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« | Home | »

Is there a way to stop booing at MMA events?

By Adam Morgan | July 16, 2007

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By Adam Morgan

Related post from Five Ounces of Pain.

The reason mixed martial arts promoters paper events is so that they can tout that their event was “sold out.” Making your product appear so appealing that tickets are hard to get makes people want to buy tickets. It’s a psychological principle known as scarcity which, in essence, makes people place value on things that are scarce. If tickets to your event seem hard to get, people assume it’s good. The more people think it’s good, the more people buy tickets. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately for mixed martial arts as a sport and especially for people who are mixed martial arts enthusiasts, papering events does more harm than it does good. In the short run, I guess you sell more tickets. In the long run, though, what you do is let in uneducated fans who only attend the event because it’s free and are attracted merely by the brutality of it. As Zach has stated recently, people who wind up obtaining free tickets are those who look at mixed martial arts with a sort of “toughman attitude.” Those types of people are the exact types of people the sport does not need at shows.

Terrible crowds due to the papering of events has happened twice this month alone. At UFC 73, the crowd even booed during what was arguably one of the best fights on the entire card, Sean Sherk v. Hermes Franca. It was a good fight. It was technical, there was lots of guard passing (something the UFC has been lacking recently), Franca landed a knee in almost every round and there was a dominating performance by the champion, Sherk. And the crowd booed with spite.

An even worse case of terrible crowds due to papering happened just this past weekend at the Bodog FIGHT event in Trenton, NJ. Chants of “USA! USA” for a fighter from South Africa and racist remarks targeted at Yves Edwards. And why does this happen? Because you give away tickets to people who only want to see guys stand and wail on each other.

What’s wrong with having some empty seats? As much as I’d like to think mixed martial arts is “mainstream” now, it’s really not. Sure, it’s getting some exposure. But it’s far from where I thought it would be after UFC 71. In my mind, it’s still a fledgling sport. There are going to be empty seats. The seat is better off empty than with someone in it who has no appreciation for what’s going on in the ring or cage. It ruins the event for those who attend and for those who watch on television at home.

How to fix it?

1. Education.

UFC is what people know. The Ultimate Fighter is the vehicle that brings new fans in. UFC should use TUF as a source for education of the sport. Show the viewers every week a new technique that the fighters are learning. Have a coach demonstrate it with a fighter or have two fighters demonstrate it. Then you show the fighters training that specific technique. Eventually, someone’s going to use one of those techniques to end a fight and you’ll see the end result of practical application. This isn’t too much to ask and would give people an understanding of just how technique driven this sport is.

2. Run shows where big time mixed martial arts hasn’t been seen before.

The crowd in Columbus, Ohio speaks for itself regarding this point. Go to areas where there is a thirst for the UFC. There are hotbeds across the country just waiting for a UFC event to come to their town. From my personal experience, the Midwest is absolutely drooling at the thought of UFC events coming to the region. You have plenty of Midwestern fighters on the roster. Stack a card with them and promote locally. Sell a boatload of tickets and you won’t have to paper ¼ of the stadium. Simple, right? I’m not saying UFC needs to run in the Midwest exclusively, but it’s a good start.

3. Don’t run shows in locations where rampant booing has occurred in the past.

As was mentioned on the Any Given Saturday radio show, don’t run events where there have been bad crowds. Sacramento should not be considered for an event until at least 2008.

4. Simply don’t paper the events.

It’s really that simple. A few empty seats isn’t going to hurt a good mixed martial arts card. Fans will come around eventually and you will fill those seats with real fans. Until then, let it be and don’t ruin your own event with uneducated fans who could care less about advanced jiu jitsu techniques. In the end, it makes your organization look bad.

Are these suggestions too much to ask? Booing ultimately reflects poorly upon the promoter, so why not take steps to erase it? What are your suggestions on how to fix booing?

Topics: Adam Morgan, BoDog, Media, MMA, UFC | 60 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

60 Responses to “Is there a way to stop booing at MMA events?”

  1. Rashada says:

    I do not know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but the Spike TV website for TUF has clips of fighters training and learning different techniques (at least it did for the fifth season). These clips are organized according to episodes and can be accessed online, along with other extras from the show. Perhaps the “editing deities” could be persuaded to include more of that footage in the aired episodes. As a new fan, I enjoy those clips and have learned a lot about the sport and various techniques through them. I definitely agree that fan education goes a long way towards better understanding and enjoyment of a fight.

  2. Luke says:

    “The real question here should be, how can the UFC prevent boring snoozefest fights? (answer: yellow cards)”

    That sounds great in theory until you realize some UFC fighters still make 3k a fight.

  3. Rollo the Cat says:

    “Kobe Bryant who is arguably the best player in the NBA got booed for recieving the MVP trophy at the All Star game in Philadelphia. If we want to stick to “The City of Brotherly Love” Donovan McNabb (QB of the Philadelphia Eagles) was regularly booed for his first two seasons with the Eagles when he was doing nothing wrong except adjusting to being a rookie quarterback in the league who would eventually lead his team to the Superbowl.”

    Just for the record, Kobe Bryant trashed Philly before that incident and made it clear he wanted no part of the city. He spit in the face of the fans. Donovan McNabb wasn’t booed that badly, and what he got was a result of his own sour attitude toward the fans from the beginning. He showed no love for the people and the people showed no love back. Treat the fans in Philly with respect and they will love you.

