More frequent live UFC cards will be the norm

Kevin Iole
More frequent live UFC cards will be the norm
More frequent live UFC cards will be the norm

For a minimum of eight hours on Wednesday, from late afternoon into the heart of prime time, Fox Sports 1 will essentially turn itself over to the UFC.

The UFC Fight Night Pre-Fight show begins at 4 p.m. ET, followed at 5 p.m. ET by the fight card itself. The card, which features a main event pitting Glover Teixeira against Ryan Bader, is slated for five hours, but as live cards often do, it could extend beyond its slot.

And then, when that is over, the debut of Season 18 of "The Ultimate Fighter," will air, with women's bantamweight champion and ratings draw Ronda Rousey coaching against rival Miesha Tate.

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That's going to test the staying power of the most devoted fight fan, and it's the third live fight card in eight days. On Aug. 28, UFC Fight Night 27 was held in Indianapolis. That served as a sort of barker reel for UFC 164, which was on Aug. 31.

And now that show leads into Wednesday's Teixeira-Bader/TUF doubleheader.

[Related: Glover Teixeira is UFC's latest 'it' fighter]

It's also going to become the norm, not the exception, UFC president Dana White insists.

The UFC has made phenomenal growth in the 12-plus years it has been owned by White and casino owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. But it is still in the building stages, White said.

It's getting so hectic, White can no longer make every card in person. He's built a command and control center in his Las Vegas office so that he can run a show from there. White will not be in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for the fight card tonight for a very simple reason.

"I haven't seen Lorenzo [the UFC CEO] for I don't know how long," White said. "We need to touch base and get together. We have so much [expletive] going – I can't even begin to tell you how crazy it is here – that we have to get together and talk periodically.

"I might promise a fighter something and say, 'OK, I'll do this, this, this and this for you.' But if I'm on a plane and it goes down, if the fighter goes to Lorenzo, he might not know anything about it. So we have to talk about what we've done, what we have going on and what we need to do."

The market seems saturated with content and, many have argued, too many live shows. The critics contend it dilutes the product and lessens interest.

[Related: Newest UFC champion out up to two months with knee injury]

But White disagrees strongly and is making bold plans to continue the company's expansion. There will be more fights in more countries in future years than ever before. There will occasionally be two fight cards in different places on the same night.

There will be plenty of stretches of three fight cards in eight nights, or back-to-back nights with cards.

Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, recently spent nearly $8 million to buy 24 acres of land in Las Vegas to build a new complex expected to be more than 250,000 square feet. Currently, Zuffa's 275 Las Vegas-based employees are housed in a series of buildings that cover a full city block near the Palace Station Resort, just west of the Strip.

The purchase, he said, is evidence of the company's belief in its future.

"I just laugh when I hear people say the sport has peaked," White said. "I don't know if you saw this, but Forbes came out with a blog the other day about PBR [Professional Bull Riders]. The guy from PBR [CEO Jim Haworth] texted me. That blog, all the numbers they had, were wrong. We actually smoke PBR's numbers. Because we don't give out our [financial] numbers, people don't understand and they don't get it.

"We're gearing up for big things. This thing is so far from being at its peak, it's crazy."

White specifically mentioned more live fights in places like England, China and throughout South America. He said the UFC will be putting on "a lot more shows," but declined to divulge details.

But the point is that the UFC is moving aggressively forward, despite the fact that the television ratings haven't been as consistently good since it left Spike at the end of 2011.

White attributes that to building MMA on Fox as well as the plethora of content now available, compared to the days on Spike.

"To truly grow these markets, and to see the kind of growth we've seen here [in the U.S.], you've got to have [live] fights," White said. "I guarantee you that back in the day, back in the '60s, maybe the '70s, there were people writing, 'Oh no, this thing isn't going to work. How do they expect to do this? How do they expect to do that?' There's always been this negative [expletive] by reporters about our business.

"We have been hearing, 'You can't,' from people since the day we bought this company. People have been writing about what we can't do and what we're not going to do and what we won't be able to do. We're the exact opposite. We sit in a room and jot down all the things we're going to do. And one thing about us, love us or hate us, we've pretty much delivered on everything we said we would."

[Watch: TUF Season 18 set to debut]

The important ingredient in all of White's grandiose plans is having enough quality fighters. White believes as the sport expands and kids see the possibilities in a career as an MMA fighter, they'll choose to try fighting rather than other sports.

White said he didn't want to divulge his vision of what the UFC will be like when it's finally built out, because "I don't want to deal with all of the [expletive]."

But be certain of one thing: If you think there are a lot of UFC fight cards now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

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