I caught a few minutes of the UFC prelims last night and the thrill is gone, which breaks my heart.
The move to FX/Fox from Spike TV has been terrible in my opinion, and it is not just a case of my failure to let go of the familiar and embrace the new (sorry, Zuffa, my analysis will support this).
First, there is the loss of continuity in between pay-per-view fight events: I used to flip on Spike TV and on many weeknights I could catch all kinds of UFC programming (mostly re-aired fights), which became a drug that I came to crave. This no longer happens, and the sport has faded from my mind — the very opposite of what the UFC hoped to achieve through its grand vision of going mainstream through Fox television. If UFC programming is getting significant airplay on the FX channel, I don’t know about it and have not seen it.
Second, the broadcast made frequent use of the musical jingle from Fox’s NFL football broadcasts instead of the heavy metal music on which the sport was built. I tried to explain in fairly sophisticated terms why this choice was particularly devastating to the UFC’s goals in an essay called UFC on FX — Very rough, but I’m still a fan. I will make a simpler argument here: the NFL music accompanies a day-time sport and has a light energy, and is therefore totally incongruous and inappropriate in a combat sport that always takes place at night and involves a darker, more personalized angry aggression. A happy-sounding UFC broadcast is a disaster for the viewer.
Third, the normally solid pair of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan was undermined by Rogan’s forced screaming into his microphone instead of just talking with high energy. Rogan and Dana White normally do this kind of faux-screaming over the cacaphony of loud music pounding the arena in between fights, but last night, there was no music to scream over. Furthermore, Mike Goldberg had no trouble hearing himself or Rogan, making Rogan’s shrill performance appear completely contrived (to such a degree that I did not absorb anything he was saying — all I could think of was “Why is he screaming when his partner is able to speak in normal tone?”).
Finally, the main fight of the night featured two legends of the sport who each peaked about five years ago. I couldn’t believe that the UFC would build a PPV event around such a fight and it only cemented a sick feeling that I have about it all, which is that the thrill is gone.
Dana, time to adjust, and please don’t wait.