The UFC used to have the best production team in sports, but it's a shell of its former self - here's why and how the UFC needs to revamp their TV broadcasts
Back in the day, the UFC's partnership with Spike TV was used almost exclusively to funnel viewers into buying pay-per-views.
Spike TV of course was no major network nor did they have a live sports broadcasting arm, but it was available to a wide audience in the US and Canada and let the UFC handle all aspects of its production. If you know about the UFC's history, you'd know that the UFC basically fell into Spike TV's lap only to become the channel's biggest commodity.
In the early 2000s after Zuffa LLC purchased the floundering UFC, the MMA business was on life support. Despite being approved for sanctioning by athletic commissions in more and more states and slowly improving the image of the sport after waves of negative press coverage caught up to them and a pay-per-view ban crippled their revenue stream, the UFC was still in dire straits. Even after PPV providers returned the product to their services, sales were dismal and Zuffa was reportedly some $50 million dollars in the hole by 2005 (they originally paid just $2 million for the company in 2001).
The UFC needed something to change if there was any hope of survival - with their backs to the wall, Dana White and the Fertittas called in a hail mary play. After pitching a reality show which would force 16 up-and-coming professional fighters to live in the same house and compete in a series of challenges and fights in order to earn their way into a lucrative contract with the UFC, not a single network opted to pick up the project. The networks the UFC pitched to included Spike TV, which at the time was branded as "the network for men".
Knowing cable networks were wary of the risk involved, Lorenzo decided to fund the entire show himself, which would cost him some $10 million and put Zuffa even further in debt - the expensive gamble was enough to get Spike TV to air the show however, and that was just the break the UFC needed.
The Ultimate Fighter would air in 2005 and quickly caught on with its colourful cast of fighters and full, real MMA fights that aired on free TV for the first time. Each episode saw roughly 2 million viewers tune in, numbers not seen often on the rather niche network. For the finale of the show, the UFC would put on a full fight card live on Spike TV with the two finalists from both divisions on the show competing for 6-figure UFC contracts - to bolster popularity, the UFC also had the event headlined by bonafide UFC talent, with a rising prospect in Rich Franklin (and future middleweight champion) and MMA/pro wrestling legend Ken Shamrock.
The live finale turned into an unbridled success when the final fight in the light heavyweight bracket resulted in the best fight in UFC history (at the time), with Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar turning in a bloody slugfest for the ages that left the entire arena on their feet and had live viewership skyrocket throughout their epic scrap. In a savvy business move, the two coaches of the season (legends Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture) would have their highly anticipated rematch on PPV just one week after The Ultimate Fighter finale, with the finale serving as the world's best advertising for the UFC.
The gamble was risky but it was also brilliant in its execution. UFC 52 would prove to be a massive success for the company thanks to the show and scored nearly 300,000 PPV buys, which at the time was massive. The UFC's hail mary play had paid off - not only were they finally bringing in good money, but Spike immediately greenlit a second season and the UFC would further their broadcasting partnership with the channel after Spike saw the clear potential the UFC had.
Soon enough the UFC was airing hour-long prelim shows on Spike as a lead-in to their pay-per-views - two live fights would be shown for free on the network as the broadcast team hyped up the upcoming fights to entice fans into buying the main card. The UFC then branched out and started putting on "Fight Night" cards - completely free events broadcast in their entirety on the network. They would save their stars for PPV events, but the free cards provided great value for fans and helped turn prospects into draws and were also a great way to promote upcoming pay-per-view events.
The UFC blew up post-Ultimate Fighter and turned into the fastest growing sport in history, smashing records year over year. Part of their success (besides delivering great fights of course) was undoubtedly due to their extremely polished and slick event production. Dana White and the Fertittas knew from the start that putting together a quality product with their own staff (rather than letting whatever network they partnered with control the production) was key in establishing their brand and maintaining a large following.
As a result, Zuffa had some of the best production qualities of any live event, from an iconic commentary team to great use of replays to impeccable sound quality. Their promo packages and commercials were superb and did an excellent job of selling fights and put other sports presentations at the time (like most boxing promotions) to shame. Their "countdown" shows previewing the main draws on pay-per-views and giving more backstory and training info on their stars were excellent and a great sales funnel for the company, not to mention the award winning Primetime series which was essentially a longer and more detailed episodic countdown show produced for major events only.
The one problem with the rise of free events was and always had been, pacing.
