder for them to dismiss because they can’t dismiss it as a “sissy” sport like soccer (not my view!!) but they will find a way. It is best for us to save our clicks on the net and our time for listening to sites like FCF, FO and Sherdog. And all the great podcasts out there. Forget ESPN, we don’t need them.

  16. Adam Morgan says:

    Zach,

    My point is, diehard fans were the only people who cared because this event was not given any media recognition all week. You have to think there are at least some casual fans who didn’t think UFC 71 sucked and want more UFC. How are they going to know if the event is not marketed?

    Is this all to blame on ESPN? No. I would blame at least half of this on the UFC. But ESPN’s coverage has dropped off the face of the Earth since Liddell got KO’d.

    Was it only diehards looking forward to it? Yes. Could more MMA fans have been won over tonight? Certainly, the event was very, very good. But no one knew about it.

  17. Gabe Bautista says:

    I don’t understand what’s so hard to grasp here. The NBA Finals, regardless of teams, ratings, or any other negative spin you want to throw in, is and will always be a big deal. There are NFL free agent moves and minicamps. We just finished a major international tennis tournament. Golf has the U.S. Open coming up. The U.S. soccer team just beat El Salvador to advance to the Gold Cup quarterfinals (woo!). We’re in the heart of baseball season with a whole lot of teams playing every night, most importantly the almighty Red Sox trying to fight off the evil Yankees in an increasingly competitive AL East.

    As it is, there’s already more going on in the world of sports than ESPN can handle. And I’m talking about sports with established popularity and credibility not to mention a much longer history of guaranteed popularity than MMA. I, as a longtime fan of MMA, have no problem with their coverage priorities with the exception of perhaps soccer. IT IS NOT ESPN’S JOB TO MAKE THE UFC MORE POPULAR.

  18. 1000 Cent says:

    Well, ESPN may not have covered UFC’s Ultimate Fight Night, but Comedy Central’s the Daily Show did a story on UFC, in which they pointed out all of the faults of why the average person would not care for watching UFC.

    IMO, what UFC needs to do is create a bonafide, unbeatable, superstar, kind of like a Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson figure. Until they do that, they are not going to gain the interest of the ESPN and Madison Avenue crowds.

  19. ilostmydog says:

    I’m not sure about the other two sports-centric stations in Canada, but ‘The Score’ did a recap and highlights of the event today. Clearly ‘The Score’ > ESPN.

  20. D.Capitated says:

    Well, ESPN may not have covered UFC’s Ultimate Fight Night, but Comedy Central’s the Daily Show did a story on UFC, in which they pointed out all of the faults of why the average person would not care for watching UFC.

    IMO, what UFC needs to do is create a bonafide, unbeatable, superstar, kind of like a Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson figure. Until they do that, they are not going to gain the interest of the ESPN and Madison Avenue crowds.

    Muhammad Ali wouldn’t gonna fight for $500,000 guaranteed in the 1970s. Do you think an MMA version would? Do you think the UFC really wants a fighter who’s name so transcends their promotion that he can leave and make far more money without them? Because I don’t.

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