Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- First Live UFC Broadcast on Free Television Draws Strong 1.9 Overall Rating
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
The first live UFC broadcast on non-pay-per-view television; airing from 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM on Saturday, April 9th on Spike TV; drew an overall rating of 1.9. In the advertiser-friendly demographic that Spike TV and much of the television industry targets (18 to 34 year old males), the show drew a 3.3 rating. It was the most-watched show in that coveted demographic on Saturday night not only on all of cable television, but on all of television, period (including the six broadcast networks).
Rating vs. Number of Viewers
Though the 1.9 overall rating falls short of The Ultimate Fighter's previous high rating of 2.0, it was actually the most-watched episode of the series to date (and the second-most watched original show in Spike TV history) with 2.6 million viewers. The reason for the discrepancy between the rating and the number of viewers is because there were more viewers per household for the season finale, with many people watching the show in large group settings or having an "Ultimate Fighter" party.
In the hours since news of the rating broke, there have been lots of questions from MMA fans about what the difference is between a show's rating and the number of viewers in the Neilsen rating system that all TV networks rely on, and how exactly this dynamic works. The Neilsen system does take into account how many people are watching per household, but it's not a perfect system because it depends on TV viewers with Neilsen boxes to give an accurate indication at all times of how many people are watching the TV in their household. So, if there are three people watching the Neilsen-enabled TV in a given household, the owner of the Neilsen box should have it set to indicate that three people are watching instead of one. Many times people forget to do this and still have it set to "one viewer," but usually people with Neilsen boxes are responsible and make it a point to accurately indicate how many people are watching TV with them.
Two different people watching in one household counts as two viewers, but only one "TV household," which is what makes up the actual rating. That's why you always see two figures for any TV show--- the rating is the percentage of United States TV households that were watching the show, and the number of viewers is the total number of people watching the show in those households. That's why there were two different numbers in the press release about The Ultimate Fighter's rating--- 1,726,000 was the average number of TV households that were watching, and 2.6 million was the average number of people watching in those households. For the 2004-2005 TV season, there are approximately 109.6 million TV households in the United States, but only 85-90 million of them have cable or satellite. There are still 20-25 million households in the United States that only get the "broadcast" channels that can be picked up by any TV antenna, which are CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, The WB, and UPN.
Compared to the same time period a year ago when Spike TV aired Most Extreme Elimination, WWE Velocity, and WWE Confidential, the number of viewers for The Ultimate Fighter was an increase of 226 percent, the rating among 18 to 49 year old males was an increase of 477 percent, and the rating among 18 to 34 year old men was an increase of 562 percent.
Though ratings are not available for individual demographics by race, it is well known that a decent percentage of boxing fans and MMA fans are Hispanic. The expectation going into the April 9th season finale was that the show's Hispanic viewership would suffer greatly as a result of the show going head-to-head with the Marco Antonio Barrera boxing PPV that aired at the same time. There is no way to gauge how much (if at all) this affected The Ultimate Fighter's ratings, other than the obvious facts that A) It couldn't have helped, and B) It wouldn't decrease the overall rating by more than a few tenths of a rating point. Nonetheless, a few tenths of a rating point is the difference between a 1.9 overall rating and a 2.2 overall rating or something along those lines, so it's worth pointing out the competition from the Barrera fight.
Expectations Were Always Unrealistic
Though the 1.9 overall rating was not as high as Spike TV and Zuffa had hoped for, those hopes and expectations were unrealistic to begin with. Every episode of the series up to this point debuted on a Monday night, and then all of a sudden there was a new episode debuting on a different night--- and that night just happened to be Saturday night, the least-watched night of television by far every week. As I have said all along, the best target to shoot for under those circumstances would be to exceed the series' average for Monday nights, which was a 1.6 rating. Last Saturday night's 1.9 rating did that, but it did not meet Zuffa's unrealistic expectations of a 2.5 rating.