For the PPV prelims, the one hour slots had essentially half an hour dedicated to each fight, with any time left over dedicated to further selling the PPV. The strict time slot that ensured the main card started on time worked to keep things moving, but for entirely free events, that strict pacing fell to the wayside. Commercials were abundant, with the UFC and Spike making the most of fans' enthusiasm by forcing them to sit through ad after ad, which to be fair is common for all popular programs and sports.
Fans at the time took it as a small price to pay in order to see the fights without having to shell out $50 for a pay-per-view or waiting for a VHS to hit store shelves like in the old days, though sometimes when the fights didn't deliver having to sit through all those commercials only to be disappointed was a difficult pill to swallow.
The Fox Era
After their explosion in popularity over the next several years, the UFC had outgrown the Spike TV network and it was time to move on to one of the major sports broadcasters.
In 2011, a lucrative deal was struck with Fox Sports to bring the MMA titan to their family of networks, with "tiers" of events soon established. After some growing pains, the UFC settled into providing the network three main content streams for live events - PPV preliminary bouts leading up to a PPV card (four bouts in a two hour slot rather than the 2-in-1 format which was primarily used on Spike), free Fight Night events on smaller Fox networks (Fox Sports 1 or 2, FX, FuelTV before it was rebranded), and quarterly "big" Fox cards broadcast live on Fox's main basic cable network and all of its regional affiliates.
Of course, they also provided tons of other content, from UFC countdowns to a weekly UFC news/recap show and more, but here I'm focusing on their live event schedule.
This new era of free content meant more live fights shown over the air and tons more UFC content available to fans. For the most part the UFC's production values only went up, for better or worse - events were given an air of legitimacy with the Fox branding and having it featured alongside mainstream sports Fox covered like football and basketball, though that often coincided with Fox Sports personalities like Curt Menefee joining a pre-fight desk to preview the big fights despite their complete lack of knowledge on the sport.
One bigger issue that became apparent early on was confusion regarding the actual watching of events - in particular, the different "tiers" of prelims and which station the fights were on.
For example, on a free Fight Night card, a few fights comprising the "early" prelims (which used to not be televised at all unless later fights ended quickly and thus they had time to fill) would be available on Facebook, or later, on FuelTV or Fox Sports 2 when Fox decided to air those as well. The "normal" prelims composed of four fights would then take place on one of the smaller Fox networks, like FuelTV or even FX. The main card then might take place on Fox Sports 1.
Even hardcore fans often had trouble keeping track of what was being broadcast where especially as it was rarely consistent, and for casual fans, the hassle was enough to put some off of watching the event altogether.
This was exacerbated by Fox's constant shuffling of the networks. You had a smaller network that essentially turned into the main spot for UFC news, countdown shows, The Ultimate Fighter, and more in FuelTV, which was later relaunched as Fox Sports 2. Then you had Fox Sports 1 which was often home to PPV prelims and some main cards. Major quarterly shows were shown on the main Fox channel and its local affiliates. Add in FX and FXX which were also occasionally used for showing the UFC, and even the Versus network which aired a few cards.
The litany of networks and inconsistent nature of their scheduling was a major problem, not to mention when other live programming ran over its time slot and bumped the UFC to other networks or delayed the card entirely, though later on they eventually got a bit better - Fox Sports 2 was essentially the hub for the UFC and most prelims and showed some smaller event's main cards, Fox Sports 1 was for PPV prelims and some free main cards, and big Fox remained for the quarterly "bigger" free shows.
Years later when things were finally settled and the UFC got into a more steady rhythm, the pacing that has always been an issue for Fight Night cards continued to get worse.
While commercials were always abundant, now we had much of the broadcast dedicated to talking heads breaking down the upcoming action or continuing to try and sell people on the main fights they were already tuning in for. Toward the end of the Fox deal this had started to become near unbearable, especially on shows where they decided to have a six fight main card that regularly ran upwards of three-and-a-half hours (which is especially brutal for those on the East Coast or overseas).
Following the prelim formula of a half-hour per fight, six fights should take up at most a three hour broadcast, plus a few minutes if the main event doesn't end early (since main events are potentially 25-minutes of fighting with 4-minutes of breaks alone). Instead, it would regularly go way over three hours, sometimes a full hour over, even if most of the fights were finishes. Even five-fight cards sometimes ran past the three-hour window.
The UFC seemed to follow the big sports playbook of filling time with constant talking and analysis rather than action, and in doing so clearly misunderstood their audience. The main card for every event started off with a 10-15 minute segment at the Fox desk previewing the upcoming fights - right there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what viewers want. The previews have worked. Fans tuning in either know who the main fights are, or only need a couple of minutes to be informed. They tuned in to watch the product, not watch some people talking about it and saying why they should tune in when they already are tuned in.
