With the New Years now come and gone, many have already found out what Santa completed on their wish list and is starting, if not already completed, to compile their list of resolutions for 2013. Resolutions are usually made to correct the wrongs from the previous year or vowed changes to better one self. For the UFC, 2012 was an interesting year to say the least. While there were many positives for the UFC, there were also many low points (ahem, yes, UFC 151 is one of them). It is no secret that Dana White and the crew are looking for a huge 2013 to continue their growth in the sports world so here is my crack at the UFC’s 2013 resolutions.
1. Increase The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Viewership
It was April 9th, 2005, two relatively unknown fighters named Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar were set to fight each other in the finale of the first ever TUF series. The fight would go on to be a historical one. It was so significant that it is deemed to have saved the UFC altogether. Boy, have times changed, the 16th season of TUF just wrapped up in December and it could not have ended sooner. Even White called it the worst season of TUF ever and that is quite the statement from the big boss. From boring fights to awkward moments (did someone say bang?), it led to one of the worst seasons in terms of viewership.
Will 2013 be a turnaround year for TUF? Well, Dana has already taken a couple big steps towards that for the next season. First, he put two high profile coaches on the show. One being the youngest champ with an infinite skill set in Jon “Bones” Jones. The other is the biggest mouth in MMA in Chael Sonnen. Putting these two together should produce some interesting interactions and given the right situation, Chael is always good for at least a sound bite. Furthermore, White worked with Fox to move the series from Friday to Tuesday which makes much more sense for the demographic that they are targeting. Will this guarantee more viewers? Tough to say as only time will tell but the UFC has taken the necessary steps to achieve this resolution.
2. Building the Women’s Division
One of the biggest changes in the UFC for 2013 will be the addition of the women’s 135 lb division and the only reason why this is happening is because of Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey. White has not been shy in admitting this. While it is great to have a budding superstar and build a division around them, a fight needs two fighters in the cage and there isn’t exactly a surplus of high caliber 135 lb women contenders on the market.
Rousey is heavily favored to win her scheduled debut fight against Liz Carmouche and assuming she gets through that challenge, who does Rousey fight next? Sure, the UFC can give her rematches with Miesha Tate or Sarah Kaufman and they may be entertaining but it doesn’t grow the division. The rematches are too soon. To grow, the UFC needs to add more female fighters and develop them to be new strong contenders but that takes time. However, there is one free agent that can immediately be a challenge to Rousey. That woman is Cristiane Cyborg Santos and Dana knows it. He is going as far as offering Cyborg free diet consultations with weight cutting guru, Mike Dolce. If UFC can get Cyborg to join the 135 lb division, not only does it give them time to build up other contenders, it gives the fans the women’s super fight they want to see.
3. An Event in New York City (Finally!)
The UFC wants this so bad. Year after year, they work closely with the New York state officials to try to get MMA sanctioned and each year, they have fallen a little bit short. In fact, the UFC has already unofficially set a date for their first New York event to celebrate their 20th anniversary. With that said, you know the UFC will put on a big event (See #4 below).
In 2011, the UFC broke into Canada’s biggest market hosting a massive event at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. It shattered records selling out all 55,000 tickets for gate revenues exceeding $11 million. If 2013 is going to be the big year that the UFC is hoping for, then a New York event is just what the doctor ordered. New York is one of the biggest sporting markets and to be able to host an event at Madison Square Gardens alongside home teams like the Knicks, Yankees and Rangers would be massive. It may not break records for ticket sales or gate revenues but just getting into the New York market would do wonders for the growth of the sport.
4. Super Fights
Pick one: GSP vs Silva or Jones vs Silva. Whichever one, White wants it. Lorenzo wants it. And the fans want it. There is no doubt that both fights will draw massive numbers in terms of gate and PPV buy rates. White has mentioned many a times that one of these super fights will probably take place in a stadium event at Dallas, Toronto or Brazil. It is a bit of a stretch but it would be a pretty impressive debut if they found a way to make it work in New York.
In 2012, UFC suffered a lower than expected PPV buy rate from its events. Injuries certainly didn’t help but more on that later. One of aforementioned super fights is perfect to get all the casual fans back talking about the UFC. While the UFC giving us a small taste of a super fight in Aldo vs Edgar, they don’t carry the name recognition and hype as a Jones, Silva or GSP. Even though both GSP and Silva have recently put some cold water on a possible fight, a lot can change within the next 12 months. If the UFC can make it happen, it will be one of the most memorable years in MMA history.
5. Less Injuries
One of the biggest stories in 2012 was the amount of fighter injuries and how it affected the fight cards. Most evident was when a whole event (UFC 151) was cancelled for the first time ever. If you want to see how cards were affected in the first three quarters of 2012, check out my shameless plug here. Now, there isn’t much the UFC can do to reduce fighter injuries so this may be more of a wish rather than a resolution but the UFC may be better prepared for them in 2013.
With the expected closure of Strikeforce and influx of their top fighters and champions, it gives the UFC more replacement options when injuries do happen. Also, the cards should be more stacked so the overall quality of the card should be less affected if a fight is cancelled due to injury. However, at the end of the day, less injuries means less affected cards which equals less of a headache for the UFC and if there was one thing they could wish for, I think this would be it.