Michael Rome from Bloody Elbow raises the interesting point.
Only one star with a PPV percentage scale built into his contract has ever fought on a European UFC PPV show. His name is BJ Penn, and the show (UFC 80) did 225,000 buys. Given the very small bonus he got, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t have interest in participating in a tape delay PPV show from Germany.
Anderson Silva was originally pencilled in to fight at UFC 95 from London, but turned it down for similar reasons. He publicly said he wasn’t ready, but this is the same guy who wanted to fight 3 weeks after his last one. Now he will ride Liddell’s coattails to some decent money in April.
Looking at UFC 85, 93, and 95 you again notice there are no stars on these shows with PPV bonuses. The difference is hundreds of thousands of dollars and many viewers. It’s hard to blame fighters’ agents for taking this view, it is their job to maximize revenue for their clients while they are on top of the game. It’s up to the UFC to bridge the gap.
This is a very serious issue, and one that I must admit I have long overlooked until reading Rome’s thoughts. If the UFC is able to keep airing the overseas cards on Spike TV and not demanding that the North American consumer continuously pay for below average cards, the problem can be somewhat ignored. The fact remains that this past Saturday’s card did peak at 3 million viewers, regardless of the lack of a marquee fight. As long as the UFC is able to keep promoting local stars overseas and airing the events in North America for free, they will keep going back. It is no secret, after all, that the UFC does hope to continue to expand this sport to all corners of the globe.
However, if the UFC wishes to attract some of their bigger names onto these cards, a new pay scale must be in order to entice them to participate. If a new scale is not in place, we must expect to continuously hear that the main event of the evening will remain fifteen minutes long and involve no UFC gold.