Watching a non-PPV UFC broadcast therefore is, in order of length spent viewing: 1) watching commercials, 2) watching analysis and promo packages, and 3) watching the actual fights.
While many pointed to "oversaturation" as the reason for declining viewership shortly after the move to Fox due to the increased number of fights and events from the Spike TV era, the events themselves in recent years have never been better.
Although the initial bulge of events had many free cards thin on talent, the UFC year over year continued to boast higher caliber talent as the sport evolved, and consistently put on more and more exciting fights. Even with the occasional dud, it was still far and away a superior product in the cage. Despite this, UFC's ratings on Fox declined quite sharply from the first few events, never reaching anywhere close to their first 3 major Fox cards and even sporting lower numbers quite regularly than what they were pulling in the last couple years on Spike TV.
To compare, many of the fight night events on Spike would regularly pull in 2 million viewers - seasons of The Ultimate Fighter would also pull in around a million viewers an episode toward the tail end of the Spike era. On Fox, numbers initially swelled - the very first event, which featured a heavyweight title fight on Fox's main channel, drew in over 8 million viewers and was a massive (ratings-wise) success.
But the UFC made a major mistake with this first event - rather than putting on several big fights which is largely what the success of the UFC depended on and what separated them from boxing promotions of recent decades, the UFC put all their eggs in one basket and showed just one fight in a one hour time slot - Junior Dos Santos versus Cain Velasquez.
Granted, the fight was absolutely massive and had the entire world's attention - Junior was the clear top contender and had cut through the heavyweight division in his vicious ascent to the title, scalping big names with his heavy hands and slick boxing. Cain meanwhile was riding high off of his famous demolition of superstar Brock Lesnar - it was a huge event that would have drawn large pay-per-view numbers, so to put a fight of that magnitude on free TV was unheard of and had the MMA world abuzz.
The UFC opted to show the prelims (which included a Fight of the Year contender as the co-main event in Benson Henderson vs. Clay Guida) online and have just the main event on Fox for their debut special on the major network. The big mistake here was of course that in the heavyweight division in particular, quick fights are a regular occurence.
After around half-an-hour talking about the historic moment and the gigantic heavyweight war fans were about to witness, the two greats stepped into the cage. In front of the world and some 10+ million people at its peak, Junior Dos Santos clubbed Velasquez on the side of the head and knocked him out in just 64 seconds.
All that anticipation and hype and the fight was over in just a minute. The UFC filled the rest of the time on Fox by reacting to the surprise KO, and fans tuned out in droves. Rather than showing viewers the kind of fights they regularly put on, like replaying the Henderson-Guida war which had occurred just an hour prior to a much smaller crowd, the UFC's mainstream showcase turned into disaster.
The UFC had banked on a battle of two of the best heavyweights in the game (which they would actually get in the next two bouts in the Cain-JDS trilogy, funny enough) to make a good first impression, but heavyweight fights are simply too volatile and unpredictable and the company paid the price for not having any other fights aired on the broadcast. How much bigger the UFC could've gotten had they only expanded the initial card to include the brilliant co-main event is anyone's guess, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Following that initial disappointment, the UFC stacked their first few big Fox cards with notable names and garnered massive viewership, with 4-6 million tuning in for each main card. Their biggest mistake? Rather than putting on exciting fights which guaranteed a good scrap and could hook new fans, which is what was critical in those spots, they made matchups purely on name value and rankings which is good in theory, but you still need interesting style pairings to make for good fights. Some of those had potential to be fun fights, but matching up wrestlers like Phil Davis and Rashad Evans had a high chance of resulting in slow and dull affairs, and unfortunately for them that's exactly how their first few cards played out.
When you have stale fights (ironically the prelims on those cards ended up being much better in virtually every case) and in between them you have tons of commercials followed by analysis and talk of those said fights, casual fans are going to leave en masse. And that's exactly what happened.
After the first few big Fox cards, the UFC's viewership steadily fell to similar numbers to what they had on Spike - they still scored highly with the most coveted advertising demographic in males aged 18-49, but as years went on fight nights dropped to around a million viewers or less each. They slowly learned to put fan favourite action fighters on the main cards of the free events, and their main Fox cards drastically improved, soon known by fans as some of the best events of the year, but the damage was already done. Even the best events shown on Fox never came close to those initial few cards, with the major quarterly Fox events in the last few years not even able to reach two million average viewers anymore.
