Well, if you live in an English-speaking country (other than England herself), and have a good threshold for physical conflict while the sun is still only rising, the first live card on the new UFC Fight Pass felt decent enough.
UFC Fight Night 34 from Marina Bay, Singapore was the UFC event first to broadcast on the new exclusive subscription-based platform. There were a few hiccups on Saturday morning that come with watching on the internet — freeze frames that make you fool with the time bar…rampant urges to check your email… Twitter windows that lure you away from the action…distractions of many sordid kinds — but refreshingly no commercials telling us how much author Urijah Faber hates mayonnaise.
And so some variation of the future begins, and that future is early morning fights on the MacBook Pro for a negligible monthly fee ($ 9.99 per month beginning in March). The experience becomes a little more personal than collective, because computers are individual rabbit holes (and television caters to the shared experience).
Did it feel like an event, though?
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As much as an event that happens at 6am in Los Angeles can, I guess. Tarec Saffiedine, who was making his UFC debut, had to figure out the massive welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim, and he did from the second round on. He kicked the 6-foot-3 Lim’s legs out from under him, cut angles to take away the nine-inch reach advantage, and general fought a tactically efficient masterpiece. To the point that the fight, which teetered on the edge of a finish, lost all urgency. Saffiedine could have put Lim away on a couple of occasions midway through, but ended up drawing things out to a decision.
The fights, as a whole, were enjoyable for the most part though. Tatsuya Kawajiri debuted against Blackzilians striker Sean Soriano, and that was fun. The old warhorse Kawajiri took a good amount of abuse to secure the takedown (elbows to the temple and knees to the bridge of the nose), but once he got it he treated Soriano to a ground game dystopia. He put Soriano to sleep. He then screamed for a title shot, or at least a top ten opponent, while lobbying for the submission of the night bonus.
Turns out the wise Kawajiri understands that audacity pays in the UFC. And he stole the
show exclusive Internet experience.
But the novelty of UFC Fight Night 34 as an experience was in watching a UFC fight card play out during sober, antemeridian hours. The boozy element of fight night Twitter was noticeably missing. Trolls were few (maybe the 18-34 year old demo can’t hang with these types of hot coffee affairs). For once Americans are sidecar to some other vehicle, which also felt different. With the UFC trying to expand into the global marketplace, the idea is to host events that go live in prime time in whichever country is being visited. That will mean the bloodshot hours to us here in the States.
The lengths we go to unearth the next Jon Jones. (And make no mistake, that’s what we’re doing here).
Otherwise, some of the more foreign features that came along with this first experience were actually pretty cool. Joe Martinez as the ring announcer in place of Bruce Buffer gave the thing a proper matinee feel. There were different ring girls, who blew out different types of kisses. The crowd was different (except when Luiz Dutra downed Japanese surfer dude Kiichi Kunimoto with elbows to the back of the head…the boos could have belong to New Jersey). There was a flare of something new going on, which worked at least for this first web experience.
And it’s funny in a roundabout way. The meta moments of watching the first event on UFC Fight Pass came during the commercials advertising UFC Fight Pass. One of the advantages of subscribing to the service is the access you get to the extensive video library of fights from Pride, Affliction, the WEC and Strikeforce, as well as the old UFCs. This includes, we’re told proudly, those incomparable “Dark Ages.”
The UFC’s Dark Ages were when the sport was being kept alive on the Internet, back when the political firestorm took the sport off the airwaves. These days, instead of using the Internet as a means of survival, the UFC now moves that direction as a fresh new enterprise to broaden its reach. It might feel like we’ve come full circle, but the UFC Fight Pass — and all the wake-up calls still to come — are mostly just gravy.
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