UFC held its latest Fox offering this past Saturday, delivering a card that would have been pay-per-view worthy eight years ago when 300,000 buys was the baseline. Instead, it did the lowest ratings in Fox history, which says more about where the sport is at now than the quality of card.
Noticeably absent from the event was UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Before Fox cards became an afterthought, Johnson was the King of Fox early in the partnership, headlining three out of four events in 2013.
I say noticeably absent because Johnson fights on pay-per-view this Saturday at UFC 227. Mighty Mouse once again takes his place in the co-main event of the show, defending his flyweight title against Henry Cejudo. At least a real title fight headlines above him this time.
I also say noticeably absent because Johnson is coming off one of the most amazing finishes fight fans have ever witnessed. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, because God knows the UFC has not shown this clip nearly enough, here's what Johnson did the last time he stepped foot in the cage.
Yes, I had to use some random's YouTube clip because there is no video of Johnson's armbar on the official UFC page. You can watch DJ talk about the submission victory in his UFC 216 post-fight interview, but the actual submission has been cut out and replaced by his celebration.
If you watched UFC on Fox 30, you saw plenty of promotion for UFC 227. 95 percent of it was focused on TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt. They got the awkward pre-taped interview and they were the focus of the promotional videos. Here are the two television spots you'll see all week leading up to Saturday's contest:
Hey look. A two second clip of Johnson, which includes the suplex to armbar combo. If you blinked during UFC on Fox, you missed this. They played this video just once during the Fox broadcast. Actually, the video was shown twice. But on the second clip, the Johnson-Cejudo portion was cut out completely. Don't worry, they have a shorter promo that shows the flyweight champion a little more love.
Big strike? Joe Rogan yelling? Bad rock music? No, you have not traveled back in time ten years. This is still the format they're using to sell pay-per-views in 2018. Not a single clip of the suplex-armbar because MMA fans don't care about submissions, they just want to see guys getting punched in the face.
Dana White has attempted to justify his lack of promoting Johnson by blaming Johnson himself. After all, Dana put him on Fox four times. He built an entire season of <i>The Ultimate Fighter</i> around him. He put him in Metro PCS commercials. And he offered him a super fight with Dillashaw. It's not Dana's fault Johnson has failed miserably on pay-per-view and his division is so worthless that he's threatened to scrap it. He's just the promoter.
How about his opponents? It's easy to forget that no one bought shows headlined by Anderson Silva until Chael Sonnen came along. Maybe it's his opponent's fault that DJ isn't a household name after 11 consecutive title defenses.
Here's a look at Johnson's opponents and the platform they were on two fights prior to their title tilt.
Ray Borg - middle of FoxSports 1 event, PPV opener
Wilson Reis - FoxSports 2 prelim opener, co-main event of FS1 PPV prelims
Tim Elliott - Titan FC, full season of <i>TUF</i>
Henry Cejudo - main event of FX PPV prelims, middle of FS1 event
John Dodson - middle of FS1 event, main event of FS1 PPV prelims
Kyoji Hiroguchi - opener of Fight Pass event main card, second bout on PPV
Chris Cariaso - co-main event of FS1 PPV prelims, opener of FS1 event
Ali Bagautinov - PPV opener, second bout on PPV
Joseph Benavidez - middle of FX UFC on Fox prelims, middle of FS1 event
John Moraga - opener on Fuel TV UFC on Fox prelims, opener on Facebook PPV prelims
John Dodson - co-main event on Fuel TV UFC on Fox prelims, second fight on FX main card
Not a single PPV or television co-main event or main event in sight. Johnson faced guys the UFC didn't deem as important, then wondered why no one paid, or even changed the channel, to watch them fight. It's unfair to blame the opponents for Johnson's viewership shortcomings as they were never really given a chance.
And remember, it's not Dana's fault that they weren't given a chance. He could have spent $100 million on advertising each fight and no one would have tuned in.
That only leaves one man.
Johnson should have done more to help himself. Just being the greatest fighter in division history, the most skilled fighter in history, one of the four most accomplished fighters in company history, and one of the five greatest fighters of all-time simply isn't enough.
He should have cut promos with expletives, studied Ric Flair tapes games, gotten in trouble with the law. That's what the people want to see. No one wants to watch other people play video games and have civilized conversations.
Demetrious Johnson fights this weekend. But don't bother tuning in. You're not missing anything special.
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