UFC Promotion is The Same Old Song & Dance – Doomed to Failure
Posted by Robert Winfree on 05.02.2014
The UFC has made a habit of recycling images, soundbites and themes for its promotional material. 411's Robert Winfree takes a look at why it's a process doomed to failure!
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To those loyal listeners of the 411 Ground and Pound radio show, you've heard some of my complaints with the UFC's marketing. Today I want to go a little more in depth about what I consider their short comings. My biggest complaint is the cut and paste nature of the UFC commercials. Any given UFC promotional commercial will contain knockout blows in highlight fashion, likely some kind of yellow wash at the point of impact, Mike Goldberg excitedly saying the name of first one fighter, than the other, followed by what, if anything, the two men will be fighting for. This style of promotion isn't just highly repetitive, it is frequently incredibly inaccurate. Consider this promotional work for UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson.
In addition to being functionally the same as almost every other UFC commercial, this one also leads you to believe that the top two fights feature dynamic knockout artists. If anyone was sold based on this commercial, they were likely disappointed. UFC 161 featured a grand total of two finishes in eleven fights, neither of which came from the top two fights. This material tries to paint Rashad Evans as a dangerous striker, in reality Evans has finished just two opponents since 2008, Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen. That isn't a knock on Evans, just a fact. Evans is a fine fighter, he power in his punches, a good double leg takedown, and is one of the better athletes in the division. Those are all selling points for the former champion, and rather than focus on those the UFC would rather replay his knockouts of Chuck Liddell and Sean Salmon as though they happened recently. If you listen to the commercial for the upcoming UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi you'll hear the promotion again hype Francis Carmont as a "dangerous striker" as he prepares to take on CB Dollaway, who the UFC will be quick to tell you finished his last fight with strikes. I've seen Francis Carmont fight my friends, and he is not a dangerous striker. He is a big, strong middleweight who employs the patent pending Tristar gym method of score a takedown win a round. CB Dollaway has fought in the UFC thirteen times, and his TKO victory over Cezar Ferreira in his last fight was just the second time in that entire stretch he'd finished a his opponent with strikes. What we're more likely to get out of that fight is a lot of clinching, circling, and maybe some takedowns. Anyone who watches that fight with the expectation of two power striking finish machines going at it will, more than likely, be sorely disappointed. That doesn't mean the two of them can't have an exciting fight, it just means that if you as a fan are allowing the UFC to manage your expectations for you, you're in for either a long road in the world of MMA, or a short one because you quit watching.
The sad thing is, the UFC has proven in the past they can produce a good commercial that gets the fans excited. One of my favorite commercials they've ever done is as follows.
Look at all the things this does right. It introduces you to Jake Shields and all of his accomplishments, it reminds you of all the great things that Georges St-Pierre is capable of, and sets up their fight for the title. There is no talk of GSP being a knockout machine, Jake Shields isn't a "killer", it's the two best guys in the world at that time squaring off for the biggest prize in the sport. There's no hyperbole, no infamous "Roganisms", no promises or implications of things likely beyond the abilities of the fighters, just a beautifully simple bit of promotion telling me who's fighting and why I should care. That leads into my other major gripe with the UFC's promotional material, 50/50 booking if you don't mind the professional wrestling parlance. The UFC has spent a couple of years now telling me that everyone can beat Jon Jones, be it punching power, training affiliation, or physical similarities. If you believe the UFC, Glover Teixeira had the best possible chance to beat Jones because Jones was in a tough fight his last time out, trains with Chuck Liddell, and has more power in his punches than a stick of dynamite. UFC President Dana White was incensed by the Las Vegas odds that placed Teixeira as a five-to-one underdog. Well, Jones went out and proved those odds to be more or less accurate, pretty much every major outlet predicted a Jones victory, everyone outside of Teixeira's friends and family figured Jones would win. If anyone and everyone has a great shot to beat Jon Jones then it doesn't mean anything if/when it happens. The UFC has yet to realize that using a formula of "tune in to see Fighter A demolish Fighter B" is a viable marketing and promotional tool. It seems to be working OK for Floyd Mayweather. The UFC even went that route before, when Anderson Silva fought Stephan Bonnar.
The UFC has proven able to step out of their typical template in the past, it's just a shame they don't do it more often, because constantly promising "wars" or highlighting possibly anomalous knockouts is doing nothing but contributing to an unrealistic expectation from the fans, and paying customers will only be burned so many times before they quit paying.