A cancelled UFC because of an injury to one of the main eventers. Events almost weekly, at all hours of the day, and sometimes twice in one day. More Ultimate Fighters – so many more, in fact, that it’s now virtually impossible to say who won the last TUF in Zimbabwe and who was the runner-up for TUF: Denmark. Right now, fans and media members alike are decrying what they see to be far too many shows, a glutted market, way too much supply for a waning demand. The word “oversaturation” is bandied about.
Well, guess what? There aren’t too many UFC events and there is no oversaturation problem. You are all imaging it.
The truth is, all these UFCs… they’re not meant for us.
For years, we’ve been conditioned as fans and consumers to want to ingest any sort of content related to the UFC. And that’s not a bad thing, nor is it something so strange to be outlandish. After all, many among us can remember the days when there were maybe three or four UFC events a year, and that was it. But time, evolution, growth and the shifting tides of popularity have allowed the sport to become what it is today, and now there’s enough fresh UFC content being churned out to kill a horse.
It’s not all for us, though. Remember the UFC’s plan for “world fucking domination“? Much of that involves catering to local international markets. And the plan is effective – TUFs elsewhere in the world may mean little to us regardless of whether or not we watch them on UFC Fight Pass, but these are the things that plant the seeds and nurture the brand in soil that’s fertile with consumer dollars just waiting to be spent.
Earlier this week I had the privilege to sit on a Columbia University Sports Management class whose guest lecturer was UFC COO Ike Lawrence Epstein. Epstein began the class with the usual sizzle reel featuring clips of action in the Octagon, but what followed next was a very illuminating Power Point presentation, and one of the slides featured a graphic that said it all.
Picture a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid, within the smallest band, are the words “UFC premium content”. These are the pay-per-views and the events on the main FOX network. The middle of the pyramid has the words “UFC Fight Nights” – obviously, these are the countless events on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass. At the bottom of the pyramid, and taking up the most space, are the words “The Ultimate Fighter”. This hierarchical structure is how the UFC views and labels its own content.
Of course the UFC would never come out and say to us American fans, “Hey, these TUFs and Fight Nights aren’t as must-see as the pay-per-views, so maybe don’t kill yourself trying to watch them all.” To do so would be to publicly demean the value of their lesser content. But as per that Power Point presentation, those are the words left unsaid.
We as fans think we must watch everything the UFC puts out. But not even the folks at the UFC believe that. Yes, the same in-house production effort goes into each show, so a Fight Night in Antarctica airing at 2:30am will look and feel much like a pay-per-view coming out of Las Vegas, N.V.. Yet that Antarctica show isn’t for us, it’s for all those penguins.
So the next time you feel the urge to lament that there are too many UFCs going down, keep that pyramid in mind. And remember: we only think we’re supposed to watch them all.