In terms of setting expectations for the final rating unrealistically high, the biggest mistake made by Spike TV and Zuffa was when Dana White said on MMAWeekly Radio that he had been told by Spike TV to expect a 6.0 rating. That information came from a single person at Spike TV who had no idea what they were talking about, and as soon as the ridiculous 6.0 number went public on MMAWeekly Radio, it was quickly retracted by Spike TV and Zuffa. Spike TV and Zuffa then set a new goal of three million viewers or a 2.5 rating, which was much less insane but still unrealistically high for reasons explained above.
Season Finale Ratings vs. First Twelve Weeks
Comparing the average of the first twelve weeks of The Ultimate Fighter to the live season finale on April 9th, the ratings were up overall, and even more so in the most important demographics.
-In terms of final overall ratings, factoring in males and females of all ages, the show averaged an overall rating of 1.6 through twelve weeks. This week's show drew a 1.9 overall rating, with a peak quarter-hour rating of 2.5.
-In the 18 to 24 year old male demographic, the show averaged a 2.0 rating through twelve weeks. This week's show drew a 3.5 rating in that demographic, with a peak quarter-hour rating of 4.2.
-In the 25 to 34 year old male demographic, the show averaged a 2.2 rating through twelve weeks. This week's show drew a 3.2 rating in that demographic, with a peak quarter-hour rating of 4.0.
-In the 35 to 49 year old male demographic, the show averaged a 1.5 rating through twelve weeks. This week's show drew a 2.1 rating in that demographic, with a peak quarter-hour rating of 2.9.
Quarter-Hour Ratings Tell Several Interesting Stories
All of the episodes of The Ultimate Fighter up to this point have been tasked with trying to retain the audience through a one-hour period, or four quarter-hours. In the case of the season finale, the show had to try to retain its audience over a much longer period of two-and-a-half hours, or ten quarter-hours. An analysis of these numbers tells several very interesting stories.
The first part of that story is that the UFC made a mistake in filling the first 30 minutes of the broadcast with as much recap material as they did. It's an unwritten rule that any reality series has to have a large amount of recapping in its season finale, and The Ultimate Fighter was no exception. The quarter-hour ratings shot up when the first fight actually started, and then started to decrease again when there was no longer a fight on the screen. The ratings then shot up drastically for the beginning of the Stephan Bonnar-Forrest Griffin fight, and even more so for the middle and end of the Bonnar-Griffin fight. This indicates a heavy trend of positive word of mouth as untold numbers of people undoubtedly called their friends on the phone and said, "You HAVE to turn to Spike TV and watch this amazing fight."
In general, the quarter-hour ratings for the show built as the broadcast went on, and continued to build through the end of primetime (which is regarded as every night from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM). The end of primetime is considered to be 11:00 PM for a reason: People start going to bed or going out in large quantities at about 11:00 PM and more so in every quarter-hour thereafter. The quarter-hour ratings for show started to decrease at about that same time, partially because the Bonnar-Griffin fight was over and partially because it was 11:00 PM, but not by as much as one might expect.
In terms of the overall ratings, factoring in males and females of all ages, the quarter-hour ratings for the first hour of the show were 1.5, 1.6, 1.9, and 1.7. So, the first hour of the show averaged a 1.7 overall rating. The quarter-hour ratings for the second hour of the show were 1.8, 2.1, 2.5, and 2.3, meaning that the second hour of the show averaged a 2.2 overall rating. The final 30 minutes of the show drew quarter-hour ratings of 2.2 and 2.0, meaning that the last half-hour of the show averaged a 2.1 overall rating.
More of Slightly Older Male Audience Retained for Final Thirty Minutes
Looking at the quarter-hour ratings in the three most important demographics, it's very interesting to note that the highest ratings of the night actually came after 11:00 PM in the case of one demographic, that being 35 to 49 year old males. This indicates that the 35 to 49 year old male demographic was the one that most interested in seeing Ken Shamrock fight Rich Franklin, which is not surprising given that the people who are 35 to 49 years old today are much more likely to have been big fans of Ken Shamrock in the early UFC days than younger viewers who may have been as young as six years old when the UFC was created in 1993.
-In the 18 to 24 year old male demographic, the show averaged a 3.0 rating in the first hour, a 3.9 rating in the second hour, and a 3.6 rating in the last half-hour.
