UFC on FOX 8 reportedly drew its lowest ratings ever for the show, averaging about 2.04 million viewers, but was still No. 1 in the 18-49 demographic, which is gold for the advertisers.
It was expected that the UFC show would not do well in ratings, considering that the show was headlined by Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vs. John Moraga. Nobody knew who Moraga was and it’s hard to get excited about watching a 125-pound guy named “Mighty Mouse” fight. The UFC brand on its own isn’t enough to carry a show. Even the NFL suffers when you have a primetime broadcast game without marquee names.
Despite Johnson’s ridiculous footwork and speed inside the cage, he doesn’t have that “Holy $!#@” factor about him that makes people want to watch. It also doesn’t help that most guys’ girlfriends probably weigh more than Johnson does.
TV fights should be about the big guys; they don’t even have to be centered on titles. Your hardcore MMA fans are going to watch everything, so there’s no need to book matches for them only. Free broadcast TV is about catching eyeballs. It’s the perfect venue for guys like Roy Nelson, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort and Cung Le. TV fighters should be about striking and putting guys in the cage who are going to fight, not fight safe.
There’s a reason a guy like Kimbo Slice was a YouTube sensation and was in three of the most watched MMA fights in history. Nobody cared that he wasn’t good from his back, or that the only submission hold he knew was the camel clutch. Slice was there to fight and destroy, or get knocked out in 14 seconds if he couldn’t.
Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger had way too much on the line to risk a KO loss and it showed on free television, in a fight that weakened the show. MacDonald may be adopting the Firas Zahabi motto for fighting: “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always bore.” Zahabi’s other protege, Georges St-Pierre, with his failure to finish a fight in recent years, seems to have mastered that mantra.
UFC President Dana White doesn’t seem to care about the ratings. He is confident that the UFC has a long future on the network. He’s probably right. Still, he should put on more exciting fights, featuring guys who want to be stars, not necessarily champions.