The simple answer is yes. It’s becoming hard to deny.
There are enough indications that it is. This is a heavily discussed topic in many MMA sites and forums right now for good reason. Most of the concerns are valid, some are ridiculous. But the complaining is at an all time high.
Here’s some of the common concerns you’l hear about the UFC:
1. The cards aren’t good! They are too diluted. I don’t look forward to seeing any cards except for 2 or 3 really good ones.
2. The fights suck! Too many point fighters, the scoring criteria is all wrong and fighters are taking advantage of it.
3. Where did my favorite fighters go? I don’t like Jones, bring back chuck. Rousey is too arrogant. Weidman is over-rated and lucky. Hendricks should not be champ. Cain is cool… i think! But I’ve forgotten what he looks like. (I disagree with most of these btw)
4. The PPV is too expensive, not enough value for money.
5. Lack of competition. Pride is gone! Strikeforce was nipped in the bud. And the monopoly is getting lazy.
It’s actually a much longer list because MMA fans love complaining. So let’s ignore the saying “the customer is always right” and defer to the wisdom of “MMA fans will always complain”.
Even if you ignore the chatter, you can’t ignore these numbers
UFC 169 – Barao vs Faber: 230,000 PPV buys
UFC 170 – Rousey vs Mcmann: 340,000
UFC 171 – Hendricks vs Lawler: 300,000
UFC 172 – Jones vs Teixeira: 350,000
And the latest one is rumored to be under 200,000. This year does not look good. It’s worth mentioning that UFC 168 – Silva vs Weidman 2 did more than 1 million buys. The only other card that even did more than 650k buys in 2013 was GSP vs Diaz. Which supports the theory of only 1 or 2 really good cards a year.
GSP and Silva might not come back at all. So who is going to bring those million dollar PPV numbers?
As a contrast to the numbers above. The average PPV buy in 2010 was 561,ooo!! And one of these cards was Mir vs Crocop. Remember that? Yea neither do I. Yet it didn’t make a dent because you had Lesnar, GSP, Penn, Silva, Evans, Machida, Shogun giving consistently strong numbers.
So what’s going on?
Well you might have reached the same conclusion as me. In MMA it’s the fighters who create interest. We aren’t cheering for our favorite club or team or something else (Just bleed!!). We’re cheering for our favorite fighters, close fights, and of course great rivalries. Like Silva vs Weidman 2, which doubled the numbers of the first fight.
(Speaking of rematches. Jones vs Gustaffson 2 is going to be very interesting, i expect at least double the sales of the first one)
Enough about the numbers, you get the idea. UFC is running out of true fan-favorite fighters. Now there isn’t really a blue print to creating fan favorites. You could have a humble, professional, calculated fighter like GSP. A no nonsense i-just-want-to-punch-your-face guy like chuck liddell. Or someone who comes into the sport with millions of fans already following him (3 guesses) It can be anything really.
But it is the promoter’s job to use what the fighter has and show it to the fans. Just putting them on cards is not enough anymore. There are so many fighters, divisions and events happening now, the individual fighters get lost in the noise. Don’t just leave them on their own to try and carve out an image. Not every fighter can be a chael sonnen outside the cage.
The perfect example is the current HW Champ.
I’m assuming you have heard of Cain Velasquez. What kind of image would you say the champ has, compared to guys like GSP, Fedor, Lesnar, BJ Penn, Liddell? I know that he is an amazing fighter with a mexican heritage. What else?
This is the baddest guy in all of MMA right now. But he hardly gets any hype, we know very little about him. Compare that to what boxing has done with Canelo Alvarez and it’s like you’re looking at the next legend of combat sport vs an unknown local fighter. UFC should be marketing this guy like crazy!
So he’s not a talker? It doesn’t matter. Guys like Liddell, Silva and Fedor weren’t talkers either. Cain has a unique personality among fighters, and he’s real. When he steps in the cage it’s always with bad intentions. That’s a great recipe for a fan favorite. Yet i have seen hardly anything from UFC in terms of creating a brand for him. His teammate cormier does a better job promoting him in his own post-fight interviews.
There are dozens of other fighters in the UFC (and outside) that are ripe for the picking. But these guys only know how to fight. The promotion needs to step it’s game up and do it’s job!
So yes the golden age of MMA is over, but a new golden age could be around the corner. I fully expect a resurgence in the coming years. MMA is an amazing sport and the UFC has done a great job of bringing it to the front door. Now there needs to be a change of strategy and a new model if MMA wants to keep growing (or stop declining).