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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

UFC on Fox will eventually draw new business to local bars

Several area establishments seemed unaware Saturday's UFC on Fox is not a pay-per-view event like the league's other bouts. Saturday's is the first of the league's seven-year contract with the network.
Typically, only certain bars carry the fights, presumably because of the purchase cost of the event, which is calculated by the venue's seating area. With the Dos Santos-Velasquez bout being free on Fox for the first time, many bars seem to be missing the boat on siphoning UFC crowds away from Buffalo Wild Wings, the established home for that crowd.
While the pre-fights will be available online via Fox Sports and Facebook, the main bout will be carried live on FOX. Network coverage begins at 9 p.m.
"Fox believes millions of uninitiated viewers will get their first taste of the violent, growing sport by tuning into the one-hour show from Anaheim, Calif.," according to the Associated Press. The report estimates UFC is forgoing a $40 million take on the event by shifting to Fox.
The Waterford BWW is, of course, carrying the fight and expects a crowd similar to those for pay-per-view events, which is standing-room only.
"We have a lot of fight fans who come here no matter what," one manager said.
Steve Estmont, assistant general manager of the Troy BWW location, thinks some fans may opt to stay in Saturday and watch from home.
"It's our first experience with a Fox event," he said, adding Saturday's have been lucrative thanks to traffic from surrounding businesses.
Bullfrogs in Ortonville, a safe-haven for UFC fans until recently, will be carrying the fight. The venue used to carry the PPV events until the end of the summer and expects to resume its carriage when business picks up next summer.
"It's not as busy anymore and (UFC) doesn't bring in as much business as it used to," one manager said. "It's not cheap by any means."
Shark's Club in Waterford has never carried a UFC event. It's 17,000 sq.-feet seating area likely comes with an incredible price tag. Sister-location Overtyme in Waterford doesn't carry the events, either.
The Lodge in Keego Harbor doesn't normally carry UFC fights, but will be showing the event because it's on Fox. Lodge personnel said people typically call inquiring about the bar carrying the fight in the days leading up to the event.
Sure, Saturday's coverage on Fox is only an hour, but the network plans on expanding coverage in the future and this would be a good way for other locations to assume some of the traffic that typically goes to Buffalo Wild Wings. UFC plans to have four events per year on Fox when its new deal actually begins in January. As the sport gets more mainstream, which is the purpose of this pact, more establishments will treat the fights like NFL or college football games and plan their business around the event.


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