With UFC 211 on the horizon, MMA fans have a pay-per-view to be excited about for the first time in 2017. On paper, UFC 2011 is stacked with potential great fights. If the card sells well on pay-per-view, it will be a callback to the UFC’s old model.
In the post-Conor McGregor/Ronda Rousey era, it would be a triumph of sorts if the UFC can provide a successful card without any megastars. From a pay-per-view perspective, 2016 was a seminal year for the UFC. The promotion was able to earn 1,000,000 buys five different times.
While those are numbers that UFC officials could hang their hat on, four of those pay-per-views were headlined by either Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey, while the other (UFC 200) was loaded with potential headliners, including former UFC Heavyweight Champion and crossover star Brock Lesnar. At present time, McGregor is focused on boxing, Rousey is presumed retired, and Lesnar is officially retired after a USADA violation.
With all the given challenges, it is a breath of fresh air that the UFC has finally replenished their shelves with the inventory of fights available for UFC 211.
Now, to be clear, it is unlikely that UFC 211 will reach the 1,000,000-buy milestone, but considering the projected poor pay-per-view performances thus far in 2017, UFC 211 could very well be the shinning gem of the calendar year.
Prior to the age of the supernova fighter, the UFC once sold a glut of their cards in the same vein that UFC 211 is being sold. Stipe Miocic, Junior Dos Santos, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Demian Maia, and Frankie Edgar are all great fighters who have a degree of stardom, but not a single one of those UFC 211 fighters would be considered a standalone pay-per-view headliner.
However, in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
This type of booking is reminiscent of cards like UFC 92, UFC 101, and UFC 113. These cards featured very high profile fighters, but they were not headlined by mega-stars. Nonetheless, these events did big business. The stars were a part of the equation, but the depth of these cards also played a role in their success.
UFC 211 is cut from the same cloth of these prior mildly successful cards, but the question remains: Are UFC fans now conditioned to only buy pay-per-views based on a single name on the marquee For the UFC’s sake, they are hoping their audience will purchase a card based on the composite of quality fight. It might seem like a lifetime ago, but recent major UFC stars were bore out of cards like UFC 211.
Recall that Georges St. Pierre was a respected star and dominant champion prior to being a co-headliner at UFC 100, but after this historic card, GSP was a consistently reliable draw for the UFC.
UFC 211 has the potential to launch Stipe Miocic, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Jorge Masvidal, and Yair Rodríguez into the next level of respective stardom. This is a method of star making that the UFC has successfully used in the past, only time will tell if this model is still relevant.
ALL THE NATE TAKES…
How big of a star is Nate Diaz? It is a question that we may not get an answer to in the near future.
Regardless of how big of a draw Diaz is away from Conor McGregor, it is explicitly obvious that his public statements move the needle within the MMA bubble. His recent appearance on a special edition of “The MMA Hour” got everyone, including UFC president Dana White talking.
Reactions from within the MMA-media ranks have been interesting and insightful.
Here are three worthwhile reads on the current Nate Diaz situation.
•“On Nate Diaz and the ‘Allegory of the Cafeteria’” by Ben Fowlkes
•“Nate Diaz is fully realized, motherf*cker — even if the UFC doesn’t realize it” by Chuck Mindenhall
•“NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU BUT YOU (AND OTHER MODERN OCTAGON TIPS)” by Jordan Breen
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: Some Suggestions for a UFC-Twitter partnership