What’s in a Number?
The event probably surpassed expectations, but that’s not really a glowing endorsement when the expectations were as low as they were. Not that anyone could blame a fan for indifference towards a card headlined by a contenders bout, and peppered with unknowns ranging from “virtual” to “complete.”
Much of the distaste for this offering – one that was free, and that no one said you had to watch – comes from the fact that it was a numbered event, an honour usually reserved for pay-per-view when the card in question isn’t taking place overseas. People complain that if you’re numbering an event, it should be of a certain standard.
That’s a fair argument if you’re one of the unquenchable English MMA fans who dropped top dollar on tickets, however for the rest of us who took it in on the couch with no further expense than some pizza and beer, there isn’t much in the way of justified complaining to be done.
That said, the UFC does need to do something about it’s overseas shows and how they’re marketed. People see the shows as second-rate, and it hurts the brand to attach the same cataloguing system to an event headlined by Joe Stevenson as you do to one headlined by Brock Lesnar.
The talent isn’t the same, the broadcast parameters aren’t the same, so why is the marketing the same?
It would be a far more reasonable approach to develop a whole new stream of overseas shows, especially if Dana White fulfills his promise of “taking this thing everywhere.” The complications of shows in places like England or Asia, just related to time alone, are significant enough to warrant such a change. Is UFC England: Leben vs. Munoz or UFC Japan: Rampage vs. Shogun really that offensive to the eyes and ears?
Or if the UFC isn’t interested in starting up another new stream of programming, how about just dropping the numbering altogether (something that should be considered anyway, as at some point numbering any event will look so strange it will be ludicrous). What’s wrong with UFC: Leben vs. Munoz? Why have the number at all?
The fact is that slapping numbers on events that are of a Fight Night calibre may seem trivial, but to the people buying tickets it most definitely isn’t. The UFC have worked hard to establish their numbered events as exactly that – events. Things people should be excited about attending and being involved in. Putting together one notable fight as a main event and then fleshing it out with local fighters and another well-known guy or two completely flies in the face of that work.
At this stage in the game, with the sport growing faster than it ever has, UFC events have to live up to a certain standard. These numbered overseas events are seen by many as being second-rate, and that attitude starts with the UFC seemingly viewing them as second-rate.
Until that changes at the top, the trickle-down effect will be seen throughout the fanbase of the sport, and that’s no good for anyone involved.