    I avoid makiing blanket statements about booing or putting all boos inthe same catagory. Booing an out of town fighter adds to the drama. Booing the fight that goes to the ground adds to the misery. I’ll bring up Boston’s Matt Lee who came into the territiory of Philly’s Eddie Alvarez Saturday. Lee was razzed, heckled, booed, verbally harrassed and all. He was the bad guy. I thought it was great. It was also great when he stood up to the crowd, thumped his chest at Alvarez and told him to bring it. He didn’t cry. The crowd went crazy. It was a great fight with a great atmosphere, something you don’t see at more laid back cities. At no time was Lee assaulted or had things thrown at him, the way an American might in Mexico. Very different than the overtly polite Japanese crowd.

    Bottom line is, there are different ways crowds express themselves. As long as the line isn’t crossed into really bad taste or violence, who cares? If you are a fighter and can’t take a little mouth from the fans, then quit fighting. Get a job in a tea house serving scones and clotted cream to old ladies.

  4. Zack says:

    “If I’m one of the paying customers for UFC 73, I’d be furious to find out that 40% of the crowd got in for nothing. ”

    Agreed. The last UFC I attended was UFC 60. The only fight with rewatch value is Fisher/Wiman. The card overall was a big letdown, and a third of the building got in free, while I paid for overpriced nosebleeds.

  5. Luke says:

    To each his own, I suppose.

    I watched the Sherk/Franca fight with several fighters, a purple belt, and a blackbelt in BJJ. Everyone of them was at the edge of their seat.

    My friends who watch causally? They had a smoke instead.

    There are number of ways to support the idea of booing or to find it dispicable. For my tastes, had I watched the Sherk/Franca fight at the UFC event and a friend booed, I’d have punched him dead in his liver.

    You are paying for the fights. You are not paying to be entertained. The UFC does not owe you “entertainment”. They owe you fights. If you think otherwise, please feel free to sue the balls off of Zuffa. Just like when you go to a movie, concert, or any other ticketed activity, you are paying for what’s stipulated in the relevant contracts, namely, that the performers perform. That’s it. To assume the right of being “entertained” is – quite literally – impossible since that would mean too many things for too many people.

    If you boo, that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, someone who doesn’t train, or an ignorant fan. But the correlation is certainly there.

  6. Zack says:

    Part of the reason for so many boring fights in the UFC is also the judging criteria. That’s the downfall of trying to “win rounds” in a scoring system that simply doesn’t work for MMA.

  7. D.Capitated says:

    There are number of ways to support the idea of booing or to find it dispicable. For my tastes, had I watched the Sherk/Franca fight at the UFC event and a friend booed, I’d have punched him dead in his liver.

    I’m glad you’re enforcing what you believe to be right! God knows there can be no subjective qualities to the entertainment aspect of a bout.

    You are paying for the fights. You are not paying to be entertained. The UFC does not owe you “entertainment”. They owe you fights. If you think otherwise, please feel free to sue the balls off of Zuffa. Just like when you go to a movie, concert, or any other ticketed activity, you are paying for what’s stipulated in the relevant contracts, namely, that the performers perform. That’s it. To assume the right of being “entertained” is – quite literally – impossible since that would mean too many things for too many people.

    The concept of you buying the PPV is that you will be entertained by watching it. If they fail at that measure, then they will collapse as a company. The UFC could run Jake Shields/Nate Marqhardt or Shields/Okami II tommorrow, no problem. Legit fight between top 10 fighters at 185. Would be absolutely boring? More than likely. So they don’t. The idea is to send the customer home happy, because if he doesn’t, he won’t return. Burning the crowd is not good.

    In any case, if people are bored, and during a fight like Franca/Sherk, its actually very possible to be, they might just boo. And I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with them doing so.

    Part of the reason for so many boring fights in the UFC is also the judging criteria. That’s the downfall of trying to “win rounds” in a scoring system that simply doesn’t work for MMA.

    And as I’ve said before, if someone can come up with transparent judging criteria that benefit the guy “trying to win the fight”, go right ahead and give it. The fact is that the rounds based system is the best currently available for the *sport* of MMA.

  8. Mo says:

    I have to reiterate the points by Rollo here because it does seem like the Philly fans are taking unnecessary heat. He is completely correct about Kobe (and Kobe is from Lower Merion, not Philly. there is a big difference) and McNabb didn’t play a whole lot his first 2 seasons so if that is what was insinuated then it is incorrect. He has been booed at times, and it is incredibly frustrating to the 75% of Philly fans who have to sit next to the knucklehead who cheers to put AJ Feeley in over McNabb, but there are educated fans and non-educated fans. Philly fans can be rough (I say you deserve it if you wear a Cowboys jersey in Philly, you should know better), but a better description is passionate. I saw ECW referenced a couple of times, and i hate discussing pro wrestling with MMA, but the example is a good one. ECW really grew in Philly, and the fans were rough, but loyal and passionate. I could keep going on, but the bottom line is that what occurred in Trenton this weekend was not because of Philly fans. I was at neither show, but I know the PPV in Sacremento was real bad. I am willing to bet the UFC show in NJ in November will not reflect the same as the Bodog show or the Sacremento show. I think the difference will be that fans in the NY/Philly area will let people know if they are being jerk-offs and i don’t think the booing will go over real well because people will aggressively encourage the idiots to show more appreciation. At least I hope.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    Derek Jeter says it best….. The fan bought the ticket, they can boo who they want to.

  10. Randy says:

    Outstanding article Adam, well written and well put!!!

    I thought the Sean Sherk v. Hermes Franca match was one of the best technical fights I have seen EVER! Regardless of Sherk finishing him or not, I LOVED IT!!! HELL my wife loved that says a lot!!!

    The midwest is in a major mode that is ripe for the picking and the bigger organizations need to realize this is a hot bed so UFC, WEC, IFL, Bodog, should all take note that they can not only put on great shows that will attract big crowds and educated crowds but also find MANY talented fighters that are up and coming!

    Well Done Adam!!!

    Keep up the solid work!!!

    Randy

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