The UFC will make its network television debut this Saturday, November 12, bringing MMA’s big show to the Fox channel with UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. The fight card will feature a heavyweight title fight between champion Cain Velasquez and challenger Junior dos Santos, as well as nine other quality preliminary card bouts. Despite having a reservoir of exciting fights to draw from, UFC president Dana White has stated emphatically that the UFC on Fox 1 broadcast will only feature the heavyweight title fight, regardless of if it lasts ten seconds or ten minutes.
This begs the question: why pit top lightweight contenders Clay Guida and Ben Henderson against one another on this card where far fewer people will witness the fight? Smooth and The Carpenter (add an s to that and you have an awesome name for an easy listening group, just saying) are fighting, presumably, to determine the next contender to the lightweight title. Unless the UFC decides to hold the spot open for Gilbert Melendez, who is on deck to defend his Strikeforce lightweight title against Jorge Masvidal this December, the winner of Guida vs. Henderson is the clear choice for the next number one contender.
One wonders if airing the fight on Facebook, the closest thing that the UFC has left to dark matches anymore, will make it difficult to market the eventual lightweight title fight between Frankie Edgar and either Guida or Henderson. It would be less an issue for Guida, who has been a mainstay in the division for some time, than Henderson, who just recently transferred over from the WEC and, though he’s looked nothing short of stellar in his two UFC appearances, he’s only made two UFC appearances. Speaking with CagePotato earlier today on the subject, Guida brushed the whole thing off, basically saying that, if the fight is good enough, people will see it. Whether the UFC replays it or the hardcore fans share it with their friends, people will see it.
Whether deciding only to air Velasquez vs. Dos Santos on Fox is fair or not, or good for future marketing, it’s what the UFC is doing. They made the choice because they’re looking at the big picture; UFC on Fox 1 is essentially a test run that will also act as a long commercial for their continuing presence on the network. Also, the broadcast will presumably be introducing scores of casual sports fans to mixed martial arts, with some pre-fight indoctrination to the sport clearly being necessary.
Guida vs. Henderson not being seen by the larger viewing public may not make much of an impact on marketing down the road, and it certainly won’t make Edgar vs. Guida/Henderson less exciting, but what happens if Velasquez vs. Dos Santos really doesn’t make it out of the first round? How many of those casual fans would stick around for twenty minutes of in-depth post-fight analysis and replays as opposed to another exciting fight? I’m no expert, but I’d assume that more eyes would remain glued to the set for the latter than the former.