Some of this deterioration has been attributed to the rise of cord-cutting and online streaming just like in other sports, but the biggest problem was and always has been pacing.
A few years into the Fox deal the UFC unveiled UFC Fight Pass, a streaming service vowing to be the "Netflix for fight fans". The service is $10 a month (or $99 a year) and included early prelims not broadcast on Fox channels, a select few fight night events (basically events in different time zones that Fox didn't pick up due to them being at weird times in the US), all of the UFC's prior fight library and content, as well as their extensive library of purchased organizations like PRIDE, WEC, StrikeForce, and more.
Over time the service became quite impressive and partnered with a plethora of smaller organizations to provide streams of their regional events as well as to make their catalogue of fights available to fans at any time. Now, that catalogue is incredibly extensive and fight fans can find something live going on every week, from Muay Thai kickboxing events in Thailand to regional boxing cards to top-level Glory kickboxing cards and LFA mixed martial arts events (a renowned regional promotion that's seen plenty of UFC fighters start there).
Perhaps the biggest plus for fans were those live Fight Pass cards because it showed just how superior the product is when commercials and relentless analysis are removed from the equation. The pacing on those cards is vastly improved - after a short intro you're right into the fighter's walkouts, get to see fighters in their corners and highlights between rounds (typically you miss walkouts and fighter corners thanks to commercials), after a fight the winner is interviewed then right away the next fight's promo is started and the next fighters are walking out before you know it.
The brisk pacing keeps the action high and turns it into a completely different viewing experience - even a disappointing card doesn't feel like such a waste because you haven't wasted your time on commercials and analysis.
The ESPN Era
Most recently, following the expiration of the UFC's deal with Fox the UFC partnered up with Disney-owned ESPN. The deal started last year and has had a mixed reaction from fans.
Starting off once again with a big fight, this time a matchup with the (since disgraced cheat) bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw dropping down to flyweight to challenge Olympic gold medalist and flyweight champion Henry Cejudo in an attempt to become a two-division champion. Unlike the first Fox card, the UFC had a full four-fight main card, and pulled in solid ratings for their debut with an average of over 2 million viewers - an improvement over the last few Fox cards despite ESPN roughly being in the same amount of homes as Fox Sports 1 and thus much smaller than Fox's potential audience on basic cable.
The pacing that has turned off so many over the years has continued to be abysmal when fights are on ESPN, though thanks to many events being shown on ESPN+ (or Fight Pass/TSN for those of us in Canada or outside the US) that pacing is thankfully much better on those cards and is more akin to what Fight Pass exclusive cards were, though there's still room for improvement.
Unfortunately, there's still too much analysis and not enough emphasis on the actual fights - while it's fine for the commercial-free ESPN+ cards, it makes the ESPN/ESPN2 events a slog. A drastic reduction in the commentary between fights would go a long way in streamlining their broadcasts and making them much more palatable for casual fans.
Weirdly, broadcasts (including those on Fight Pass or ESPN+) have featured increasingly poor highlights over the years - after a crazy fight, most fans like to see quick highlights of the action from different angles, especially for those that may have missed what set up a huge knockdown or great combo. The UFC has gotten pretty poor in this department - for knockouts and submissions they are great as they show the finish from multiple angles repeatedly, but for fights that go the distance, often very little is shown in the highlights and regularly the broadcast seems quick to cut to the next promo package or desk segment rather than dwell on the action that just occured - an odd choice given the proceeding segment of every broadcast is hyping up the next fight.
Cutting out some of the analysis of the next bouts and instead taking a minute to highlight great moments (they can still skip this if the fight wasn't good) in a bout would be a much better use of their broadcast time and would let fans enjoy the moment before forgetting all about what just happened. It's very odd just how little is shown (and often they leave out most of the memorable moments) in most fights, especially since years ago that wasn't the case.
On TV broadcasts, cutting entirely out of the arena to stuff commercials in between rounds is also annoying and pulls viewers out of the fight - it's something that can quite easily be addressed and has in other sports. The NBA, which has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to the league finally adapting to modern audiences, has embraced the highlight-focused social media culture as well as viewers' desire to see sports live and take in all of the action.
If the UFC wants to continue building their numbers of ESPN rather than seeing them dwindle like they did on Fox, they should take note of the NBA and other sports programming that has managed to build their numbers in the last few years. Rather than pulling the audience out of the bout in between rounds, the UFC can easily still get advertising dollars by displaying ads in a picture-in-picture view. The UFC has actually done this before (longtime fans will likely remember the "Fram Cam" or "this corner audio is brought to you by Corn Nuts") to some extent; it's a much more effective way of retaining people's attention and is much less annoying to the audience as they can remain "in" the fight throughout its duration and not feel like they missed anything.
