It is a question that has been thrown around the last couple years about whether MMA, and the UFC more specifically, has hit the mainstream. While the sport has taken leaps and bounds to become part of the mainstream lexicon, it is still a far way off from being held in the same breath as the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Proponents of the sport will point to the Fox deal, great PPV numbers, and helping launch a network, but those are all reasons that have negatives to them as well.
The Fox deal helped the UFC gain access to public television, but after a year of being on the network they have been relegated to a minor league channel outside of a few events. The UFC and Fox can spin the story that they are trying to build a new sport network, but it is hard to deny that the UFC is still a niche market. They can pull great ratings in relation to the size of the network, but it is hard to deny that any baseball or football game pulls bigger ratings than MMA any day of the week. Some people point toward MMA being over saturated, but how is that the case when multiple football games play every Sunday and people watch college football as well?
The UFC has PPV which people point to its ability to generate a ton of buys, but this year alone multiple events fell under 200,000 buys. The promotion expected UFC 168 to break all kinds of records, and while it is said to have done over 1 million buys, there are seven other events to break the 1 million mark. In fact, the UFC first met this mark in 2006 and four of the other PPVs had Lesnar in the title. It is hard to say that a company has reached the mainstream based off PPVs when only seven cards have bested a mark set by a eight year old PPV.
The UFC is the biggest MMA promotion on the planet, and even with having all the best fighters in the organization they still cannot reach the mainstream. Maybe that will never happen for the sport in the US. MMA is huge in many other countries where sports like baseball and football will never have a foothold. So, maybe the idea of a fight network is the best idea, because the UFC can expand themselves in those other markets while keeping their loyal fan base in America satiated.