-In the 24 to 35 year old male demographic, the show averaged a 3.0 rating in the first hour, a 3.6 rating in the second hour, and a 3.1 rating in the last half-hour.
-In the 35 to 49 year old male demographic, the show averaged a 1.7 rating in the first hour, a 2.4 rating in the second hour, and a 2.5 rating in the last half-hour.
So, while the ratings in almost all demographics started to decrease at about 11:00 PM as more people either went to bed or went out, the rating actually increased in the 35 to 49 year old male demographic after 11:00 PM. The credit for this ratings abnormality can be given almost exclusively to the ratings-drawing ability of Ken Shamrock. The fact that the ratings in the younger demographics didn't decrease far more than they actually did when the 11:00 PM hour struck is also a testament to Shamrock's power as a ratings draw.
UFC Gets Vote of Confidence from Spike TV, the Media, and Poll Results
With Zuffa and Spike TV still working out all of the financial details for the second season (and possibly third season) of The Ultimate Fighter, one would not expect to see Spike TV publicly heaping as much praise on the UFC as they have been recently. The art of negotiating dictates that for maximum leverage in any negotiations, Side A is going to act like it doesn't need Side B, and Side B is going to act like it doesn't need Side A. Despite this, Spike TV executives have not been shy in their praise of the UFC.
A press release about the season finale's ratings was posted on Yahoo News with the headline, "Knockout Ratings For The Ultimate Fighter Finale on Spike TV" at the following URL: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/050412/nytu156.html?.v=3. In that press release, Spike TV's recently-installed president Doug Herzog said, "These record-breaking numbers illustrate that UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts fighting is on the rise. It is also a true testament to the incredible dedicated and fearless athletes on The Ultimate Fighter."
The UFC also got prominent write-ups in such major newspapers as USA Today and the Boston Globe. In the USA Today article, Spike TV's executive vice president of programming Kevin Kay went as far as to say, "We think we're on to the next big emerging sport."
Also, in a situation that is about as good as publicity gets, the UFC is faring extremely well in a poll on the USA Today web site. In a question related to the "violence factor" and whether the UFC should be shown in primetime, the poll asks visitors of USAToday.com, "Should Spike TV show UFC fights live on primetime television?" At press time, an amazing 75 percent of all poll respondents have said, "Yes, it is no worse than boxing and more exciting." Another 19 percent of respondents have said, "Yes, turn the channel if you don't want to watch."
Only one percent of respondents have said, "Yes, I don't like the show, but hate censorship." Only one percent have said, "No, it should only run pay-per-view or latenight." Only two percent have said, "No, it's barbaric and increases violent behavior." Only two percent have said, "No, the media is promoting violence for ratings."
Adding up the various poll answers, a whopping 94% of all poll respondents have had a response that is positive towards the UFC, while only 6% of respondents have had a response that is negative towards the UFC. This is the first poll of its kind, and the data is overwhelmingly in favor of the UFC.
The Ultimate Fighter's Affect on UFC Pay-Per-View Buys
With the added exposure that The Ultimate Fighter has given to mixed martial arts in general and the UFC in particular, it's not unreasonable to expect an increase in future UFC pay-per-view buy-rates. This is already evidenced by looking at the buy-rate for UFC 50 in October 2004 (before TUF debuted), and comparing it with the buy-rate for UFC 51 in February 2005 (which took place after TUF had been on the air for almost a month).
UFC 50, headlined with the advertised main event of Tito Ortiz vs. Guy Mezger (which was still advertised by cable companies right up until show-time), only drew approximately 35,000 pay-per-view buys nationwide, which is among the lowest buy-rates since Zuffa bought the UFC in 2001. This seriously called into question Ortiz' drawing power. The next PPV advertised a main event of Ortiz vs. Vitor Belfort, which wasn't that much more of a marquee main event to the casual MMA fan, but did have the added exposure of having the UFC reality series on cable TV for a month at that point. With those factors in play, UFC 51 drew approximately 100,000 PPV buys nationwide. Some of that increase can be attributed to the fact that Ortiz vs. Belfort is a bigger fight than Ortiz vs. Mezger, but the belief inside Spike TV, Zuffa, InDemand, and the PPV industry in general is that the exposure on cable television was largely responsible for such a large increase from one show to the next.
