Anaheim, CALIF. -- It could have been better. It could have been worse.
The first fight of the seven-year deal between the UFC and Fox Network lasted 64 seconds. It took just one hard right from Junior Dos Santos to spell the end of the night. The athletic wrestler, Velasquez, didn’t get to shoot a single takedown.
A highlight-reel finish is never a bad thing when you’re trying to introduce a sport to new fans, but how many saw it? Unless they watched one specific minute Saturday, they missed it.
“You always want a fight that’s going to be decisive and we certainly had that,” UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta told ESPN.com.
“From a ratings perspective, it will probably affect it in a negative way. People tune in to watch the fight and once it’s over, you tend to leave the channel. But overall, I think it’s going to be a success.”
Officials from both the UFC and Fox refrained from giving expectations on what ratings the show would pull. Most figured dipping below 5 million viewers would start to feel disappointing. None knew, however, the fight would end so fast.
Fox Sports chief executive David Hill admitted he and president Dana White discussed the “tactics” of booking a single, heavyweight fight in hindsight, but added he was overwhelmingly satisfied with the product.
“It absolutely delivered everything I hoped it would,” Hill told ESPN.com. “I spoke to Dana and maybe, tactically, Dana didn’t play it the right way. But this is what you get in this sport. This is world heavyweight champion action.”
The decision not to run any of the other nine fights on the card, specifically a lightweight bout between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida, was heavily questioned by fans and media alike. The fight aired, instead, on Facebook.com and FoxSports.com and was a 15-minute thriller.
At the postfight news conference, the UFC president was clearly sick of defending it.
“Just so everyone understands, we’re not in Fox yet. Our deal doesn’t start until January,” White said. “This was never part of the deal. After we signed, Fox said, ‘Why don’t we do a fight right away to kick it off?’
“For everybody to b---- about this fight and they didn’t get to see that fight -- shut up. You should have bought tickets if you wanted to watch all the fights and you don’t like to watch on Facebook. Shut up.”
The nature of combat sports makes it impossible to predict. The UFC has seen a seven-second knockout. Fans of professional boxing were outraged two months ago when an officiating error affected an expensive pay-per-view bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz.
At the end of the day, the UFC and Fox both felt the show provided a genuine glimpse at the sport to those who have not yet seen it. Future UFC events on Fox are expected to air longer than 60 minutes and feature multiple fights.
The goal was to put MMA on network television. This is MMA.
“I once bought a night of boxing from legendary promoter Don King,” Hill said. “There were three bouts on that card and do you know how much boxing I got? Forty-seven seconds. I’ve been covering fights forever. It comes with the territory.
“If it had gone five rounds tonight, people would have gone, ‘It went so long, it was boring.’ This is genuine. This is real. It’s this generation’s boxing.”