Already struggling with plummeting TV ratings, UFC boss Dana White has lashed out at this season’s competitors of the Ultimate Fighter. Even though the season has not even finished he has excoriated the fighters for their lack of commitment and passion.
This is the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter. One would expect the franchise to have the formula for success down pat at this stage. But it seems quite the reverse is true. In an interview with MMA Junkie Dana White said, ‘You can’t blame the coaches,’ (BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar, UFC Hall of Famers and opposing Head Coaches), ‘you can’t blame this or that,’ White continued, ‘you blame the guys and how bad they really wanted it.
White lamented season 19 as a total failure. He called it the worst season ever.
Any MMA fan with even a passing interest in the TUF brand will point to the Australia versus Canada TUF series as being infinitely worse. The lopsided match-ups between these teams made the fights unwatchable. Even the Canadians were embarrassed with the ease of their victories. There were no fighters or stories about the fighters with which viewers could identify, no displays of determination or passion, no technical fighting brilliance or inspiring demonstrations of skill.
As MMA becomes more professional the fights become increasingly dull. They become more about technique than desire. Everyone can identify with desire. Only some can identify with technique.
Most fight fans saw Ross Pearson winning the three round UFC Fight Night Undercard three rounds to zero. Pearson dove forward at every opportunity forcing the usually aggressive Sanchez to defend. Although many of Pearson’s strikes were wide of the mark many were not. And when Sanchez did counter his hometown supporters howled their encouragement.
Speaking after UFC Fight Night 42 in Alberquerque Dana White told Brett Okamoto of ESPN, “Pearson won that fight clearly … We have to treat Pearson like he won and give him that next level fight.”
Pearson has appealed to the New Mexico Athletic Commission to have the decision reversed. The appeal is pending. Statistics show Pearson out scoring Sanchez in significant strikes and takedowns, ring control and aggression, with Sanchez being knocked to the canvas while Pearson remained on his feet.
And yet two of the judges awarded the bout to Sanchez, with one of them scoring it 30 – 27 to the hometown hero.
MMA judging has a chequered history, with many bizarre decisions. But none have been as overtly nonsensical as this. The response from fight fans on social media was swift and to the point with ‘Robbed’ being the word most used.
The UFC is already facing difficulties maintaining viewer interest. Ridiculous decisions like this are doing them no favors.
After another ratings failure questions are being asked about the pacing of UFC events. For some time it has been argued that the enhanced pacing of the UFC cards and virtual saturation of TV slots has been counterproductive to promoting the sport. ‘Fans are becoming desensitized to the UFC and MMA in general,’ said one commentator.
The UFC hosts 13 events throughout the year, a weekly Friday Night Fight Night, and usually two or three seasons of the Ultimate Fighter. This means there is usually some product from Zuffa on TV at least twice a week. This has a number of consequences:
First, it makes promoting fights increasingly difficult. Dana White had promised there would never be women in the UFC, but had to reverse this stance when it became apparent fans were tiring of the relentless barrage of MMA telecasts each week.
Second, it means that more and more fighters must be drafted into the UFC to fill these timeslots. The consequence of this is a lowering of fight quality. The UFC has suffered a slew of almost unwatchable mismatches in recent times. Such fights diminish what was once the paragon of combat sports and the focus of world attention.
Third, by debasing the UFC through over exposure Zuffa are reducing MMA to the status of every other entertainment competing for audience attention. When the UFC first hit the international stage there was nothing else like it. With the small roster of fighters, fans were always left wanting more. And because of the exclusive nature of the events fight cards were always brimming with the best combatants from all kinds of fight backgrounds.
If responses to the last three UFC events are anything to go by, those days are well and truly gone. Fight talk on Twitter has consistently dwindled, ticket sales are down, Pay Per View subscriptions are falling with each fight.
The lesson here is that you can get too much of a good thing. There is a point of diminishing returns in everything, no matter how much we love it.