Top 10 for 2012: No. 10 – Injuries continue to plague fight cards

December 25, 2012

Welcome to the year end edition of MMA Payout where we’ll count down the top 10 business stories of 2012.  We start off with number 10 with injuries plaguing fight cards this year.

The biggest example of an injury affecting a card was UFC 151 (more on this later) when Dan Henderson went down with a knee injury causing a last minute shuffling of main event competitors that went awry.  GSP also went down with an injury which gave us Condit-Diaz Super Bowl Weekend instead of the anticipated GSP-Diaz tilt which would have received good PPV numbers based on GSP’s popularity and the general dislike (and contrasts) between the two.  UFC  143 drew 400K PPV buys which is respectable but that number would have doubled if GSP was not injured.

UFC 147 was to have Sonnen-Silva II and Vitor Belfort-Wanderlei Silva as headlining a card in Rio.  However, Sonnen-Silva II was pushed back to July and Vitor Belfort was injured allowing Rich Franklin to step in.

In October, UFC 153 was in jeopardy as Jose Aldo was injured in a motorcycle accident and had to pull out.  Before Aldo’s injury, his opponent was switched from Erik Koch to Frankie Edgar.  The Aldo-Edgar fight was tabled until a later date (which is now Super Bowl Weekend 2013).  At about the same time that Aldo was pulled from the card, Rampage Jackson had to pull from his co-main event fight with Glover Texeira.  This caused the UFC some tense moments as it appeared that another card was going to be cancelled.  Fortunately for Dana White, Anderson Silva and Big Nog agreed to fights in front of their home country to save the PPV.  A Silva-Bonnar main event actually did better than Condit-Diaz in terms of PPV buys as UFC 153 scored 410K buys.

In addition to these big injury issues, Strikeforce had to cancel a September card due to an injury to Gilbert Melendez and put off a November card (which is now its last this January) due to an injury to UFC fighter Frank Mir (who was an injury replacement).  This post does not even cover the spate of injuries by fighters not on the main card of UFC events.

Although not an injury, Alistair Overeem was to face Junior dos Santos May 26th but had to be replaced after a failed drug test.

The injury bug has been so common that Dana White half-jokingly told fighters on the UFC on Fox 5 to tone down their training leading up to the card in hopes of preserving the card for Fox.

Here’s hoping 2013 has less injury replacements.

One Response to “Top 10 for 2012: No. 10 – Injuries continue to plague fight cards”

  1. CodeMaster on January 2nd, 2013 5:07 PM

    This is the number 1 business story of MMA as far as I am concerned.

    Think about how injuries changed the entire year of fights. There were so many injuries that they exposed a hole in the UFC business model. That model could survive a few injuries, but the injuries in 2012 put a damper on the entire business–from PPV to Fox.

    These injuries happened at the same time the UFC was expanding and putting on a record number of shows around the world–and caused a lot of justifiable fan criticism about thin cards. The Calgary show was a complete disaster, and UFC 151 was cancelled due to the lack of star power on the card and injuries.

    From a marketing perspective, there is a lag between fan disappointment and effects in PPV buys and gate–but it can become cumulative and permanent unless quickly nipped in the bud.

    It appears the UFC planners have gotten the message–though they have not admitted anything publicly-I have noticed the cards are more stacked now, and contingency plans in the event of injuries are now routine.

    Another question, for which I have no answer, is: Was 2012 just a statistically bad year for injuries or are fighters using injuries to back out of bad matchups?

    Because the the cuthroat competition in the UFC: Are fighters more reluctant to fight when they are less than 100% or if it is short notice than they were previously?

    The bottom line is that injuries have changed how predictable a card is to fans and have affected pre-ordering tickets and booking of flights to see UFC events.

    The good news is that the UFC survived the catastrophe of 2012–and it appears they are modifying their business model to address the issue of depth of fight cards and the possibility of injuries.

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