According to an Aug. 28 report from the UFC, TJ Dillashaw puts his bantamweight title on the line against former champion, Renan Barao, in the main event of UFC 177. Dillashaw, 29, shocked the world by defeating the hard-hitting Brazilian at UFC 173, and now Barao is looking to get his belt back. That’s the major storyline heading into UFC 177, and it’s a relatively weak one.
Historically, UFC fans don’t pay much attention to the lighter weight classes. They love the heavyweights because of their one-punch knockout power, and the light heavyweights for their vicious striking. Even the welterweights get some love, with Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald, Matt Brown and Tyron Woodley emerging as legitimate superstars.
For whatever reason, UFC fans don’t gravitate to the bantamweights. Besides Urijah Faber, the UFC’s bantamweight division doesn’t have any real drawing cards. Barao had been riding one of the longest win-streaks in MMA history heading into UFC 173, but still the event was a bust as far as being a top-seller on pay-per-view. Will the rematch be any different? The outcome of the fight may be different, but the pay-per-view buyrate will probably once again be fairly dismal.
Barao and Dillashaw are high-level fighters, but the casual fan doesn’t know much about them. UFC needs to do a better job selling Dillashaw’s character and Barao’s personality, if they want people to care about their rematch. The only other must-see fight on the UFC 177 bill is the scrap between Shayna Baszler and Bethe Correia, as the ladies have a real-life feud that will be settled inside the cage.
Correia recently defeated Ronda Rousey’s stablemate, Jessamyn Duke, and a win over Baszler would be her second victory over a Four Horsewomen member. Correia is inching closer to a shot at Rousey, and a spectacular win over Baszler might just earn her a title shot. Will UFC 177 be a top seller? Probably not, but the UFC seems to be okay with that.
While it’s true that UFC 177 isn’t as stacked as most of the promotion’s past PPV cards, the UFC doesn’t need to change their current business model. UFC higher-ups are aware average PPV numbers have dropped over the years, but they are raking in TV revenue and Fight Pass money that they weren’t back in the day when the pay-per-view cards were way more stacked.
The UFC seems to be following the WWE’s model of a Big Four of annual pay-per-view cards, with the promotion knowing full well that the rest of the pay-per-views aren’t as good as the three or four must-watch events of the year. They seem to be aware that some of their pay-per-views are way less appealing than others, and they are okay with that. There’s no other way to explain why UFC 178 has five or six appealing fights, while UFC 177 has only one or two fights that anyone cares about.
If you’re a WWE fan, you know they have about 12-13 pay-per-views a year, but not all of them are must watch events. WWE is aware of this, but it doesn’t hurt their brand at all. Only SummerSlam, Wrestlemania, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble are the must-watch Big Four in the WWE, with the rest getting watched by a much smaller group of people.
The UFC is basically going about it the same way, with three to four events that can each generate 350-400k buys. It seems to be the same as the WWE model, with only the most hardcore fans watching all the Raw, Smackdown, Main Event and PPVs. The UFC appears to be looking to the WWE to map out how to run an annual schedule.