There’s no doubt that the fighters competing in mixed martial arts have some of the most compelling stories to tell in all of sports.
From the humble beginnings of fighters like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos to the Olympic dreams being realized for competitors like Daniel Cormier and Ben Askren.
Stories of redemption like Melvin Guillard’s battle with personal demons to his rise in the UFC lightweight division to soldiers like Brian Stann and Tim Kennedy, who have literally come from the battle fields defending a nation to compete on the biggest stages in MMA.
Like boxing before it, MMA is a combat sport rich with athletes who all come from different backgrounds, with different life experiences, but all of them ended up as professional fighters with a goal of one day being the best in the world.
It’s those very stories that UFC president Dana White plans on telling as the promotion builds and develops its relationship with Fox over the next seven years.
According to White, much like the debut show on Fox that gave a deeper insight into who Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos were exactly, the broadcasts on the television network will go beyond just fighting and explaining the nuances of the sport.
“What you’re going to see a lot more of on Fox that you don’t see on pay-per-views like this, we know who we’re catering to tonight,” White said following UFC 139 on Saturday night. “When we put on a pay-per-view, when you opt-in to buy this thing, you know what you’re getting. When you go to your local bar and you go there because they’re playing the UFC, you know what you’re getting.
“What we’re going to do more of on Fox is more storytelling. Tell more stories. We’re going to explain who these people are and break it down, and get deeper into their lives.”
The UFC moving to Fox has already brought a lot of new eyeballs to the sport. With a peak viewership reaching 8.8 million viewers for the initial broadcast, the UFC expects only bigger and bigger numbers to grow over the next several years.
But for fighters like Benson Henderson and Carlos Condit to become household names, White believes you have to appeal to a much broader audience more than just people who want to see a good fight.
The appeal goes to the human nature of those watching the fights and getting them to be invested in the athletes. For the casual viewer that may not understand exactly what a butterfly guard or gogoplata is on day one, the stories behind the fighters will draw them in enough to stick around and find out.
“A lot of the feedback we got from our last show was guys who had their girlfriends or wives sitting on the couch and they learned the story about the fighters, they were more interested in seeing the fight. When you know about these guys, you humanize them,” White said.
It’s going to that very raw emotional element that White believes is the key to getting new fans and a more diverse crowd to watch MMA.
To the outsiders that have called MMA ‘barbaric’ or ‘blood sport’, White’s plan is to show new followers to the UFC that there is more to this sport that simply getting in a cage and fighting. The athletes involved have amazing backgrounds and life stories, and through the UFC on Fox they plan to tell them.
“Cause people turn on the UFC with these expectations that you’re going to see these animals or barbarians or whatever it is you think of this sport, and we all know that it’s not true,” White stated. “We know the real story behind these guys so we’re really getting into more storytelling.”
UFC on Fox 2 is scheduled to take place on Jan. 28 with four fights on the card. While the UFC hasn’t announced any bouts that will take place on the show, it’s expected that this formula will play a big part in how the show goes down.