The pros and cons of sleeping through a UFC Fight Pass event
From MMAJunkie.com (By Ben Fowlkes March 2, 2014 3:00 pm):
If Twitter can be believed, a lot of people I know woke up very early (or else stayed up very late) to watch the TUF China Finale on Saturday morning. In fairness, a lot of the people I follow on Twitter are either professional MMA journalists or amateur MMA addicts, but still, it seems slightly insane to me.
Maybe thatís just because Iím a person who enjoys sleep, or maybe itís because I have a 1-year-old daughter who has taken the place of my alarm clock. If sheís going to stay in her crib until 6:30 a.m., thereís no way Iím hauling myself out of bed at 4 oíclock (in the One True Time Zone) on a Saturday morning to watch two dudes Iíve never heard of fight each other on the prelims.
I mean, have you experienced 4 a.m. recently? Itís highly unpleasant. Itís dark outside. The house is cold and teeming with weird noises that you canít quite place. Even your internal monologue is stuck in a whisper, and the things it whispers are questions like, Why the hell are we awake?
Fortunately, UFC Fight Pass seems built with people like me in mind. It knows that Iím probably not going to watch many of these early morning events live, and it doesnít judge me for that. Itíll have the event waiting for me whenever Iím ready for it. And should I decide midway through the fight between Mark Eddiva and Jumabieke Tuerxu (who? exactly) that I donít actually need to see the whole thing, thereís a handy little button that lets me skip straight to the next fight.
I appreciate that button, and if Iím being honest with myself, I have to admit Iím probably going to make not infrequent use of it in the Fight Pass-tastic months to come. But now that Iíve finally plopped myself down in front of the laptop to watch this weekendís event from Macau, I have to wonder how this will change the viewing experience for all the fans who, like me, are unwilling to trade precious sleep for the sake of a third-tier UFC event.
For one thing, thereís the issue of spoilers, which are almost unavoidable in this modern world. I say almost because you can do it, but only if youíre willing to rearrange your life. I did this recently when I wanted to watch an Olympic hockey game I had DVRíd. Avoiding spoilers meant I had to avoid using any of the Internet functions of my phone Ė no Twitter, no Facebook, no news apps, nothing Ė until I had time to sit down in front of the TV. This turned my phone into nothing more than a device that sends and receives calls. It was awful.
With the TUF China Finale, I saw my first spoiler before I was even conscious enough to think about whether it was worth the effort to avoid them. Shortly thereafter I learned of Dong Hyun Kimís amazing spinning back elbow KO win over John Hathaway. In fact, the world of the Internet being what it is, I actually saw a GIF of the finish on my phone before Iíd even opened my laptop for the day. What technological magic. What a time to be alive. In your face, Renaissance painters!
What I realized once I watched the event, however, was how drastically this changed how I watched the fights, and probably how myself and others will watch many Fight Pass events going forward.
For one thing, I find I donít have much patience once I already know what happened. The suspense is gone. Watching Hatsu Hioki take Ivan Menjivarís back in the first round felt like watching an action sequence from one of the ďStar WarsĒ prequels. I know young Obi Wan Kenobe survives this encounter with the Sith Lord because he lives to become Alec Guiness in the later/earlier movies. Similarly, Iím not exactly on the edge of my seat when Hioki digs for the choke. I already know they go the distance, so itís just a matter of trudging along with them until they get there.
Thatís not to say that watching fights this way canít be enjoyable. It was, albeit in a different way. Itís certainly more time-efficient. I didnít sit through a single advertisement or pre-fight breakdown or post-fight interview. I didnít have to look at any exterior shots of The Venetianís CotaiArena. I didnít waste a second of my precious time with anything that wasnít actual fighting, which was refreshing almost to the point of being shocking.
Fight Pass not only allows you total control, it also gives you the freedom to skip right over fights you donít care about. If you hear in advance that a particular fight was especially boring, you donít even need to waste your time with it. This will probably also change how fighters get themselves noticed (or donít) in the Fight Pass era.
There are other options if you donít like watching fights this way. You could retreat into a cave and avoid spoilers. You could also drag yourself out of bed, grab the strongest coffee you can find, and watch it live. That, or so Iím told, is what those poor European fans have been doing for years. For a big enough fight, like Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa, for instance, I can see myself doing that. Although that one is live from London, which means you can go out for breakfast and still make it home in time for the first prelim at 12:30 p.m. ET, as long as your schedule for the rest of the afternoon is cleared in advance.
But thatís one of the problems that the UFC is going to face with Fight Pass events. The really good stuff, the stuff that would be worth foregoing sleep for, is also the stuff thatís more likely to anchor a pay-per-view or headline a FOX event. How do you give your fans stuff thatís worth getting out of bed on a Saturday morning for (and by ďgive,Ē I mean charge 10 bucks a month for), without watering down the events that are actually on TV?
Ideally youíd do it by finding more good fighters, which is probably one of the things motivating the UFC to export the ďUltimate FighterĒ series to other countries. The other thing is the potential to make more money for the UFC. Somewhere on the periphery lurk the interests of the people being asked to pay for this work in progress, this experiment in the relationship between time zones and fan expectations.
However you decide to approach these events, whether itís live or on a delay or not at all, youíd better make a choice soon. The next one will be here before you know it.
For complete coverage of the TUF China Finale, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
(Pictured: Dong Hyun Kim)