UFC 96 was a big success at the box office with over 17,000 in attendance and a $1.8 million gate but there was less media than ever in place at the event. How can that be when UFC seems to be growing with each event?
There was plenty of elbow room cageside at Nationwide Arena with seating configured for 32 folks on the floor instead the customary 40-46 we've seen at past events. There were also plenty of seats to go around during the UFC 96 postfight press conference. UFC president Dana White actually snapped (UFC 96 vlog 5:56 mark) at the prefight presser. He waited for questions and then had to actually ask the media in attendance to speak up.
The local television stations show up to all these events but fewer and fewer newspapers and radio stations are in attendance. WatchKalibRun points out that the Columbus Dispatch basically ignored the event in favor of The Arnold Classic, the state wrestling tournament and Ohio State hoops. That's not a shocker. There is not one single newspaper nationally that travels a reporter to UFC events and when the Octagon comes to town the print coverage is often sporadic.
The media crew that consistently covers the UFC around the country can be counted on two hands. In fact, the UFC has lost at least one good reporter who covered the sport in Mike Chiappetta formerly with NBC.com and it looks like Showdown Joe Ferraro from Rogers SportsNet is only attending roughly 1-of-4 shows.
WKR also questioned the sportsradio coverage:
Take for instance the local ESPN radio station, 1460 The Fan. They did have a UFC recap show, called Ground-N-Pound, however I was informed this past week that the show was canceled due to sponsor issues. If you are a local radio station, how do you lose your MMA show right before the UFC comes to your city?
Sound logical, right? That's if logic ruled in these economic times. This should've been a huge event for The Fan but without sponsors/advertisers nothing flies on radio now. It's hard to find a sportsradio station anywhere that hasn't downsized its on-air staff. The bodies aren't there and sponsorship is tough to come by for MMA programming when it's still a fringe sport. Hardcores may not like to hear this but they're also not out trying to sell ad time in this depression. This year will test the power of the web when it comes to pushing MMA, because it's going to get a lot worse before things get better with newspapers and radio.