With the UFC now having gotten 13 weeks of cable TV exposure and its first live event on cable TV, it's fair to say that anything less than 100,000 buys would be considered a huge disappointment for UFC 52. It's reasonable to expect at least 100,000 buys for UFC 52, maybe 150,000 and maybe even 200,000. However, to expect anything more than that indicates a general lack of understanding of the pay-per-view industry.
In terms of the economics of the pay-per-view industry, the best comparison I can give is World Wrestling Entertainment (insert elitist, pro wrestling-induced "groan" sound effect here). If you add up all of WWE's weekly TV shows, from WWE Raw on Spike TV to Smackdown on network television to their weekend cable shows to their syndicated shows, they have a total of more than ten million people watching WWE programming in the United States every week. Despite this fact, the biggest WWE pay-per-view event of the year, WrestleMania, only draws somewhere between 550,000 and 900,000 PPV buys each year. The vast majority of WWE PPVs only draw somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 PPV buys, with a few WWE PPV events in 2004 even slipping below the 200,000 mark.
That's for a product that has a combined total of more than ten million people watching it on TV every week, for 52 weeks a year. In comparison, the UFC has been on cable television for 13 weeks, with the highest number of viewers for any given week being less than three million. To know all of this and still expect future UFC pay-per-views to draw a million buys or 500,000 or even 300,000 is nothing short of ridiculous. As I said before, cross your fingers and hope for 150,000 or maybe even 200,000, but don't get carried away.
Second Season of TUF Coming with Huge Sign of Mainstream Respect
By seeking applications from fighters who want to be a part of second season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC has confirmed that there will be a second season of the show on Spike TV. While the first season of the show featured light-heavyweights and middleweights, the second season will feature heavyweights and welterweights. The second season will be looked at differently in the TV industry from day one due to the fact that the UFC has won the respect of an industry that doesn't respect you until you prove yourself as a ratings draw, and even then won't necessarily respect you.
The fact that the winners of the first season got a Toyota Scion might not have seemed like a big deal at first glance, but getting sponsorship from Toyota is actually a huge deal. Car manufacturers are considered "high-end advertisers" that often refrain from sponsoring shows that they feel are beneath their corporate image. As an example, Vince McMahon recently complained in a Wall Street Journal article about the fact that not a single car manufacturer has a sponsorship deal to advertise on WWE Raw on a national basis.
Not only are far more advertisers going to be advertising on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, but they're going to be paying more to do it. As previously detailed in the TV trade journal Television Week, the commercial slots for the first season of TUF were sold on the "scatter market" due to the unproven nature of MMA on television, whereas now big-time advertisers are increasingly willing to pay Spike TV up-front to advertise on future episodes of The Ultimate Fighter.
Instead of paying a much smaller than normal CPM rate (which is how much an advertiser pays for an individual commercial per viewer), the second season of The Ultimate Fighter will have the same CPM rate as any other sports programming. That is a huge deal and a huge sign of respect from the television industry. For the purposes of comparison, companies that advertise on WWE programming still pay a significantly smaller than normal CPM rate even with WWE's huge ratings, due to the perception that WWE's viewers have less disposable income than the average sports entertainment fan. The Ultimate Fighter overcame an obstacle in 13 weeks that pro wrestling has not been able to overcome for decades.
The altered perception of MMA in the television industry has also manifested itself in other ways that are smaller but still important. Besides Spike TV openly saying that it wants to make the UFC a big part of its network in the future, another thing that speaks volumes about the UFC's standing in the TV industry (which everyone seems to have overlooked) is the line-up for the UFC's last pre-taped special on Fox Sports Net.
Since late 2004, the UFC has been airing specials on FSN before every UFC pay-per-view, and these specials have featured previous UFC match-ups with the fighters who will be competing on the upcoming PPV. However, FSN was still sticking to the demand that it has had all along, flat-out telling the UFC that it would not air any fight that contained ground-fighting. This demand was rooted in gross ignorance about MMA and the misguided notion that the general public would refuse to watch any fight with ground-fighting in it, and was upheld as recently as the UFC's special that aired on FSN in February.
