It has been about 4 years since a UFC title fight has been on free T.V. With the power of pay-pew-view it does seem odd the UFC would give us a title fight for free. Is it because the UFC is paying back the loyal fans or is because this main event wouldn’t be able to draw on pay-pew-view? Sadly, I am leaning toward the latter but for a reason.
Normally you would never see a Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre on a free TV event so why is Dominick Cruz headlining a free event? We can understand why Cain Velasquez is on free TV. It is the first event on network TV for the UFC & they want the ratings for the event on FOX to draw huge so the long term commitment they have entered into gets off on the right foot. The heavyweight division in any sport draws people to their TVs.
For Cruz he is the Bantamweight champion, a new weight class in the UFC. Many causal fans may not be aware of what the WEC was, or who Dominick Cruz is, so a free fight can make this champion familiar to the masses. For the hardcore fan it may feel like an insult to this exciting weight class that they are not being given the same level of respect as the heavier weight classes.
At UFC 132 Cruz did headline a pay-per-view but it was against WEC golden boy Urijah Faber. At the time Faber was much more well known & attracted a larger fan following. The fight was very exciting & close and it was worthy of headlining a pay-per-view. So why is the Cruz’s next fight against Demetrious Johnson not a pay-per-view fight?
Part of the problem is working every champion into a headlining spot. With the UFC on FOX, pay-pew-view, Spike & Versus there are a lot of cards to cover. Injuries happen that throw off the balance of a division & cause fights to be delayed. If this fight was on the last pay-per-view card it would likely take second billing to Jon Jones & Rampage Jackson. If it was on the next pay-per-view it would be the third title fight on the card & a lot of the luster would be taken away. This card seemed to be a good fit for both fighters & gave them a main event slot.
As a fan of this division I would like to see it in a main event pay-per-view spot but from a marketing perspective this appears to be a good move. More fans will learn about this weight class, it’s champion & top contender. The fast paced action on a non pay-per-view broadcast will draw fans in & hook them on this weight class leading them to headline a pay-per-view down the line.
The UFC is still working on marketing & growing the 135 & 145 lb. weight divisions. This is another reason why Jose Aldo defending his featherweight belt is the co-main event with the Frankie Edgar & Gray Maynard’s lightweight title fight taking the headlining spot. More eyes are needed on these weight divisions & the UFC is using all the tools at their disposal to allow fans to see them.
Expect a solid main event Saturday night with high paced striking & plenty of counter moves. The winner will become the face of the division & should be rewarded with a pay-per-view main event spot in 2012. Enjoy the fight but I advise you not to blink.
Written by Mike McPhee