Chael Sonnen is fighting Michael Bisping this weekend. I’m sure you know this, but do you care? I wrote at the end of 2011 that many experts in the sport were concerned about the UFC’s plan to run 34 live events in 2012. Add in another 6/8 from Strikeforce and it becomes an overwhelming amount of MMA to try and follow.
Sonnen and Bisping is the kind of fight we used to wait months for. Two trash talking guys at the top of their game would have had PPV gold written all over it. Those were the days before the UFC entered a big money seven year deal with FOX. When Mark Munoz (who was scheduled to fight Sonnen) got hurt, the UFC was in a jam to fill its co main event spot for UFC on FOX 2. Munoz got hurt with just 11 days to go until fight night, which didn’t make UFC match maker Joe Silva’s job any easier.
For the short term the UFC got lucky because Bisping was already training to fight Damian Maia on the same card. A couple of phone calls later the fans ended up with quite a surprise, a dream match-up between two of the most hated guys in the game.
The fact that Sonnen vs. Bisping is put on free TV in the same week a proposed PPV card from Montreal gets cancelled due to “scheduling conflicts” tells you how different life must be for Zuffa.
UFC 145 had been scheduled for March in Montreal, but was cancelled after the UFC could not put together a decent main event. It’s easy for me to say the UFC should have postponed a fight between Bisping and Sonnen, but there are other factors involved. With less than two weeks until fight night most guys are in shape and want to fight. Having everything put on hold for another eight weeks is asking a lot of both fighters. I get that.
Still, Sonnen has as much buzz around him as any guy in the game and it’s impossible for me to believe the UFC hype machine would not have been running at full power getting people hyped up to see which loudmouth would get his ass kicked. My pitch to both guys would be simple. You are going to make a lot more money headlining in Montreal than you will in Chicago. Take some time to rest and then get back after it. You are a fighter, this is what you do.
Would Bisping/Sonnen set PPV buy records? Maybe not, but I’d bet a few bucks it would end up in the top 5 for 2012 as well as selling out the Bell Center in Montreal.
Instead, UFC 145 was cancelled and Bisping and Sonnen find themselves in a supporting role to the main event of Phil Davis against Rashad Evans.
I don’t blame Dana White for being excited about getting a deal done with FOX. The promotion during the MLB playoffs as well as last week’s NFL games is priceless, plus the programming on Fuel and FX has been excellent for the first month.
It doesn’t change the fact that White and the UFC have backed themselves into a corner by signing with FOX. FOX is used to getting the best from all of the leagues they sign deals with and it’s no different with the UFC. That’s why when Munoz gets hurt; we the fans ultimately win by getting Sonnen vs. Bisping on free TV.
Here is a bigger problem. There is almost no excitement for this card and we are less than a week away. It feels like nobody cares if they see Rashad Evans try to move one step closer to his long awaited showdown with Jon Jones and with only 11 days notice, Bisping/Sonnen didn’t have enough time to develop into a “must see” fight. Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit is another insane fight and we are just 10 days away from that. Are you counting the days down and locking in plans with friends for that one or are you like many who say “If I don’t see this one, I will see the next one”?
Last Friday we saw some great fights for the debut of UFC on FX. These are usually the kind of fights where friends are calling and texting me talking about what we just saw. How many texts did you get on Friday? I got two, one of which was asking what time the fights started.
We haven’t even touched on dueling seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” beginning in March. I feel like I do when watching my four year old boys rip through Christmas presents not paying attention to what they have, instead they are more concerned with what is next.
It’s OK for the UFC to boast about all the great fights they are putting on, but if a lot of those fights are getting lost in the shuffle does it really matter? White’s made a ton of money for himself and his company by always staying a step ahead of everyone else and for that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. It just seems like the risk is starting to catch up with the reward.
follow me on twitter @jpdotseth