Now look at the line-up that aired on Fox Sports Net affiliates last week to promote the UFC's next pay-per-view, and notice the inclusion of Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg, a fight that took place almost entirely on the ground. Fox Sports Net has lifted its "no ground fighting" restriction thanks to the fact that The Ultimate Fighter has established itself as the break-out new hit of this season on all of cable television. In addition to the big things like advertising rates, it's little things like this that demonstrate how the perception of MMA has changed in TV industry circles.
Potential Fight Show in the Future: Weekly or Monthly?
There's more to the UFC's future on television than The Ultimate Fighter. If the second season of TUF is as much of a ratings success as the first season, the UFC could very well end up with a deal to have original fights broadcast on Spike TV or Fox Sports Net. These fights could be pre-recorded bouts that are taped specifically to be shown on TV over a period of time, or they could be live bouts as was the case on April 9th.
While we would all ideally love to see a weekly MMA fight show on cable television, I believe that a monthly fight show would make more sense and be more practical. The UFC would need time to hype the TV fights and make people care about the people who are going to be fighting on TV. That's part of the reason that the audience was so into the middleweight and light-heavyweight finals--- because they had gotten to know the fighters over the previous weeks.
Obviously, it would be nice to have a weekly timeslot that shows actual UFC fights on a weekly basis, but the UFC can't produce fights to be broadcast on a weekly basis without stretching itself too thin. I think the solution might be to have a weekly timeslot with live original fights once per month, and then the UFC could fill the other three shows during the month with replays of older UFC fights. They would also want to include plenty of hype on the three "replay" shows for the next TV fights and for the next UFC PPV event.
This solution gives the UFC the saturation of getting the MMA product out there, getting people to have a lot more MMA fights under the viewing belts, and getting people a lot more used to watching MMA fights on a weekly basis. At the same time, it avoids the pitfalls of the UFC spreading itself too thin, trying to do too much, and overexposing the product.
How Tito Ortiz Fits Into the UFC's Future
In speculating who Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar should fight in their first few UFC bouts, I have seen a lot of people say, "So-and-so should fight Tito Ortiz and then if they win that fight, they would get a shot at the title" or statements along those lines. What these people are forgetting is the fact that Tito Ortiz is not a UFC fighter at this point, and it doesn't look like he's going to be a UFC fighter for the forseeable future.
As previously reported by MMAWeekly, Tito Ortiz' contract demands are for him to be paid $350,000 in guaranteed money per fight. That is a ridiculous demand that the Ortiz camp knows is ridiculous. That's not a demand that you make if you're really interested in fighting at the present time. You know, kind of like when the Ortiz camp demanded a multi-fight deal valued at more than one million dollars, only to drastically come down in price as soon as Randy Couture beat Chuck Liddell in June 2003.
Ultimately, Tito Ortiz got a significant raise after sitting out much of 2003, refusing to fight Chuck Liddell. Two fights into a six-fight contract, Ortiz demanded a raise from his contractually agreed-upon salary of $80,000 to fight and $80,000 more to win. When everyone and their dog thought that Chuck Liddell was going to beat Randy Couture at UFC 43 and there would be no other UFC fight for Ortiz other than to fight Chuck Liddell, the Ortiz camp came up with a ridiculous offer sheet valued at more than one million dollars that they knew full well would never possibly be accepted by the UFC.
As soon as Couture beat Liddell, and Ortiz felt much more confident about his chances against Couture than against Liddell, the demands came back down to earth. Tito's new contract called for him to make $125,000 for every fight and an additional $50,000 for every win. Despite publicly denying that he even got a raise (responding to a question about money at the UFC 44 teleconference by saying, "The money is basically the same"), the fact is that Ortiz got a significant raise from his previous salary of $80,000 to fight and $80,000 more to win. This has to weigh heavily on the mind of the UFC, Pride, K-1, or anyone else who might consider offering Ortiz a contract in the future. If he has signed contracts in the past that he hasn't honored, how can any company sign him to a multi-fight deal and have full confidence that he's going to honor the contract rather than holding them up and demanding a raise one-third of the way through it?