The slow opening on main cards is also silly and does nothing to add to the experience; a few minutes of talking is fine to get fans hyped, but shows regularly don't see any fight occuring until a good fifteen minutes have passed since the card "began". Fans tune in to see the fights - after a few minutes of selling the matchups to those that may not know who's fighting, get on with the action rather than making everyone listen to more talk.
The last issue with the UFC's broadcasting since the dawn of the Fox era is their promotion of upcoming fights.
In the days of Spike, Fight Nights were rare for the most part and pay-per-views still served the bulk of the UFC offerings during the year. As such, each free card would heavily promote the next PPV event - previews were plentiful, and there may be a mention of upcoming Fight Nights or The Ultimate Fighter, but the primary focus for the promotional aspect was to sell viewers on the next PPV.
Of course as the UFC has gotten bigger, the amount of non-PPV cards has skyrocketed while premium cards remain at roughly one per month. As such, there's a lot more for the UFC to promote, and this is where the UFC's broadcast has major problems.
For new or casual fans, the UFC's promotional material during their broadcasts is simply overwhelming. Way too many names, dates, and channels are thrown at the viewer and as such much of it is not retained. The UFC has also gotten in the habit of promoting every fight they talk about as essential viewing - for new fans this quickly becomes intimidating and is more likely to turn them off than get them to watch everything.
In order to maximize the efficacy of their in-event promotion, streamlining things would be a godsend - spend more time emphasizing the PPV events (which ESPN now controls and thus will be fully on board with) and treat the other ESPN+ and television offerings as more supplemental, free content without throwing so many of the names and faces on that card at viewers.
With the UFC and ESPN looking to cash in on the PPV model, it seems odd that the pairing is continuing to lump the free cards in with the PPV events for much of their broadcast promotion; while it was understandable in the past as the UFC alone profitted off the pay-per-views, with ESPN owning the PPV rights they really haven't adapted the model to increase their returns. It's part of why the PPV numbers have gone drastically down since the move over to ESPN+ exclusivity (along with the increased hassle for many fans and the annoyance of forcing people to have a subscription yet still paying the same price for a PPV event).
Last but not least, one has to mention the commentary team.
The UFC still has by far the best commentary team in the MMA business - even their C team does a better job than their counterparts in the likes of Bellator. But the three-man booth they've employed for many cards in the last few years just isn't as good - a two-man team consisting of a play-by-play announcer and a colour commentator is the most popular choice in sports programming for a reason.
Jon Anik does a great job as a play-by-play announcer and the UFC has many colour commentators that do a great job - Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping are both fantastic, while others like Paul Felder also do an amazing job.
The biggest problem in the booth comes from the most famous MMA commentator of all time: Joe Rogan. He was arguably the best commentator in MMA for many years, but over the last few, his passion for commentating has clearly been lacking. He's even admitted as much - he'd rather sit back and do a podcast with his friends than commentate for the UFC, but an easy gig for a fat paycheck is hard to resist.
While he's only on PPV broadcasts at events that occur in North America, these are the biggest events of the year. Rogan has become a shell of his former self on the mic - while he's still good for the occasional laugh and interesting tidbit, he's become more and more biased and one-sided with his commentary and clearly doesn't put in effort before cards to prepare like he used to.
Rather than calling what's happening in the cage, Rogan often gets entrenched in a narrative and continues to bring everything back to that narrative - his most common one (there are several), is when a muscular fighter is beating up their opponent early. This incites Rogan to go on a tangent about how "more muscle requires more oxygen" and how all that explosive movement will tire them out and prove detrimental. Even when what happens in the cage completely contradicts his narrative, Rogan will keep it going, and essentially forces the entire booth to follow along with it.
A perfect example of this would be Lyman Good's demolition of Chance Rencountre back in November - Lyman is an explosive, thickly muscled striker and was beating the shit out of his vastly overmatched foe, hurting him repeatedly and to the point that arguably Rencountre's corner should have thrown in the towel.
Yet from the opening round Rogan continued to harp on and on about how Lyman was slowing down, even as he kept a brisk pace and continued battering Rencountre every chance (see what I did there?) he got. All the way up to the point Good flatlined Rencountre in the third and finished him for good, Rogan continued to talk incessantly about how Lyman was slowing down despite his steady pace.
