With just over 24 hours left before UFC 152 gets underway at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, The Star is reporting that tickets are still available. This may come as a surprise considering the fact that the main card includes two UFC title bouts and the main event features Jon Jones, one of the organization’s most polarizing figures.
The recent cancellation of UFC 151 due to Jones’ refusal to take a fight against Chael Sonnen on short notice may have led some to quickly blame Jones and his trainers for the black eye that the sport has received in the last few weeks.
However, the failure to sell out the Air Canada Centre cannot be solely placed at the feet of the light heavyweight champ. Rather, it is more likely that the card’s initial lack of star power, mixed with a perceived oversaturation of mixed martial arts in recent months has also contributed to the underwhelming amount of hype about the event in Toronto this weekend.
The light heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort, which is lackluster in and of itself, was only recently transferred to UFC 152 as the main event. The recent reshuffling meant that the UFC was handicapped by a lack of time to market the fight properly. This lack of hype-building has likely left some fans with the impression that the fight may be unworthy of shelling out large sums of cash to buy tickets. But with all this being said who is really to blame?
While Jon Jones is one of the UFC’s most marketable athletes, it would be unfair to expect him to take on the responsibility of marketing fights and making sure tickets are sold. His only job is to enter the octagon and give paying fans an exciting performance. The responsibility of selling tickets falls squarely on the shoulders of the UFC brass.
Over the last year or so the UFC has oversaturated the market by holding nearly double the amount of events they held four years ago. The increased number of fight cards has translated into a sharp decline in marketable fights to sustain each event. This leads to two problems: firstly, the paying fans are more likely to miss an event because they know they can catch another one in a week or so, which removes the anticipation factor that made the company so successful in the past. Secondly, the presence of only one or two ‘big’ fights means that these fight cards are left in a very vulnerable situation if one of the fighters gets injured during training, as made clear by the cancellation of UFC 151.
At the end of the day, it should not be the fighter’s responsibility to sell tickets. If that was the case, billion dollar organizations like the UFC would not have some of the best marketing minds working underneath their roof. UFC President Dana White is quick to lay the blame in other places, but while he and the other owners have grown the sport tremendously they can’t lose sight of what fans are saying. Money talks, and if the tickets are not selling in the same location that easily sold 55,000 tickets at the Rogers Centre just over a year ago, that means action needs to be taken to rectify that problem.