While it was once virtually impossible to locate legitimate mixed martial arts action, today’s MMA fan is blessed with considerable options. The sport once vilified as “human cockfighting” has gained considerable traction as commercially acceptable entertainment.
No better evidence of this progression is the dueling programming that took place over this past weekend. In what could arguable be labeled an act of “counter programming,” rival promotions Strikeforce and World Extreme Cagefighting both hosted live events this past Saturday, December 19th.
Strikeforce, the California based company, hosted “Strikeforce: Evolution” which was held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California and broadcasted on the Showtime network. Similarly, World Extreme Cagefighting, the baby brother of the UFC and fellow Zuffa, LLC owned entity, hosted “WEC 45: Cerrone vs. Ratcliff” which was held at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and broadcast on the Versus network.
The Strikeforce card was headlined by former middleweight champion Cung Lee who fell to Scott Smith and included a lightweight unification bout in which Gilbert Melendez defeated Josh Thomson. The event also served for the promotional debut of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.
The WEC card was headlined by Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone who defeated Ed “9mm” Ratcliff. The event also included a lightweight bout in which Anthony Njokuani defeated Chris Horodecki and a bantamweight bout in which Joseph Benavidez defeated Rani Yahya.
The result of the head to head match up between the promotions is best described as a draw. The Strikeforce card garnered 341,000 viewers while the WEC card garnered 330,000 viewers.
The Strikeforce numbers are typical for a Showtime card; however the WEC numbers reflect a 21 percent decline when compared to the two previous WEC events broadcasted on Versus. The former WEC cards, WEC 43, which featured Benson Henderson vs. Cerrone in a vacant light heavyweight title fight, and WEC 44, which featured then featherweight champion Mike Brown vs. Jose Aldo, drew 419,000 and 414,000 viewers respectively.
Given the increased popularity of Strikeforce and the WEC’s typical draw of between 400,000 and 500,000 viewers, it could be argued that both promotions underperformed in their most recent showings.
Although MMA fans are certainly reveling in the newfound abundance of MMA options, it does not appear to be in anyone interests for these promotions to cannibalize their own viewerships in an effort to outshine their competitors. Yes, MMA is growing in leaps and bounds, but there is still not enough of a committed fan base to support this type of over exposure.