UFC on FUEL TV: Under the Radar Because of Oversaturation

Maybe there is a case to be made for the UFC running too many events after all. As a voracious fight fan, I never thought I’d get to a point of saying that, but I’ve just gone and done it, haven’t I?

Lost in the shuffle of what has already transpired and what the future holds is tonight’s third fight card on FUEL TV — an “Island of Misfit Toys” line-up featuring mostly little known, lower tier fighters that has garnered little attention outside of the main event.

Between dealing with the out-of-competition distractions from Nick Diaz and Alistair Overeem, promoting the “playoff round” of fights on The Ultimate Fighter: Live, and prepping for UFC 146 two Saturdays from now, there hasn’t been much time to mention this event.

Or it could just be that there is very little worth mentioning.

Most of the fights that make up the line-up for the UFC’s return to the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia are bouts featuring fighters coming off of losses. Of the 12 scheduled bouts, only three consist of a pair of fighters stepping into the cage on winning streaks, while eight are made up of either (1) two men trying to get back into the win column, or (2) a UFC veteran coming off a loss facing a newcomer to the organization.

Upcoming UFC Events

  • UFC 146 — May 26
  • TUF 15 Finale — June 1
  • UFC on FX 3 — June 8
  • UFC on FX 4 — June 22
  • UFC 147 — June 23
  • UFC 148 — July 7

While not every fight card can be a collection of highly important fights with the biggest names in the business, it’s hard to sell casual fans on a card of this nature. Hell, it’s hard to sell me on a card like this, and I’m addicted to this sport. Though there are certainly some compelling bouts on the docket, when a guy like me who hasn’t missed a fight card in nearly two years is opting to go see The Avengers instead, you know there is something amiss.

The main event between Dustin Poirier (12-1) and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (12-3) is likely to produce the next title challenger in the featherweight division. It’s a potentially explosive contest, and while it should be a grand opportunity for both men to split the lion’s share of the spotlight, how much value is there in headlining an event that few people will be tuning in to see?

Though the FUEL TV execs (and the FX execs, and the FOX execs) are always going to talk about how happy they are with the numbers their network is generating thanks to UFC programming, fans are getting more and more frustrated with watered-down fight cards like this one.

And this isn’t the only hard-sell card on the horizon either.

UFC 147 was supposed to feature the epic rematch between middleweight champion Anderson Silva and his archenemy, Chael P. Sonnen, but logistics forced that fight to be moved back to the States.

Instead, the UFC’s third Brazilian event in ten months is now set to be headlined by TUF: Brazil coaches Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, with heavyweights Fabricio Werdum and Mike Russow earning second billing. Lacking a truly enticing main event, and heavy on Brazilian fighters — many of whom are unknown to the majority of the casual audience ­— this event could produce the lowest pay-per-view buy rate the UFC has seen in some time.

What makes it worse is that there are four additional events between now and the June 23rd show in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Rather than rolling out a quartet of average-at-best events, couldn’t they just combine some of the solid fights from each into a pair of mildly intriguing, above average shows?

Save for UFC 148 — the event that benefitted from the Silva-Sonnen relocation — the summer schedule is altogether underwhelming. Outside of one or two fights per event, there just aren’t enough marquee match-ups to draw the kind of audiences the UFC is used to attracting.

Not to throw a jinx out there, but imagine how rough some of these cards become if one of the few intriguing pairings were to fall apart?

* * * * * * * *

The UFC has reached its saturation point, maybe even gone passed it to be honest.

It’s not all doom and gloom like some journalists will try to spin it, but things are trending in the wrong direction.

New markets like Calgary keep delivering sellout crowds and quality audiences because the first chance to get to see the UFC live in your backyard is always going to be a draw, but the television and pay-per-view numbers paint a different picture.

You used to have to wait three, four, or five weeks for the next event, and by the time Friday afternoon rolled around, you couldn’t sit still because the fights were 24 hours away. Now there’s an event almost every week, and you’re rarely more than two weeks away from seeing another set of fights.

As much as I’m curious to see how things play out between Poirier and “The Korean Zombie” in the main event, I’m more interested in the adventures of Hawkeye, Thor, Iron Man, and the rest of The Avengers, and I’m not alone in that regard.

When a hardcore fight fan like me is willing to miss a night of fight because there is another one around the corner, it’s clear that the UFC has reached the point of over-saturation, even if they’re in no way willing to concede as much.


E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance mixed martial arts journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. He's a frequent contributor to ufc.com, Fight Magazine and UFC Magazine, and is the creative force behind the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura. Follow him on Twitter: @spencerkyte