Thursday, August 9, 2012

UFC 150 Preview

UFC 144 was highlighted by a fight for the UFC Lightweight title between reigning champion Frankie Edgar and Benson “Smooth” Henderson.  In a fight that won “Fight of the Night”, Henderson edged out Edger in a unanimous decision that could have gone in favor of either fighter.  Tomorrow is UFC 150 and the rematch between Edgar and Henderson except this time Henderson comes in holding the belt. 

Benson Henderson
Similar to UFC 144, UFC 150 will also boast a solid main card overall in addition to one of the biggest fights of the year.  Before Edgar and Henderson square off, we will see a battle between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Melvin Guillard.  We will also see Jake Shields take on Ed Herman, while Yushin Okami will also see some action on the UFC 150 main fight card.
Donald Cerrone
UFC 150 will be held in Denver, CO in the Pepsi Center.  It will be a big change from the first fight between Edgar and Henderson when they fought in Saitama, Japan.  The crowd in Japan was around 20,000; a good showing for the UFC’s first appearance back in the country in almost 12 years (UFC 29 in 2000).  The Pepsi Center’s capacity is somewhere in the 20,000 range for the event that should be sold out by the time of fight night.
Pepsi Center UFC 150 set-up
Ticket prices for UFC 144 in Japan were relatively modest compared to similar fights in the United States.  Large UFC events in the States typically see minimum ticket prices in the $100 range while the tickets in Japan started around $70.  It is important to remember though that the UFC’s gate revenues are usually based more on venue size than anything.  The UFC has seen high enough demand to sell out almost all venues that they hold events in so venue capacity is a big factor.  However, the UFC is very selective in the venues that they hold events in.  High capacity arenas are not used too often by the UFC.

One of the biggest factors of success for the UFC main events is the Pay-Per-View buys.  UFC 144 was rather successful in terms of PPV buys with an estimated 375,000.  The rematch between Edgar and Henderson tomorrow should find its way to around that number although it will be a tough number to beat. 

Every time I watch a UFC event, I always marvel at the way sponsors are wrapped into the event.  When you look at the octagon, one of the first things that jump out to you is the sponsor logos on it.  It looks like the octagon was literally built for advertising.  Major companies like Anheuser-Busch and Harley Davidson seem to have found a place in the UFC.  Look for both of them to have a major presence around the ring tomorrow night.  Major movies like John Carter and Your Highness have found good sponsorship engagement with UFC events as well.  Also as controversial as the Armed Forces have been of late with their pulling of sponsors, they have stayed true to the UFC.  Could it be the passionate fan base and a better price than NASCAR?  I don’t think you can ignore it.
With the UFC growing (although I believe that the growth within the United States has leveled off a bit and will continue to until New York is a sanctioned state), I wonder how the fans react to all of the advertising.  In this case, I think about NASCAR.  Fans of both the UFC and NASCAR are used all of the ads and are passionate about their brands.  Are UFC fans as brand loyal as NASCAR fans?  I think only time will tell, but I do think that they can move into that territory at some point.  The UFC’s push to have bigger free events will certainly help their case on the advertising front. 

If you happen to catch the fight, you will also see some of the best social media integration in any sport.  UFC President Dana White has made it a point to have fighters reach out to fans in innovative and unique ways.  The social media strategy is not all to credit for UFC’s growth, but it is certainly helping a great deal.  If you tune in, be sure to take notice of how they work social media into their production of the event.

UFC 150 is sure to be a huge event.  For the top three fights I’ll take Shields to (barely) beat out Herman, Cerrone to out brawl the brawler Guillard, and… (get your Bruce Buffer voice ready) STILL THE UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD… BENSON… SMOOTH… HENDERSON!!!

We will see all the action unfold tomorrow night with preliminary rounds split between Facebook and FX and the UFC 150 main card on PPV.  

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