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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The UFC has dedicated a lot of time and energy over the last year to building their brand and the sport within the country of Brazil, and it's been for good reason. Though the events in the country haven't done much for North American audiences as a whole, the sport has caught on like wildfire in Brazil, and they now have a massive fanbase to pull from comparatively speaking.
The first season of The Ultimate Fighter in the country brought the UFC huge numbers on television, and indeed, the growing popularity of the sport is seeing the Brazilian fans embrace it like no other market yet has.
"Brazil is quickly becoming the No. 1 market for the UFC when it comes to fan support," said UFC executive Marshall Zelaznik this week in an interview with MMAJunkie.com. "You're talking about 10 million people watching each week. We're No. 1 in the timeslot. The AB demographic is the most upscale demographic, and we're the highest-rated reality show in Brazil (in that demographic)."
"When you start looking at the data, you could almost lump the U.S., Canada and the U.K. together, and it wouldn't be as many fans as there are here in Brazil. The country has adopted the sport."
It's no surprise, then, that another "Ultimate Fighter" season will be headed to the country, with a January 2013 filming date being currently targeted.
"We do anticipate another season," Zelaznik said. "It's certain that we'll do it. We don't have coaches identified or weight classes yet. You can expect that 'The Ultimate Fighter' season will come back, and we'll do more tryouts. The timing of that is probably just like this season, so we'll start filming around January and be on air in March."
One of the issues with this season for fans outside of Brazil is the fact that it wasn't available widely on television. Indeed, Fuel TV is just now beginning to air the season, despite its conclusion coming Saturday night on pay-per-view at UFC 147. However, they did have decent viewership online through UFC.com for the program, and it was very much a success in Brazil itself.
"We did, on average, over 100,000 views on 'The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil' online. It was a massive, massive success. People are curious. They're interested. The Brazilians are pretty amazing fighters, and people want to see them... I think for this market, it was a huge success. I think there may not have been the reality or drama that people may have been expecting. That's been a comment I've heard, but I think what this did – much like the first version in the U.S. – was it represented the sport in the best way possible."
"Fighters were respectful. They took it seriously. It really demonstrated how professional they were and how dedicated they were. We're still building this sport, so that stuff is really, really important so that people can see who these guys are. I think it was a homerun success for us."
Penick's Analysis: It's great for the UFC business wise that they have another major market that is into the sport in a big way, and they'll need to keep bringing them major events to continue to fuel that fanbase. However, where they start losing people in their home base in North America is a card like tomorrow's UFC 147 event. It's an Ultimate Fighter Finale card for all intents and purposes, and they're charging fans in North America to watch that when a massive majority of their fanbase in the U.S. and Canada haven't seen one second of the Brazilian reality show. It was set as a pay-per-view when they wanted to book Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II, and that would have been perfectly acceptable; however, as soon as they had to move it out of a stadium and the card turned into an FX-level event, there was no salvaging it on pay-per-view, and they're easily going to get the lowest marks they've gotten on pay-per-view in ages for Saturday night's card.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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