For better or worse, UFC’s Fight Pass service has fallen into the shadow of WWE Network. There was significantly more hype and buzz surrounding WWE Network, and on the other side of the coin, significantly more vitriol spewed by fans when technical errors popped up. Fight Pass has simply rolled along, acquiring roughly 100,000 subscribers (according to an estimate by UFC president Dana White last month) and putting on Fight Pass exclusive events on a monthly basis. Fight Pass has also bolstered their archive, and it really has become a near-complete catalog of MMA history, featuring seemingly every show from PRIDE, StrikeForce, the WEC, and of course, the UFC.
But the UFC has taken a massive step towards making Fight Pass more than just an archive of MMA’s history, and more of a must-visit destination for all current MMA fans. Earlier this week, the UFC announced that they would be streaming all of the future cards of the all-woman promotion Invicta Fighting Championships, which they’ve had a somewhat friendly working relationship with in the past. Several current UFC female fights have fought in Invicta before heading to the UFC, including Liz Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman, Sara McMann, and Alexis Davis, among others. The UFC also bought nearly all of the contracts in Invicta’s strawweight division earlier this year, and will be featuring the women on the fall season of The Ultimate Fighter.
With Invicta’s future events in the fold, and their past events set to be added to the archive, the UFC seems to be taking a step towards being a content provider in addition to a content creator. For smaller promotions, this could represent a new broadcast partner for them. In the past, the only real option for regional promotions was AXS TV (formerly HDNet), which billed itself as the main outpost for fight fans. If promotions wanted to be on national television, that was their only real option, and the AXS TV calendar was so jammed with fights that many promotions ended up losing their unique character.
Implementing more distribution of non-UFC events into Fight Pass wouldn’t just benefit smaller promotions, it would benefit the UFC itself. When they inevitably sign some of these fighters from smaller promotions, instead of just showing clips of them shadowboxing or standing around looking menacing, the UFC would already have footage that they could use to hype these fighters up. It’s one thing to call a fighter a great striker, and it’s a completely different think to show a fighter putting together vicious knockouts leading into their UFC debut.
We’re obviously still in the infancy of UFC Fight Pass and WWE Network. But both entities could make a huge impact on the little guy by streaming (and archiving) their events. If you’re a company like Invicta, or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, or CHIKARA, or whatever promotion out there that may or may not be streaming their events with a company like UStream or GoFightLive, wouldn’t it make more sense to ally yourself with the biggest name in your field? It would expand your product’s reach, help distance yourself from the DVD model, and convert people into fans who normally wouldn’t check your product out. I do think this is the next frontier for these services, and hopefully it becomes more widespread.