As combat sports fans the one thing we want to see more than anything is fights and lots of them, but this begs the question is there such a thing as too many fights?
The UFC’s last four fight cards have taken place over three days, with UFC Fight Nights Te Huna vs Marquardt and Swanson vs Stephens both happening on June 28th, while UFC 175 and The TUF 19 Finale happened on the 5th and 6th of July respectively.
At first glance, this is a dream situation for fight fans, because we all remember the times when we had to wait three or four weeks between UFC events in the past, and now we can watch two complete fight cards on TV on the same day. This primarily screams a win win situation for the fans as they have so much MMA to see and talk about that they cannot get bored, but when you delve deeper into this new approach the problems with over saturating the market do arise.
One major issue with so many UFC’s in a short space of time is how do Dana and Lorenzo expect to fill these cards fully. With each card having 12 to 14 bouts on it, this is a large chunk of fighters that need to be ready to perform. For a stable of over 500 fighters that the UFC have, you would think this wouldn’t be much of an issue, but we all know the problem the UFC have with legitimate headline stars that can sell a fight card, and with this extra influx of fight nights, its making finding genuine UFC stars a real struggle.
Te Huna vs Marquardt is the perfect example. This is the first time the UFC have put on a card with both fighters in the main event coming off a string of losses. Coming into the fight in New Zealand, Te Huna was on a two fight losing streak, both by finish, and Marquardt was on a three fight, two finish losing streak. This is hardly the makings for a high selling event, and while the numbers for the event were ok, and the fight had a first round finish, the whole event didn’t really set the MMA world on fire, and was almost instantly forgotten, partly because of the much better Swanson vs Stephens fight card showing the same day.
Although you could argue that if the card sold averagely, especially in a lower yield market like New Zealand, then the card was successful, and while that is valid, I believe many hardcore MMA fans want cards we can be ecstatically excited over for weeks in advance, and wait up until three AM to watch it live (If you live in the UK)
Te Huna vs Marquardt just didn’t have this excitement whatsoever. Both fans and the press alike didn’t care much for this card as a whole, again mainly because of the Swanson Stephens card that had major featherweight title implications. Putting that next to two fighters coming off losing streaks, with one making his middleweight debut and the other returning to middleweight for the first time in two years makes this already mediocre main event even less engaging.
The following weekend was a much bigger success for the UFC. This time they split the fight cards over two days, which I believe was a saving grace for them, if they tried to put an Ultimate Fighter Finale against a card with two title fights, the former card would have been flushed down the MMA toilet in a matter of hours.
Saturday night saw one of the biggest cards of the year, UFC 175. This card featured both the middleweight and women’s bantamweight titles on the line, in what was a stacked card from top to bottom which definitely payed off for the UFC. On the other side of the weekend we had the TUF 19 Finale on Sunday night featuring a main event between BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar. This card was significantly, and foreseeably, less stacked than 175, but still featured a very interesting main event that saw the TUF coaches fight, and also the legend that is Penn making his first trip to the featherweight division.
This weekend of fights completely obliterated the previous week as both title fights on UFC 175 were extremely exciting affairs, one ending in 16 seconds and the other being a back and forth five round war, which meant every scale of MMA fan from blood thirsty drunkards to hardcore fanatics got their fill on Saturday night.
This card was followed by another exciting, albeit nowhere near the level of the 175 card, on Sunday which had two Ultimate Fighter finals matches that ended in a combined 2 minutes and 12 seconds, and a main event that made the headlines more for its story than the actual contest. This whole card was completely overshadowed by the main event being such a one sided beat down by Frankie Edgar over the once great BJ Penn. This mixed with the subsequent retirement of Penn post fight was the main talking point for the entire following week. This is disappointing for the hardcore fans because not only did a true legend retire, but what was an extremely impressive performance by Edgar, and many others on the card, was completely ignored by most fans and media for the more interesting retirement story.
It can definitely be argued that this past weekend of contests were very overly saturated as with only nine UFC champions, and at least four of them being tied up with injuries or Ultimate Fighter filming, having two of them competing on the same card was a bit too much overkill for the UFC. Being that these two matchups were so good, it would have made more sense to beef up either Te Huna vs Marquardt or another card with one of these title match ups in order to even out the events, instead of having one amazing event, two good events, and one mediocre event in the space of two weeks.
With this many fight cards in such a short space of time there is also the issue of replacing fighters. Having 70 fighters competing in a two week slot means a large amount of the UFC roster is out of action for the foreseeable future. This means if another cards main event falls out due to injury it is even harder to find a suitable replacement. This has already been evident with the recent postponement of UFC 176 due to Jose Aldo being injured. With so many fighters already booked to compete it was impossible for the UFC to find a replacement for this title fight and therefore the event had to be scrapped and the date reset for a later time. Although you cannot blame the UFC for not foreseeing an injury messing up this card, if they scheduled one of the UFC 175’s title fights for later in the year, they may have been able to move that fight to main event UFC 176 and therefore save the event.
Although there are a lot of issues with the over saturating of the UFC recently, I do believe the UFC are trying to give the fans more content than ever before and that should be commended, but I believe this should never come at the price of lack luster fight cards. I think I can speak for everyone when I say I would rather have one UFC a week with an amazingly stacked card with title fights or top ten fighters main eventing and a list of prospects for the under card, then four cards in two weeks that aren’t really up to scratch and are definitely not worth paying for. Ultimately this comes down to match making, and making cards that are worth paying the money to watch. There is no quicker way to lose customers than ripping them off with mediocre products, and this is something the UFC should definitely keep an eye on in future.