mma / Columns

UFC’s International Fight Week Lacking The Typical Interest

July 7, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Lambert
UFC Logo - UFC Shanghai - UFC Fight Night 115

It’s International Fight Week for the UFC. It’s the week where they put on multiple shows, a fan convention, the Hall of Fame ceremony, and much more. It’s typically one of the biggest weekends of the year for the company.

But this year’s International Fight Week feels…weak.

There are some good fights this weekend, but it’s lacking that star or rivalry that we’ve come to expect from Intentional Fight Week. Losing Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw certainly hurt the appeal of Saturday’s UFC 213. Failing to line up a suitable replacement bout didn’t help matters.

There’s no returning Brock Lesnar. There’s no Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey. There are two events, like there have been the past three years, but the biggest star on either event is Amanda Nunes.

Dana White could spend $100 million on marketing Amanda Nunes and no one would know who she is.

Because Dana didn’t spend $100 million (or even $100,000) to market Nunes prior to the Ronda Rousey fight, he’s banking on Nunes capturing the fanbase that was initially drawn to Rousey. He thinks MMA works like Mortal Kombat, where one fighter beats another fighter, but instead of taking their soul, they take their drawing power.

There’s little evidence to suggest this to be the case. The best example is Frankie Edgar drawing half of what BJ Penn was drawing as lightweight champion despite Edgar beating him twice. The same thing happened in the case of Chris Weidman.

Oftentimes, the UFC will protect fighters who have just defeated a proven draw by pairing them with another proven draw in their next bout or putting them on free television. For example, after beating Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm was on the undercard of a Conor McGregor fight. Meanwhile, Cain Velasquez was on FOX in his first fight after defeating Brock Lesnar.

Amanda Nunes has headlined two straight events that have done over one million buys. She wasn’t the reason for either show performing that well. But she turned in the best performance on both nights. She looked flawless in both contests. She defeated the two of biggest stars in women’s MMA history in back-to-back fights. There’s a lot to be said for that.

That said, I’d be surprised if this Saturday’s event does over 300,000 buys.

Valentina Shevchenko has headlined two straight FOX events, but her bout against Julianna Pena drew poor ratings and headlining on FOX doesn’t translate to strong pay-per-view numbers. Just look at Demetrious Johnson.

The co-main event features an interim middleweight title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. It’s a good fight, but nothing that is going to move the buyrate needle. Neither man has been put a position to draw before and the interim title means nothing. Romero headlined a FOX Sports 1 event against Lyoto Machida that did 909,000 viewers, below the previous card headlined by Dan Henderson vs. Tim Boetsch. Whittaker has also headlined a FOX Sports 1 show, drawing 686,000 viewers, the third lowest in 2016, against Derek Brunson.

A heavyweight battle between Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem might be the biggest draw on the card. It’s also one that has gotten very little attention due to the UFC’s tired “THIS CARD IS STACKED!” promotional tactic. Selling the bout as a trilogy fight may have helped. Until you remember that the prior two fights were rather lackluster.

If UFC hopes that Friday’s Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale helps boost the attractiveness of their Saturday pay-per-view, they will be sorely mistaken. A free card rarely gets people hooked for a pay-per-view, as evident by televised prelims and their ratings having little to no effect on pay-per-view buys.

Furthermore, season 25 of The Ultimate Fighter has done poor ratings despite it being a redemption season, which was supposed to be a big hook. I’m sure being the 25th season of a show that started to decline following season 10 has nothing to do with no one watching.

Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje is a great main event fight, but Gaethje is a UFC newcomer and Johnson has lost three of his last four fights.

There’s nothing wrong with either card this weekend. The free show provides a quality main event and the pay-per-view is a strong top to bottom card. But, it’s lacking the buzz that we’ve come to expect on International Fight Week.

You can follow me on Twitter @jeremylambert88

article topics :

UFC, UFC 213, Jeremy Lambert