Fans of mixed martial arts in the year 2013 tend to be a bit pickier than they were 10 years ago.  In 2003, the UFC held five events, and there was at least one month in between each event.  People who were considered big fans of the sport would spend their money to see all of the events, simply based on the fact that each event was so far spread out that spending their hard-earned cash on five events throughout one year was a no-brainer.  Fast forward to today, where halfway though 2013 the same promotion has held seven pay-per-view events, including last night’s UFC 162, and has six more pay-per-view events left to round out the year.

The natural evolution of the sport has caused this explosion in the number of times the promotion is charging fans to watch events, but it still wears out the pockets of fight fans.  The number of events times the $60 that fans have to dish out to see a card in HD format from the comfort of their own home is causing them to reconsider and hold off on buying events, resulting in sometimes dwindling buy rates even for the top promotion in the world.

As a promoter, you want your product to be on pay-per-view because it gives global access to people who want to tune into the event and enjoy what the promotion has to offer. However, it is not always that easy.  Not only is there a production staff, camera men and a boat load of other overhead that comes along with it, but there is also the part of it where you have to project exactly how many purchases you are going to get for the event.  Two of the major factors in whether or not fans are going to buy it is the price of the event and the quality of the scheduled fights.

Let’s look at a window of 30 calendar days, starting back on June 15.  On that day, UFC 161 was held, and cost $60 to view on pay-per-view.  The next event that required purchasing to view was Global Warriors Challenge – The British Invasion: U.S. vs. U.K., for which GWC charged $40 to view on June 29.  Then yesterday, it was back to the UFC for UFC 162 and another $60 fee.  Rounding out the 30 days, Invicta FC 6 is going to televised pay-per-view for the first time for the slim price of $15.

Although UFC 161 had its troubles with the injury bug, the promotion has such a storied history with the sport that it can afford to have an injury hurt the card and still succeed with the buy rate.  Still, the card was organized to a point where fans knew, leading up to the event, who was going to take on one another or were quickly informed of any injury-related changes.

Unfortunately, Global Warriors Challenge can’t exactly say the same.  The promotion did a lackluster job keeping the scheduled fights together in the weeks leading up to the event and added Bobby Lashley to the card just a week prior to the show.  On top of that, one of the bigger names they had advertised, Jeff Monson, failed to fight at the event without any explanation being given for his absence.  If you dive into the GWC website, you can find a post made on June 22, a week prior to the card, with an updated lineup and a picture posted that features Monson’s name and face representing Team USA, but underneath he is not listed in the text as part of the lineup.  However, just to tease fans, there is a line in there that says, “Here is the updated fight card as of 6-22-13, minus one HUGE fight which we will announce very soon.”

Well, of course, the promotion needed to announce it very soon, because at the time, the event was just one week away!  Not only that, but seeing “The Snowman’s” name listed above the post leads one to believe that Monson is still on the card based on the fact that the six other names listed along with his on the graphic are listed with an opponent.

If there was a class out there called “MMA Promoting 101,” the first lesson would be never to mislead the fans.  What the GWC did in the weeks leading up to the event was very misleading, which ultimately hurt the promotion’s reputation.  Sure, it was able to maintain fighters on the card that were once significant fighters in top promotions, but the high turnover rate of scheduled fighters, mixed in with adding Lashley at the last minute without announcing his opponent until the last second, and somehow leaving out “The Snowman” out without any explanation left a lot to be desired.  But, to top it off, charging $40 to view the event was more than a bit of a stretch.

Figure that with the amount of the sport there is to watch in the modern era, a fan has budgeted their viewing dollars.  Most fans will have purchased UFC 162 based on the Anderson Silva factor, and who can blame them?  But to spend $40 to purchase what was looking like a can of worms was something that was more than likely avoided like the plague.

But in relative terms, next weekend’s Invicta FC 6 will likely pull good buy rates.  In the past, the all-women’s promotion has offered free viewings of their streams before transitioning to online pay-per-view, then refunded fans whose streams were shotty, and has spent five cards building up a very strong, reputable product.  Now, for its sixth show, the promotion will be on televised pay-per-view for the low price of $15, which is more than reasonable for what the promotion offers.  The price is low enough that if the fights don’t deliver, you’re not mad at yourself for buying it, but it is also low enough for fans to give it a shot, despite having spent $60 the weekend prior for the UFC card.

Similarly, ONE FC is now one of the more major promotions, and by far the biggest promotion in Asia, but it only costs $10 to buy the pay-per-view stream of its card.  With such champions as Shinya Aoki and Bibiano Fernandes, on top of other great fighters, it comes as a surprise that the promotion charges only $10 to tune in. However, it only adds and enhances the promotion’s reputation.

If you’re a promoter looking to dive into MMA, look at Invicta FC and ONE FC and let it be a lesson.  Ease yourself into things, be forthright, and realize that fans aren’t made of money.  The UFC can get away with charging $60 despite losing two of the top fights on its cards because the UFC has an established reputation.

However, as an upstart promotion, charging two-thirds of what the UFC asks for its pay-per-views and expecting people to dive at the opportunity despite turning over the advertised fighters, adding late additions and just outright leaving someone off without explanation is not the way to build up your brand.

Photo: Bobby Lashley (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)