There are a few different kinds of MMA fans.

First, there are the casual fans—those who might flip to a UFC on Fox event if it’s on or go over to their buddy’s house for a pay-per-view once or twice a year. For these fans, their interest in MMA stems mainly from their interest in sports, generally speaking. The UFC would like to get more of these fans interested in its product, and it is to these people that the company’s largest-scale events are targeted.

Next, there are the more dedicated fans. These men and women watch the majority of the UFC’s events and probably visit sites like this one on a semi-frequent basis. For these fans, MMA is destination television. They’ll set aside many a Saturday night to watch a few hours of caged combat and will do so happily. The UFC continues to refine its product and offer more free-TV rewards to these loyal fans in the hopes that they’ll keep spending their money to watch fights in the Octagon.

Finally, there are the hardcore fans. Fans like this not only tune in to all of the UFC’s cards, but those from the sport’s lesser-known promotions as well. They are constantly checking MMA websites for news updates and probably use their social media accounts largely to track the daily goings-on in the world of cage fighting. The UFC doesn’t need to worry about retaining this group of fans, but nevertheless continues to put forth more ways to appeal to them.

The UFC’s latest move to expand its ever-growing content-distribution network was the launch of the company’s own subscription-based YouTube channel. As part of the new UFC Select program, subscribers pay $5.99 each month for access to past fights and other UFC programming. The channel, which went live earlier this month, is currently airing a handful of the UFC’s “greatest hits”-type fights with more to be added each week. In addition, the channel will air a past season of The Ultimate Fighter and, soon, will begin offering entire UFC fight cards from years past (including, according to MMA Junkie, events from the UFC’s “dark ages” which have never before been released on DVD in the United States).

The only question, then, is whether UFC fans will pay six bucks a month for the privilege of viewing old content.

Although the launch of this channel will certainly give hardcore MMA fans more to watch, this doesn’t seem like a system the UFC is counting on to generate a whole lot in the way of additional revenue. Sure, for fans who want to re-live some of their favorite UFC moments, UFC Select will provide their fix. And for those MMA newcomers who get hooked after their first or second UFC on Fox event, the YouTube channel will be the best place for them to catch up on the years of combat they’ve missed in a way that allows them to watch the best fights on their schedule.

Looking at things realistically, though, one wonders how many people fall into this group. The majority of fans, even many of the sport’s most dedicated viewers, are satisfied with the UFC’s already plentiful content offerings. Aside from the one or two or three live events that air each month, there are UFC reruns shown on cable channels at least that frequently. Factor in the UFC’s other programming (The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed, etc.) and one’s MMA content lineup starts to get pretty full during any given month. An online, on-demand library of old content will probably be popular with a select few, but don’t expect UFC Select to get more than a few thousand subscriptions.

The true genius behind UFC Select, though, is that it’s all added revenue to the UFC, no matter how few or how many subscribers decide to pay the monthly fee. The UFC already owns the video, so there’s very little in the way of cost that goes into launching the UFC Select channel. The company probably employs a small group to manage the channel’s content, but that’s about it in terms of overhead. The answer to the question of the channel’s popularity is thus rendered moot. If a lot of people subscribe, it’s a lot more money to the UFC. If not that many people subscribe, the company is still raking in almost pure profit for each new member, so it’s a win-win for the UFC (and for fans) either way.

Time will tell whether UFC Select is a significant revenue generator for the UFC. Given the enthusiasm of some MMA fans that borders on obsession, there will likely be quite a few early subscribers who just want access to more UFC content, no matter what it is. Expect a significant drop in new subscriptions after a few months, though, unless the UFC starts making some of its new content exclusive to the channel. Even still, it’s not a bad idea to offer high-quality on-demand MMA content for a nominal fee, and given the significant profit margin and ease with which the UFC can likely manage and monetize its old fights, its no wonder the company wanted to make this happen.

Photo: UFC Event (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.