Renan Barao (L) faces off with Urijah Faber (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Super Sunday: Could the UFC Succeed With an Afternoon Pay-Per-View? Brian McKenna February 7, 2014 Spotlight The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events each and every year. Football has evolved into the most popular sport in the country, and the Super Bowl is no longer just the championship game for the National Football League, but rather a national celebration of the sport. Grocery stores stock up on additional potato chips and various junk food that consumers buy in droves. When it comes to the event, there is something for everyone. Those who love the game enjoy the showcase of two of the best teams in the league. Not a football fan? Well, there’s the constant stream of funny commercials and the meticulously planned halftime show to appeal to the non-fans who went to the party for the social aspect of it, not to follow the actual game. For sports fans, though, Super Bowl Sunday is always one of the longest days of the year. Sure, the day is 1,440 minutes long, just like the day before and the day after, but the anticipation and build-up always makes those minutes feel like they are 200 seconds long rather than 60 seconds long, especially if you have a horse in the race. Now, however, the Super Bowl is a two-week marathon that begins after the conference championship games end. By the actual day of the game, fans get burned out on all of the coverage and look to do something else to pass the time until kickoff. Among my friends and family that are football fans, Feb. 2 was spent reading, going for walks or heading to the slopes to partake in skiing and snowboarding. These and other simple tasks occupied the minds of fans until kickoff drew near. Each Super Bowl weekend, the UFC capitalizes on the buzz by putting together one of its bigger cards of the year. The fights always take place on Saturday night, which fits the normal routine for pay-per-view scheduling throughout the history of the promotion. According to the MMAPayout Blue Book, the number of buys for the Super Bowl weekend UFC pay-per-view fluctuates with the main event. In 2009, there were 924,000 buys for UFC 94, which featured a rematch between Georges St-Pierre and B.J. Penn. The following year, a main event between Randy Couture and Mark Coleman at UFC 109 saw only 275,000 buys. Just as quickly as it dropped, the numbers jumped back up to 725,000 buys in 2011 for UFC 126, which featured a main event between Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva. The two years to follow, the numbers declined to 400,000 and 330,000 buys in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The numbers for last Saturday’s UFC 169 pay-per-view have not yet been released, but given the previous trend, it may be time to form a new strategy for the future. We’ve already established the fact that Super Bowl Sunday tends to be a day that drags on for many people, so why give them something other than more Super Bowl coverage? Why not move the UFC event to the day of the big game, only schedule it to take place earlier in the day? Just think about it—an average main card lasts approximately three to three and half hours, which means the UFC could schedule an event and have the main card start at 2 p.m. in the afternoon for a 6:30 p.m. Super Bowl kickoff. That would mean that the event would end around 5 p.m., with an hour between the conclusion of the last fight and the first play of the big game. The event doesn’t even need to be a pay-per-view. The UFC now has a partnership with Fox, which could open up the door to broadcast television, rather than pay-per-view, for the Super Bowl weekend card. Sure, the money raked in on the annual Super Bowl fight card is significant, but Fox would likely want a piece of the action to get a ratings boost on the day of the game. The Super Bowl is broadcasted in a rotation between NBC, CBS and Fox, and the two networks that do not host the big game each year try their best to acquire the best ratings throughout the course of the day to compensate for the hit they take that night. If Fox were to put on a pay-per-view caliber card just hours before kickoff, it would have the potential to score solid ratings. Since 2008, the average number of buys for that weekend’s UFC card comes in at just over 641,000 buys on average. If that many people are willing to dish out $60 to watch the fights, it’s safe to assume that a large portion of those people would tune in for free the next day. As a Fox broadcast, there would be commercials at play as well. There isn’t a bigger day each year for a 30-second commercial spot than on Super Bowl Sunday, and that could extend beyond the game and into the UFC broadcast. The advertisements that air during each break from the game go for millions of dollars, which is where the lost money from the pay-per-view revenue could be recovered. It wouldn’t be just UFC fans seeing the commercials, but everyone that gets to the Super Bowl party early, with the fights taking center stage at those parties before the players hit the gridiron. When the promotion puts free fights on television, whether it be a UFC on Fox card or preliminary action on Fox Sports 1, one of its major goals is to expose the sport to a new market and gain new fans. If the UFC can attract new fans with these events, the promotion is more likely to see an increase in pay-per-view buys down the road. With many pairs of eyes glued to the television each and every Super Bowl Sunday, it only makes sense to try to capitalize on that. However, if the promotion does it, it had better do it right. The UFC has held championship title fights on Fox before, and it would need to air a major fight such as a heavyweight or light heavyweight championship tilt on Super Bowl Sunday. The one time that the heavyweight title was on the line, over eight million fans tuned in to the main event, which lasted a mere 64 seconds. If a card is big enough, it will be able to pull in gigantic numbers like those of the first UFC on Fox event. Considering the amount of whirl and buzz that takes place on Super Bowl Sunday, it would be worth experimenting with a move to schedule an event before the big game on Sunday. There’s even the potential for the UFC to steal the show, especially if the game turns out to be the dud that it was this year.