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Did UFC 103 prove the efficacy of airing free prelims?

After the incredible WEC card on Saturday and the DREAM featherweight tournament finally wrapping up, Belfort v. Franklin seems more and more like a distant memory. It is worth remembering that this card, of the replacement main event that was the best consolation prize in the annual Fedor duck-and-weave contest (again, Fedor’s streak remains intact), drew a rather impressive 400,000 PPV buys opposite the return of Floyd Mayweather on the same night. Also of note is that the card was preceded by four good preliminary fights on Spike, aired during the hour immediately preceding the PPV card (and with constant reminders and instructions to order said card). Some were critical of the relatively poor ratings garnered by the fights, but Zach Arnold sees it differently:

Because the show did a 1.4 cable rating, which was labeled by various writers as ‘disappointing.’ But, wait a second, aren’t many of those writers the same people that claim that it’s not how big your cable rating is but how many viewers you convert into PPV customers?

The argument is that there were buys out there that the free card on Spike got that would’ve otherwise remained dormant. Arnold further reveals that UFC 104 will be getting a similar treatment, meaning we get to see Pat Berry and Antoni Hardonk try to rebound while Darth Bader gets subbed by Ravishing Red. If they go the same way the scheduled prelims for UFC 103 did, then Struve/Gormley or Sonnen/Okami (ok, probably not Sonnen/Okami) could also be included. And I love me some Struve.

Look, even if you don’t feel like lauding another brilliant business move by Zuffa, just play along so we get to see more free fights, okay?