One of the worst cases of this (which may have also been helped along by the UFC itself given Cyborg's problems with Dana White and crew) was Rogan's calling of Cris Cyborg's beatdown of Felicia Spencer.
After having lost to Amanda Nunes in 2018 to end over a decade of dominance, Cyborg looked to assert herself back as the fiercest woman in the world in her return against Spencer. Primarily a grappler, the young Canadian prospect was a heavy underdog and was unable to get Cyborg to the mat, leading Cyborg to maul her on the feet.
Cyborg was unloading combinations and power shots that would have felled most women, but Spencer showed incredible durability and heart as she stayed in it and did her best to keep it competitive. A punch from Spencer opened a cut on Cyborg late in the first and had Rogan going on about it the rest of the fight, despite the fact the punch didn't even daze Cyborg nor did it make any difference to the lopsidedness of the fight.
Rogan also continuously talked about how Cyborg was gassing and slowing down, and how her ferocity and aggression makes her tire out and how Cyborg has always had questionable cardio. Ironically, although the pace did slow a bit in the second, Cyborg's output in the third round surpassed even her opening round assault and she showed no sign of slowing down right up to the final bell, yet if you were listening to Rogan's commentary, you would believe she was gassed out and exhausted.
If you have followed Cyborg's career, you'd know doubts about her cardio have already been soundly answered - the brutal pace and power has kept up even in championship rounds. His portrayal of events and of Cyborg was downright delusional - the fight wasn't even close, yet Rogan (along with many of the UFC faces given her conflict with the UFC brass) seemed to think it was a competitive fight and may have signalled that Cyborg was reaching the end of her career (not surprising given it was the last fight on her UFC contract and thus the UFC wanted to diminish her profile in the likely scenario that she leaves the UFC).
Ironically, he spoke much less about the terrible cardio of one Amanda Nunes in her recent fight with Germaine de Randamie. Nunes started out fast and aggressive, battering Germaine early and going for a quick finish. Germaine survived however, and Nunes was completely spent from the second round onward. If it wasn't for Germaine's incredibly horrendous takedown defense, Nunes would have lost her title given how bad she looked on her feet and how tired she was after the opening assault, yet less criticism was placed on her for a dreadful performance than an exciting beatdown turned in by Cyborg.
It's especially annoying given that Nunes has a long history of gassing out in fights, and only in recent years where she has drastically reduced her pace has she been able to avoid gassing out, yet Cyborg has no such problem and even others criticized by Rogan have better cardio than Nunes who is put on a pedestal like some of his other favourites.
This biased commentary is evident on most cards Rogan is on, and frankly, though he still is an iconic character in the sport, he shouldn't be on commentary anymore. Keeping him involved (through his podcast most likely) would be more than welcome, but he just isn't a great commentator anymore and doesn't care to be one. And that's without even delving into his constant "pound-for-pound best" declarations, calling current champions the "best ever" at their weight prematurely, and his whole infatuation with Ronda Rousey during her rise (though at least he's admitted his stupidity there).
Unfortunately the bias doesn't stop at Rogan - while most of the UFC's commentators do a good job (particularly Jon Anik, who often tries to steer discussion away from being biased when he can), biased commentary still happens too much. Dan Hardy, who is an excellent analyst, and John Gooden (he's not excellent) often get quite biased when commentating and often seem to ignore what one fighter does while emphasizing the other.
The effort to score fights can also be grinding, as even Daniel Cormier seems to fall victim to coming off as biased, sometimes making it clear he thought a decision was poor even in a razor-close fight and regularly emphasizing takedowns and how important they are to score fights, despite the new judging criteria saying otherwise (which has been in place for several years now). If a fight is clearly one-sided that's one thing, but often when listening to the commentary you'd think they were watching a different fight with how they emphasize one side or ignore the other.
Using only a two-man booth (occasional additions such as Trevor Wittman's excellent corner analysis notwithstanding) and emphasizing to the commentators to avoid sticking with narratives or paying too much attention to one side of the fight would definitely help improve the UFC's broadcasts.
And a final note - the addition of extremely poor-looking animations that ESPN has been doing lately...who the fuck thinks these are a wise investment? They look terrible and rather than adding legitimacy, it makes the promotion look cheap. Between the laughably horrible graphic Megan Olivi had to commentate showcasing the "Twitter war" between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington before UFC 245 to the latest one highlighting Conor McGregor's drawing power, the animations are painful and need to be scrapped immediately.
Seriously, who thinks this looks good?