Showdown Joe: Are UFC Events Too Long?

As a long time fan, follower and member of the MMA media, few things in life put a smile on my face like watching mixed martial arts action. Even better, being at a UFC event live, in person, but over the weekend, it hit me: despite my love and passion for the sport, I wondered again if UFC events are simply too long?

I started wondering a whole bunch of things. Do fans feel the same way? Do other media members believe this as well? Do parties within the UFC (despite what the boss may say) look at fight day and dread the time between the opening bout and main event?

From a media perspective, I’m not overly concerned because I equate fight day to an 8 and a half hour shift. The first bout of a UFC pay per view event usually takes place around 6:30 pm EST with the main event concluding after 1 am, and the post-fight presser concluding just before 3am EST the following morning.

I’ve never looked at it as the price you pay for doing this job. I enjoy every minute of it, but when I compared the length of UFC events (for fans and media) versus the four major sports in North America, I saw a massive difference.

On average, the duration of an NHL game is 2 hours and 20 minutes. An NBA game, 2 hours and 24 minutes while an MLB game can go 2 hours and 56 minutes. As for the NFL, the average game from start to finish is around 3 hours and 7 minutes.

By contrast, the average UFC event, from the very first preliminary bout to the end of the main event, is 6 hours and 40 minutes.

One can make the argument that UFC fans get more bang for their buck when compared to the other sports, but my goodness, it’s still a long time. But it’s all relative when you consider the average fan only gets to see the UFC live in their city once a year, maybe once every two years if their market is not considered a big one by the organization.

For the hardcore fan, these near 7 hour UFC events are almost a weekly occurrence. One event, one sitting, nearly a third of your day. By contrast, the other sports may be shorter in viewing time for fans, but they are spread out during the week, maybe two three times a week for the NHL and NBA, but six times a week for the MLB.

From the media perspective, I thought it was quite a challenge “working” these 8.5 hour shifts on UFC fight night, but when I spoke with fellow Fightful Contributor Mike Straw, who also dabbles in covering the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, my theory didn’t hold much substance.

On game night, Straw shows up at the arena around 4pm EST. The game commences just after 7pm, with he and his fellow cohorts working all the way up until 12 am EST, sometimes later if the game goes into overtime or they have to wait long for post-game interviews.

Mike does this two to three times a week while us guys in the UFC circle do it once a week. As puzzling as it sounds to me, I’m conflicted more for UFC fans and the UFC product than I am for some of us in the media.

With the television commitment the UFC has with FOX, to provide them with exclusive live content in exchange for the money paid by the network for the broadcasting rights, there is no way UFC events will be getting any shorter. And with the promotion generating revenue from UFC Fight Pass, part of which includes putting bouts on their as well, you can see the future is not about to change.

In my little perfect world, I would have no issues if the UFC had a mid-week fight night (4 bouts) on FOX, every week, building their stars while also having one pay per view a month (5 bouts). That would likely mean two hours of fights every week for the fan, and every 4 to 5 weeks, a big pay per view event, with higher quality bouts, lasting about 4 hours or so.

Of course, there’s also the financial model that dictates profit and loss for the business, so it would need to generate for more revenue than the expenses spent to put these shows on.

There are many other factors to consider to pull off such a change, like what day of the week would this hypothetical fight night be, ensuring you don’t pick a night where you will be competing vs something big from the other four sports, and so much more.

While I’m just labeled as a media guy, I’m still a fan. And I often wonder what other fans and media guys think about this. I’d personally enjoy hearing your thoughts. Feel free to hit me up on Facebook, Twitter or on Instagram: @ShowdownJoe

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