In recent weeks the mixed martial arts community has been blessed and perhaps cursed with a large amount of action going on. The UFC itself has held six fight cards between August and September alone while Bellator and the World Series of Fighting have sprinkled in their own events accordingly. Since the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the big group in the business, many tune into their cards only for the MMA fix. But the question begins to loom if those cards are too long for the liking. There's only so much action that one person can watch and perhaps it's time for the UFC to cut down on the length of their cards.
UFC 165 was live from Toronto, Canada and featured 13 bouts which started in the early evening on Facebook. Those bouts started at 6pm and the event came to a close well after 11:30pm. The viewers who caught the whole show would have watched six hours of fighting before either heading off to bed or traveling out into the world for some sort of social life. When looking across the mainstream sports world, the standard amount of time for a sporting event is two to three hours. Auto races such as NASCAR and special events like the Super Bowl tend to be longer than that. So, it's clear that the UFC is towards the top of the spectrum when it comes to time that must be dedicated to catch their whole event.
The two Wednesday cards that were recently held both started while many individuals were still at work which caused them to miss a large portion of the action.
The question must be asked if this has the potential to have a negative affect on the promotion as a whole. The power minds of the UFC have made it clear that they will continue to add more fight cards to fill their television obligations and Pay per View needs. If each one will feature double digit fights then creates a large number of battles to be consumed. It's a matter of time before the preliminary and Facebook fights begin to feel some of the blow back as both casual and hardcore fans a lot more of their time to either the main fights or individuals of special interest. How this hurts the UFC is that these fights are used to develop fighters into bigger names in the sport but if their viewership drops, so does the number of people who know or care about those athletes.
A potential solution is for the UFC to cut a fight card down to 6-8 fights total and use those match-ups that would be preliminary bouts as a weekly Friday night fight style showcase. Removing the Ultimate Fighter programming from circulation and replacing it with a weekly hour event could give the UFC a chance to build names while slowly converting fans. The overhead of hosting such events could be costly but perhaps the UFC could use venues such as their gym in Las Vegas as the weekly fight card location to help cut down on event costs. The goal would be to generate a small amount of revenue while giving the lesser known stars a chance to shine on a card all of their own.
Sitting in front of a television for five to six hours is a difficult task, even when watching a sport that is as enjoyable as mixed martial arts. By cutting down the number of fights on a card the UFC could perhaps increase the interest in their roster rather than making some of the earlier bouts “expendable to viewers.”