Imagine this scenario for just a minute.
There are several restaurants in town, but only one that serves quality food--White’s Steakhouse and Seafood. Sure, the price of this establishment is directly correlated with the incomparable product, but that does not deter you from your loyal patronage. Like anyone, you’re careful with your money and where you choose to spend your time. White’s is your place of choice. You walk in, sit down and tell the waiter you’d like a porterhouse cooked medium and a lobster tail. You’re salivating and ready to down the meal you’ve thought about all week.
Fifteen minutes pass and the waiter comes empty-handed. Instead, he offers an apology because he was unaware that they were out of the porterhouse. He offers you a ribeye instead, but states there is no change in price. You are disappointed but accept the change. More time passes and the waiter once again returns without food. He explains that the last ribeye was sold and the only option was a sirloin, again at the same price. You are annoyed but acquiesce. Again, the waiter returns to tell you they are out of sirloins and all of the lobster tail has gone bad. His best option is a hamburger and imitation crab meat. Disgusted, but famished, you have to make a decision.
What do you do? As an MMA fan, you just sit and accept it. The UFC has recently had a terrible string of injuries. They are well aware of the issue, but are searching in the dark for a safe step forward. Their answer is similar to the waiter’s. Instead of Jon Jones and Dan Henderson, we’ll give you Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. Nope, we cannot do that. Instead, we’ll give you Jon Jones and a rematch that nobody wanted. No, wait, we’ll give you Jon Jones against a weathered middleweight whose last relevant win at light heavyweight was in 2004 against Randy Couture. At this point, we’re all so starved for MMA that we’ll take it regardless of the matchup. But, the next event had better be a barnburner. It’s Jose Aldo vs. Erik Koch! No, Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar. No, that won’t work. Let’s have Anderson Silva fight Stephan Bonnar!
The pattern repeats itself, but what is the choice for the governing body of the UFC? They must continue to trudge through the mess ahead of them and offer the best option possible. Hence, the hamburger in place of the porterhouse.
An immense amount of attention is focused on the blame issue. Are fighters laid up due to fighter insurance? Dana White surely does not think so. Are fighters injured due to over-training both themselves and their partners? While White thinks fighters should fight for themselves and let the trainers do the training, what can he really say or do?
There is also the notion that the UFC is churning out too many events dependent primarily on a main event. Is Zuffa supposed to rely heavily on mediocre cards and put together an annual super card that could fall apart just as easily? Or should they play the matchmaking game similar to their casino roots? Odds tell them the more big fights they create, the more that are likely to come to fruition.
Since the main concern of the UFC is the fans, who or what shoulders the blame is of no significance when you aim your remote to the receiver to purchase the pay-per-view. The product and what it has to offer is what makes the decision. As White has stated time and again, the product sells itself. Except, the replacement product takes more than a little advertising.
Recall the restaurant scenario. Consider the customer that knows of the establishment, but only goes from time to time. A few months ago he had heard about a new special running this Saturday. He marked it on his calendar and shows up on the set date. However, he never saw an ad showing that the all-you-can-eat filet mignon had been replaced with veggie burgers. Much is the same with the casual MMA fan.
A few weeks ago these people were desperately trying to get refunds for plane tickets and hotel reservations. The rest of the MMA world was scrambling to fill their previously booked Saturday night. If even a fraction of these people decide to order the pay-per-view this Saturday night, what’s the status of their fandom when the main event is a Light Heavyweight championship mismatch? Or next month when they find out the Featherweight championship match has been replaced with a Light Heavyweight laugher?
Unlike their fighters, the UFC can sustain blow after blow to the gut without faltering. The recent barrage has not even backed the fight giants back a step, but hitting them in the wallet could send them to the canvas. A week before UFC 152 and a search on Ticketmaster shows that plenty of seats in each level are still available.This brings us back to White’s Steakhouse and our decision. Sure, there are other places you can spend your money (Strikeforce, Bellator, etc.), but you know where you are going to get your best deal. A hamburger prepared by White’s will taste better than any delicacy you’re likely to find in any other establishment. And that’s why you’ll keep coming back. And that’s why a bout between an aging middleweight and the best fighter the UFC has to offer will be the focus of your Saturday night.