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By: Shawn Ennis, MMATorch Senior Columnist
The main storyline coming out of UFC on FX 8 was of course the victory by, and subsequent examination of, Vitor Belfort. His and others' TRT usage will continue to come under the microscope, especially as those who are using TRT continue to be successful at an age that normally signifies the beginning of the end for fighters. But one story, while certainly more innocuous than that of what amounts to legal steroid use, flies under the radar. I want to talk about the message the UFC sends with its bout order.
As is the case with other UFC cards, the first few fights of the evening took place on Facebook this past Saturday night. And as has been the case before, the lighter weight fighters found themselves in web-exclusive fights. While the fights are accessible, the viewership they attract is positively miniscule compared to the eyeballs that end up seeing fights over television airwaves. It would seem sensible, therefore, to put fights online that perhaps appeal to the live crowd but don't hold a ton of significance otherwise.
That wasn't the case on Saturday night. John Lineker and Jussier da Silva are two top ten flyweights, and both found themselves, in separate bouts, fighting on the smallest stage available to the UFC. On the surface, and for that matter as one digs deeper, it is difficult to see the reasoning for this.
One could make the argument that the flyweights don't attract a lot of viewers, so why bother showcasing them? The problem with this reasoning is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. What I mean by that is if the flyweights aren't showcased because they don't attract viewers, then they will not attract viewers because they aren't showcased. The only way anyone will know who these guys are (and the division is still pretty shallow, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that at least Lineker is a win or two away from a title shot) is if they are shown to a wider audience.
Would it really have made a difference to anyone if Rafael Natal fought Joao Zeferino on the Fuel prelims and Fabio Maldonado fought Roger Hollett online? Those two fights meant absolutely nothing to their respective divisions, and a fight like Lineker-Gashimov deserved to be on the main card, or at least televised.
The whole situation has to make one wonder why the UFC started the division in the first place if they aren't going to highlight top ten fighters. The narrative is that they need more fighters to fill out cards, and that's all well and good. But the number of fighters in the UFC's flyweight division right now is very small, and if most of their fights aren't even being seen outside of the title fights, what's the point? Sure, the gold is an automatic main event for a card, but if the title means nothing because no one knows the fighters, then the main event is diminished.
And as far as filling out cards, do we really need to have twelve fights in an event? If you're using the untelevised prelims as a proving ground for younger, newer fighters and giving them incentive to win in exciting fashion to make their way on to the main card or televised prelims, that sounds like maximizing your resources. But if you're using the fights that very few people see in order to actually tell you what's going to happen at the top of one of your divisions, that seems like a promotion undercutting itself for no good reason.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
STAFF COLUMNISTS: Shawn Ennis - Jason Amadi
Frank Hyden - Rich Hansen
Chris Park - Matt Pelkey
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