After his victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC 51, with his UFC contract expired and with his 30th birthday having passed (he previously said he would retire at 30), Ortiz then dropped the bombshell through media interviews that he wanted $350,000 in guaranteed money per fight. It seemed to be nothing more than a case of intentionally pricing himself out of the sport, or not being willing to fight for anything less than a gigantic amount of money, and that's exactly how the major MMA promotions treated it.
The UFC showed no interest in signing Ortiz at that price, and neither did Pride. From Pride's standpoint, Ortiz is not a big star in Japan and certainly not worth that much money. From the UFC's perspective, Ortiz is their fourth-biggest PPV draw behind Ken Shamrock, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell, and he just recently headlined a PPV that drew a paltry 35,000 buys. Also, the UFC is at a point now where most of the fighters who were on The Ultimate Fighter are better known to the American public than Tito Ortiz.
Just this past weekend, Ortiz began to show signs of desperation. At the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter on Saturday night, Ortiz could be seen as Ken Shamrock was just about ready to enter the Octagon... standing about ten feet behind Shamrock, cupping his hands over his mouth and screaming at him in an attempt to get a reaction. The camera-man panned away from Ortiz rather than spotlighting him, and that was the extent of Ortiz' involvement on one of the biggest nights in the history of MMA in North America.
Ortiz then did an interview with InsideFighting where he made statements like, "I've been loyal to the UFC for seven years" and "I've done right by the UFC for seven years," apparently having forgotten of all the facts outlined above regarding his contract adventures in 2002 and 2003. In the biggest doozy of all, Ortiz took the fact that Pride is not interested in paying him the kind of money he wants and concluded that this must mean the UFC and Pride have a secret agreement not to sign each other's free agents. Never mind the fact that Pride did actually make several offers to free agent Vitor Belfort a couple of months ago before he eventually decided to re-sign with the UFC, and never mind the fact that there is no way Pride is going to pay Tito Ortiz $350,000 per fight under any circumstances. If Pride doesn't want to pay Tito Ortiz that kind of money, it must be because they're doing the UFC a giant favor and not signing him for that reason.
When reached for comment about Ortiz' statements in the InsideFighting article, UFC president Dana White would not comment on Ortiz' contractual status with the UFC, or on the lack of any negotiations between the two sides. In addition, White would not comment on Ortiz' statements about previously being loyal to the UFC. The one thing White was willing to comment on was Ortiz' statements about Pride. White said that Ortiz' beliefs about the UFC and Pride are completely false. When asked about the relationship between the UFC and Pride and whether Pride would be willing to do such a favor for the UFC, White replied, "Are you serious? These guys have been telling me for two years that they were going to send Saku to fight in a UFC event. They have never done anything for the UFC."
Ignorance Among MMA Fans Rears its Ugly Head
It's expected that with all the new fans of the UFC, there will be a certain level of ignorance that is normal for casual fans of any sport, but there is also a certain level of ignorance among hardcore MMA fans who are suggesting that Ken Shamrock vs. Rich Franklin was a worked fight. It doesn't take much in the way of actual facts and logic to dispel this misguided theory.
First of all, someone slipping on the mat twice does not mean a fight is worked. How many times did both fighters slip at various points in the fight between Chuck Liddell and Vernon "Tiger" White? Does that mean that fight was worked? How many times have fighters slipped on the advertising logos on the mat in both MMA and boxing? Does that mean all of those fights were worked?
Also, if you watch the tape closely you can see that after the first slip, Shamrock tries not to put any pressure on his left leg for a while, clearly indicating that he hurt his left leg in the first slip. When he finally does try to put pressure on his left leg by planting it as he throws a kick with his right leg, you can see his left leg noticeably buckle just before the second slip.
If you watch from the camera angle that shows Shamrock's face after the second slip (not the camera angle that shows the back of his head but not his face), you can see that he is alert upon hitting the ground. You can also see if you look at Shamrock's face and in particular his eyes that he was knocked into a semi-conscious state by either the second haymaker punch from Rich Franklin on the ground, or the third one. From that point, he's just lying there in a semi-conscious state as Franklin pounds away, waiting for the ref to stop the fight, as Shamrock's head bounces off the mat like a basketball several times. If you're looking at the camera angle with the back of Shamrock's head in it, he's just lying there taking shot after shot. It's only when you look at the camera angle that shows Shamrock's face that you can clearly see he was no longer there after the second or third punch.
