July 23, 2018

UFC Fight Night 134: UFC Hamburg Is An Example of the UFC's Pacing Problem

By Adam Martin

The UFC has a serious pacing problem for its television events, and it really bothered fans during Sunday's UFC Fight Night 134 card, which took place at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. The card started at 10:30 a.m. EST and took nearly seven hours to complete, finally coming to an end around 5:10 p.m. EST. That's too much for even the most hardcore MMA fans to take. At some point, it becomes too much, and that's what happened at UFC Hamburg. Fans got burned out, and I saw a similar shared sentiment all over social media while watching the event.

It obviously wasn't the UFC's goal to have an event that lasted so long, but that's what happened, and it's the risk you take when you book a bunch of lower-level matchups. When you book 13 fights for one card and there are only three finishes, it's a long night. Especially a card that on paper wasn't a great one, and saw most of the bouts drag on, turning into wrestling matches. So the matchmaking was part of the problem. It wasn't just that the fights weren't good, though; it's that there were just way too many commercials since it was a TV event. If this card was on Fight Pass, it probably would have ended an hour before, or maybe more sooner, but since it was on TV, the card went overtime. The UFC has had a huge problem with pacing for its TV cards, and it showed in clear view at UFC Hamburg.

As fans, we love watching the sport, but when the fights aren't good and just seem to drag on forever, it's not fun to watch. That's especially true when the caliber of fighters is lower, the fights mean less, and the stakes are lower. That's pretty much what the Hamburg card was, though -- a bunch of low-level, mostly meaningless fights that didn't make for good TV. Again, the UFC doesn't book fights hoping they are boring, but when you book lower-caliber fighters that can be more of a risk. And fans are fed up. Why spend so much time watching a bunch of fights that don't mean much and that aren't even entertaining?

I've been getting used to setting my PVR an extra hours for UFC's TV events, just because it always seems like it they go beyond the allotted three-hour timeslot. And remember, that's on top of the three hours of preliminary fights. What other sporting event lasts this long? There are very few sports that drag on for six-plus hours every weekend, but here we are with the current state of the UFC. Back when the fights meant more and even the prelims had relevant fighters it was ok for the cards to go long, but in the current state of MMA where there's a card nearly every weekend, the UFC just doesn't have the high-quality depth to continue booking 13-fight cards every weekend and expect to hold the audience's attention. It's just not realistic, but the UFC is forcing it on us.

With the new ESPN deal, I'm hoping the UFC will reconsider its long broadcasts. Instead of having 13 fights, why not try 10 bouts? Heck, why not experiment with five-fight cards? A lot of folks love the Tuesday Night Contender Series because it's five fights that punch a ticket to the UFC, so they mean something, and it fits into a two-hour block. I wish the actual UFC cards could have that kind of pacing. Because right now, the UFC is really turning fans off. Fans that have supported the company and supported the sport over the years are now reconsidering how they feel about it. Making television broadcasts more viewer-friendly would certainly be a start towards fixing that. Hopefully changes are made with the ESPN deal, but for now, the status quo just isn't working.

UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs. Smith (formerly UFC Fight Night 134: Volkan vs. Shogun) took place July 22, 2018 at Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night 134 Post-Fight Analysis

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