Quality over quantity is a hotly contested debate in any business. A great example is Microsoft versus Apple.

From the ’90’s into the 2000’s, Microsoft blew up much faster than Apple, largely because Microsoft’s business model was built on a much more open architecture than Apple’s. Microsoft created a less quality product, but more of it, as is illustrated by the tremendous wealth of Bill Gates.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, while amassing a great deal of wealth, created a higher quality product, but with much tighter parameters. Jobs built a company with an almost cult-like following of less users, which is reflected by his much lesser wealth than his rival, Gates.

So, how does this translate in the land of MMA promotions?

Obviously, UFC is the marquee MMA promotion. It’s the biggest organization with the biggest and best fighters, sponsors, media outlets and brand recognition. With that said, the UFC also, most importantly, put on the most shows a year.

However, as big as the UFC is, it doesn’t necessarily always have the best overall cards, which has been another hot subject of debate lately. Unfortunately for fans, this all came screaming forward with the cancellation of UFC 151 a few months ago.

So, what is the best mix of quality and quantity?

In 2012, Invicta FC, the new all-women’s MMA promotion did exactly the opposite of the UFC. Instead of having thirty-one events, as the UFC will, the upstart promotion put on four shows.

To be fair, the UFC has been around a lot longer, is a much more mature company, and has more weight classes with a greater depth of talent. But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to learn—or re-learn, for that matter.

The Invicta FC cards that happened in 2012 were exciting from the first bell to the last. If one of the fights fell off the card due to injury or other unforeseen circumstances, it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The management of Invicta, led by CEO Shannon Knapp, has done a great job of stacking the cards with the best-of-the-best of women MMA fighters, minus a few major stars who were tied up in Strikeforce.

At the end of the day, Invicta has proven something that the smaller all-male or co-ed promotions have not been able to prove.

Bellator, Strikeforce, RFA, MFC, Titan and all of the other promotions haven’t been able to really reflect what the difference is between the UFC and Invicta, because of their shallow stables of fighters. While these other promotions have put on some great cards with some of the world’s best, none of them have nearly the depth that the UFC or Invicta have, so it’s hard to compare. Between the two, the UFC and Invicta have most of the great male and female fighters, respectively, which is why they are easier to compare.

The UFC would never be able to get away with four fights per year, obviously. Not only do the fans want the most UFC they can get, but the deal with Fox Networks, the sponsorship, and the fight camps dictate that there be a lot of fights every year. This is no surprise, as quick as the sport is growing, and it really reflects one of the growing pains of the organization.

The Dan Henderson injury, which ultimately resulted in the first UFC event cancellation ever, should not have had as big an impact as it did. Even though Jon Jones turned down a short-notice replacement in Chael Sonnen, the card should have been able to carry itself without that fight.

There are many examples to point to that one could argue one way or the other, but when it comes down to it, the UFC has way too many top-notch fighters to put on cards that can hold their own, even with a sudden loss of the main event.

In the past, most UFC events, like the recent UFC 154, had two major fights at the top of the bill. Had Georges St-Pierre or Carlos Condit suffered a last-minute injury, the Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann fight could have easily held up that card. However, the problem lies with the rest of the lineup.

In UFC 154, there were a few fights that were “fighting to stay in the UFC” fights, and that is a few too many. With such a huge card being in the works for so long, the UFC should have done a much better job of putting better fights together. That’s in no way a rip on the talent of the undercard guys, but the fact remains that they didn’t all carry enough skill or star power to hold the card up on their own, much like with the defunct UFC 151.

Going forward, it would behoove the UFC to put more true challenger match-ups on its cards, and that alone will most definitely increase the viewership and anticipation for events. All of the undercard fighters deserve their shots on the big stage, but it’s getting to the point that the undercards are starting to make up ninety percent of every event, regardless of which ones make it onto the pay-per-view portions of the events.

Invicta could easily have a few more exciting cards per year, even with less weight divisions and overall candidates, but the UFC could stand to pare a dozen events from 2012 compared to 2013.

Hopefully, the addition of women to the UFC will add some more exciting, more anticipated events. One has to wonder if the addition of a “minor league”—perhaps an expansion of The Ultimate Fighter into an actual promotion—wouldn’t benefit the UFC overall.

It’s no secret that there has been a major dilution of fight cards over the last couple years. This situation has started to reduce the overall quality of cards with an increased quantity of events.

Going forward, the UFC should try to find that sweet balance between Microsoft and Apple. All major sports organizations, including the NFL, NBA and MLB, have found a sweet spot, but the UFC isn’t quite there yet.

The UFC needs to focus on perfecting the mix of superiority and mediocrity in its fight cards to stay competitive and keep fans engaged. With the prices of events and merchandise constantly on the rise, it is important that the marquee MMA organization figures out how to deal with these growing pains, and the young Invicta organization would be a great role model of getting back to the roots and understanding what works in the growing world of combat sports.

Photo: The UFC Octagon (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator