Past the public rhetoric about jockularity and fun and providing an alternative to the tweedy intellectualism of ESPN (no really), Fox Sports 1's strategy is simple and sensible: air sports people want to watch. You're not going to conquer America with Champions League soccer, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, U.S Open golf, and Pac-12 and Big 12 football, but it beats the hell out of running nothing but shows about guns and fishing.
Given all that, the UFC is in some ways FS1's key property. There are lots of places to watch first-rate soccer, baseball, auto sports, golf, and college football, after all, but the UFC is a Fox exclusive. Carrying it also gives the network an identity—that of a bald, sweaty white guy bellowing incomprehensibly at you, perhaps, but that's a lot better than not existing.
It isn't strange, then, that FS1 is building its debut tomorrow around a UFC fight card. It is strange that the big fights at the top of this big, important card are so lame.
The main event has Chael Sonnen fighting Shogun Rua in a pointless matchup of men who should probably retire. Sonnen is a Fox Sports pundit who was brutally wrecked in his last two bouts and has one convincing win in the last three and a half years; Rua is a once-great fighter with a 5-5 record in the UFC who can barely move because of the many knee surgeries he's endured over the years. On top of the fight's essential irrelevance, it's also a dubious stylistic matchup featuring a slow wrestler against an immobile striker with questionable takedown defense. Tune in to this one and you're liable to see
15 25 minutes of Sonnen's ass facing the camera, followed by an interview where he pretends to be Rowdy Roddy Piper.
The semi-main features freakish comic-book villain Alistair Overeem against generic heavyweight Travis Browne. Overeem is a former kickboxing champion who enjoyed a nice run crushing tomato cans in Japan before coming to the United States, where he's looked every bit the fraud UFC higher-ups always privately said he was. Browne is a guy, pretty much. There are good odds that one of these two will knock the other one out and that a bald, sweaty white guy will bellow about it, but nothing involving Overeem is likely to be the kind of fight that would convince a skeptic that the sport is something other than a semi-athletic sideshow.
Sonnen and Overeem have both been suspended in doping controversies that are far too tedious to go into in any detail but are worth mentioning, if only because you can be sure that Fox pundits and the UFC's house broadcasters won't be dwelling on them. A lame sporting event, petty conflicts of interest, and a whole lot of noise: your alternative to ESPN, ladies and gentlemen.
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