Simon Says: New Fight Pass Content Helps Viewers, Hurts UFC Quality
Since its inception, the UFC’s online video library/streaming service, Fight Pass, has gone from a poorly designed GoDaddy type website to the Netflix of MMA. The recent additions of Polaris and Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (DWTNCS) have done nothing but bolster the platform and entreat fans of combat sports to buy in but there are some who are wary of their effects on the organization as a whole.
UFC Fight Pass is not, and probably will never be, for every fight fan. The majority of casuals will not buy the service and many hardcore fans simply cannot justify spending $8-10 a month (though it definitely beats FloGrappling’s $15) price tag. That being said, the more content the UFC adds onto the platform the more attractive it becomes to those on the fence.
MMA attracts people from a variety of singular martial arts, but none more than Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing/Muay Thai. Fight Pass has obviously noticed and exploited this demographic by adding EBI, Polaris, and Glory onto their list of quality programming. Now fans of those sports, who also enjoy MMA, have even more reasons to purchase Fight Pass as they get the best of both worlds. There aren’t many people complaining about Fight Pass adding other combat sports to their watch list but the case for MMA specific shows is very much up for debate.
Most fans are fine with not being able to watch the exclusive Fight Pass Prelims – as they rarely have intriguing matchups. They can deal with missing Fight Pass only cards as these too are seldom filled with top ranked talent. What fans are worried about though are shows like DWTNCS and their eventual, possibly deleterious, effect on the organization’s roster.
DWTNCS is basically Dana White Looking for a Fight (side note: who knows if that endeavor will continue?) except the regional fighters are housed under the UFC banner and fight in the TUF gym. The format of DWTNCS provides the UFC with two invaluable benefits and one significant drawback.
The first benefit is obvious. Like Polaris, Glory, and EBI, the Contender Series is yet another product Fight Pass can use to tempt would-be customers to sign up. Because the price tag stays the same, the more the UFC can offer the more appealing and justifiable the service becomes. The second benefit is that unlike Dana White Looking for a Fight, the Contender Series already has fighters signed under the UFC. This small detail has huge implications for the UFC contextual within the world of MMA.
If there is one major drawback to the UFC’s system of building a fighter it is their lack of homegrown, and frankly low-level talent. As the world’s premier organization there is almost no athlete who gets their start in the UFC. This means that fighters who are not yet ready for the big show get snapped up by Bellator and WSOF/PFL, organizations that also have the ability to build them up. This is really the only arena in which these lower tier organizations can compete with the UFC.
Bellator can sign Dillon Danis and Aaron Pico, sure stars in the making, long before the UFC can because they have the caliber of fighters needed to make these prospects look good. That isn’t to say the UFC only has the highest quality talent, they certainly have a number of fighters who are more suited for the local circuit, but compared to Bellator or the PFL or One, they simply don’t have the ability to offer green fighters consistently easy outs. Judging from your point of view, that just might be a good thing.
We have seen what has happened with the fighters brought in from Looking for a Fight. Only two, Sage Northcutt and Micky Gall, have had decent performances in the UFC and have actually made a name for themselves. The Contender Series will add an influx of similar caliber fighters into the organization (at this rate almost 2 every Tuesday), which will certainly be conducive to building up fresh talent. So while this means the UFC can now sign the Pico’s and Danis’s of the world it also raises some questions about the quality of the self-proclaimed MMA leader.
Can the UFC claim to be the best of the best when they sign fighters who still don’t have a dozen fights? Many would make the case that the UFC is already watered down (just look at the September 2nd card) and needs to start cutting fighters not signing more of the same. Ultimately though, shows like DWTNCS are extremely beneficial for the UFC’s online presence. Until we start seeing the alumni in the cage we cannot yet say whether or not this program will be ultimately detrimental to the organization as a whole but the UFC may very well be bolstering their online presence at the expense of the quality of their brand.