This is not all that unusual. Rich Franklin is a fighter who hits very, very hard, as evidenced by his impressive TKO win over a fighter the caliber of Evan Tanner who has been in there with many great fighters. Seeing someone get knocked into unconsciousness or semi-consciousness after being pounced upon on the mat is also not unusual. When Ricco Rodriguez went down in the fight with Tim Sylvia, close inspection shows that he was still conscious and fairly alert when he hit the ground. It wasn't until Sylvia pounced on him and landed several punches flush on Rodriguez' face that he was knocked out. The same goes for Mirko Cro Cop vs. Kevin Randleman. Again, it's not unusual.
Besides this evidence, there is the fact that Rich Franklin said he felt his ankle pop when Shamrock put him in the ankle lock. If you watch closely and know what you're watching, you know that Shamrock nearly finished the fight and the only reason Franklin escaped was because he knew exactly how to roll to put the least amount of pressure on his ankle and exactly how to escape. There is also the fact that the Nevada State Athletic Commission determined after the fight that Ken Shamrock suffered an eye injury, which may be a scratched cornea. You normally wouldn't see tweaked ankles and scratched eyeballs in a worked fight.
More than anything else, there's common sense. Why would Ken Shamrock significantly reduce his future earnings potential in any viable career field (MMA, pro wrestling, or acting) by "working" and losing a fight the way he lost that fight? The Wrestling Observer recently reported that Shamrock owes a large sum of money to the IRS in back taxes, and it's probably a greater amount that he earned in the fight with Franklin. You mean to tell me that someone who owes money to the IRS is going to significantly reduce his future earnings potential that he could use to pay off that debt, and he's going to do it intentionally? That just defies common sense.
My Personal Take on the April 9th Show
I truly think that April 9th, 2005 is a day that will go down in MMA history. Not only did we get the first ever MMA fights on live TV, but to get an all-time classic like Bonnar-Griffin was amazing. We also got two other fights that were short but were excellent while they lasted. In Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, the UFC has two legitimate stars who are A) Great fighters, B) Great personalities that can give good interviews in both a serious way and a funny way, and C) Good people who live the kind of lifestyles we'd all want UFC fighters to live... the anti-Tank Abbott, if you will.
I think from a business standpoint, what Bonnar and Griffin did during the fight was matched by what they did after the fight, as they had the crowd in the palms of their hands cheering for them, genuinely laughing at their post-fight jokes, liking both guys and wanting to see them both again, etc. The decision was close and I would have personally had it 29 to 28 in favor of Bonnar, but it was close enough that you can't say it's anything even resembling a "robbery" either way.
The live crowd and the viewing audience seem to have been very pleased by the UFC's decision to not only give Forrest Griffin and Diego Sanchez the "winner" contracts, but also Stephan Bonnar. I believe that giving Bonnar the contract was not only warranted and a good decision, but realistically it was also something that the UFC had to do or he would have been scooped up with a big offer from Pride or K-1 in a heartbeat.
In addition to Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar becoming huge stars, I believe that stars were also born with Diego Sanchez and Rich Franklin. By the way, interviews conducted since the fights on Saturday have clearly established that Rich Franklin is definitely moving back down to 185 pounds, and Diego Sanchez is definitely moving back down to 170 pounds. The UFC also has four potential future stars at 185 pounds coming out of the undercard with Nate Quarry, Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck, and Mike Swick.
The best thing one can say about the April 9th UFC broadcast on Spike TV is this: That show was so good, it's bound to create new MMA fans. I think it's safe to say that you can take that two-and-a-half hours of tape and show it to a group of non-MMA-fans, and the majority of them will turn out to be MMA fans after watching it. That's one of the biggest goals of any MMA show, and few shows have ever pulled it off as well as the April 9th season finale of The Ultimate Fighter.