Kid Nate of Bloodyelbow thinks so:
The implications of the deep troubles afflicting the UFC's biggest competitors, combined with the unexpected success of WEC 48: Aldo vs Faber on PPV this weekend leave Zuffa in an even stronger position.
But fear not Kid Nate fans, I still read this as a long term negative. The failure of MMA on American and Japanese network television means that MMA will remain a niche sport for the foreseeable future. That is good for Zuffa and Dana White. It's not a total loss for fans as they have proven they can consistently deliver an excellent product.
However their willingness to water down their product in the interest of sticking to a strict PPV schedule may be eroding their paying fan base.
I don't think the failure on American and Japanese network television means that MMA will remain a niche sport. Mainly because Japanese MMA hasn't been relevant since PRIDE's heyday and that was was a long time ago. Even PRIDE at its peak was unknown to casual fans here in America, so just exactly how important is Japanese MMA in regards to the sport going mainstream? All of the Japanese promotions have been on life support for the past few years and the fighters that do make their way across the pond have gotten crushed.
Strikeforce on network television isn't indicative of what the sport presents as a whole because it's largely an inferior product to what the UFC brings to the table. Hardcore AND casual fans know this, otherwise the ratings would be much higher for Strikeforce on CBS and Showtime(even though Showtime has a limited audience).
Zuffa has shown over the past nine months that they'll keep the PPV's coming, whether or not they have the appealing fights to fill the cards. Allowing their PPV cash cow to dry up combined with their ambitious and expensive goals for international expansion is a dangerous combination. Time will tell if Zuffa is making the right gamble.
The other big losers in a potential collapse of major competition to the UFC will be the fighters. Athletes like Andrei Arlovski, Renato "Babalu" Sobral and Dan Henderson that get cross-ways with Dana White will be between a rock and a hard place without viable competition.
That's not good for the sport.
I think some of the reasons for lackluster cards can be placed on Zuffa, however, we all know that the quality of quite a few of those cards was hampered due to fighter injuries. Clearly those type of things are out of the hands of the UFC. It's almost like you 'expect' a UFC PPV every month now, so I don't see how backing off that would be productive either. It's sorta of like buying your wife roses every Friday. After about a month, if you miss a Friday getting those roses to her, she's going to be like where the hell are my roses? Also, holding those shows every month builds momentum. I've talked about it a while back how UFC 111 was going to set things off, and if UFC 112 could hold ground in Abu Dhabi the UFC would be in a position to have a monster run of PPV's. That's exactly what's about to take place, save major stars getting injured. However, that's a part of the fight game though.
In regards to international expansion, when else would be the most opportune time to do it? They make a killing when they do hold a domestic show, and there are no viable competitors that can take significant share of the pie here stateside. Anytime a company expands there are risks involved, but I think now is the perfect time to do so. Now, if Strikeforce had their act together and was pulling in significant ratings and fighters were jumping ship left and right, then yes it would be pretty dumb to move forward with international expansion so aggressively.
In regards to the fighters suffering, all of those fighters mentioned made their beds and now are lying in them(Arlovski is arguable). I do agree that competition is needed to balance things salary wise but Henderson and Babalu made retarded decisions in my opinion.
The five UFC PPV's in 2010 combined have an average buyrate of around 420,000 and that's including two shows that took place in a foreign market. Not to mention three of those events didn't have a title fight. As much as some hate to admit it, the UFC is MMA in North America. Why else would guys walk around talking about "I Train UFC" as ridiculous as that sounds? The UFC business model is built around PPV buys and over the last couple of years they have been hitting grandslams. In that regard, where does the line for niche sport end?
I don't want to make this a boxing/MMA debate or argument. If boxing did a PPV every month(or two in one month) would they surpass the numbers the UFC has acheived in the past couple of years? If not, would it be looked upon as a niche sport?