If you've been feeling like the UFC is occupying a lot of your free time lately, it isn't your imagination. The world's foremost MMA organization is coming off a stretch of four straight events -- two of them pay-per-views, and all of them on Saturday nights -- before going into the briefest little two-week hibernation leading up to UFC 137 at the end of the month.
After that, it's UFC 138 from England on November 5, then the UFC's FOX debut the weekend after that, and then UFC 139 in San Jose the weekend after that. Once we hit 2012, the UFC calendar only gets busier.
It makes you wonder, between the UFC's pay-per-view offerings, cable TV events, and regular reality show installments, what's the true cost in both money and time for hardcore fans who simply have to see it all?
For starters, take a glance at the pay-per-views. If everything proceeds according to schedule, the UFC will have put on 16 of them in 2011. They run you abut $55 a pop in HD ($45 in what I like to call "regular D"), so let's split the difference and call it $50 per event.
If you had stayed home all by your lonesome and paid for every single event without any friends or even sympathetic, MMA-loving acquaintances to pitch in, you'd have spent $800 just on UFC events in 2011. Of course, that doesn't count the cost of monthly cable (which you need in order to watch those Spike TV or Versus events, not to mention the prelims before each pay-per-view) or monthly internet access (which you need in order to watch the Facebook prelims and, you know, read this article).
But let's be realistic. Very few people are laying down the dough for each and every pay-per-view all by themselves. For the sake of argument, let's say you had three friends who were just as fanatical about seeing every single pay-per-view. Let's say the four of you split each one equally. Then you're looking at $12.50 a pay-per-view, and $200 on the year (not counting snacks, drinks, and carpet cleaner for when your friends inevitably get drunk and spill some snacks on your floor).
That's no small chunk of change, but most of us probably spend at least that much per year on coffee or junk food, so it's not unreasonable, either. To put it in perspective, compare the cost to other entertainment expenditures.
UFC president Dana White likes to tout his pay-per-views as being a relatively cheap form of entertainment, assuming you can get a significant number of people to chip in. The average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. now hovers around eight dollars, which means you could see about 25 movies per year for the same price as splitting 16 UFC pay-per-views among you and your three friends.
Or, at $18 per month, you could pay for almost an entire year's worth of Netflix (assuming you want DVDs in the mail and instant streaming -- and be honest, you do), which would allow you to stay home and watch a theoretically unlimited number of movies (even if you have to wait an extra few months to see Real Steel).
If you're the type who feels like Hollywood never measures up to real-life sporting events, however, you could buy tickets to about eight major league baseball games or about four NFL games, depending on the team, the seat, and how you go about acquiring them. Of course, that doesn't factor in parking, refreshments, or stadium pickpockets, though it does get you out of the house in a way that UFC pay-per-views don't.
But it's not just money that fight fans invest in order to keep up with the UFC -- it's also a great deal of time. Those 16 pay-per-views in 2011? Those clock in at around three hours each, which adds up to 48 hours -- two whole days -- spent watching grown men beat each other up.
Add up this year's Fight Nights, UFC Live events, TUF Finales, and UFC 138 on tape delay from England, and there's another 10 events at two hours each, including commercials. Then there's the one-hour UFC on FOX, for a total of 21 hours spent watching the UFC's free events. Add in another 22 hours spent watching two full seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, plus the one hour prelims before each pay-per-view event, and what you're looking at is 107 hours spent watching the UFC alone in 2011, and that doesn't even include little extras like Facebook prelims or Countdown shows.
If you're curious, that's almost four and a half full days in front of the TV. But as general sports fandom goes, that's not even necessarily so extreme.
For instance, over the course of the NFL's 17-week regular season, you could easily watch three full football games every Sunday, plus another one every Monday night. At around three hours per game, that's 204 hours a year. Factor in three weeks of playoffs, plus the Super Bowl, and you're up to about 237 hours, or nearly 10 full days.
One major difference is that the 10 days of NFL viewing is packed into about five months, whereas the UFC's 4 1/2 days is spread out across the entire year. But then, NFL games take place mostly on Sundays, when people are more likely to be home anyway, whereas UFC events are almost exclusively on Saturday nights, when people are more likely to go out in search of some form of social life. The NFL is also almost entirely free to watch, if you don't count the toll that sitting through all those commercials takes on your mind and spirit.
So what does it all mean? That depends on your perspective. If you're a lonely but dedicated fight fan doing it all by yourself, it means you could be taking a date to the movies almost once a week for what you're spending to watch the UFC alone at home on Saturday nights, and in the end you'd still have about seven extra hours to spend perusing online dating sites or improving your personal hygiene (perhaps some combination of the two would be best).
If your UFC fandom goes hand-in-hand with your social group, you might only spend as much on pay-per-views as you do on pizza every year, and at least it's in the company of friends who will tell you if you have sauce on your face.
Whatever you're spending, and however long it's taking you, get ready to put in more time and money next year. The UFC isn't slowing down. Not as long as its fans are still willing to do what it takes to keep up.