When UFC President Dana White finally got his Tuesday Night Contender Series greenlit, he needed some sort of hook to draw viewers towards the project. White had long desired to run regular Tuesday night fight cards, like USA’s Tuesday Night Fights series, but since the concept was originally pondered, the novelty of live fights has greatly diminished. With significant fights pretty much every weekend now, the new weekday series needs something to distinguish itself.
Four weeks in, the Tuesday Night Contender Series has settled on an unusual calling card for differentiation: the Snoopcast. It was an idea that came completely out of left field, Snoop Dogg and Urijah Faber chilling, sipping on beverages and joking around as the fights are taking place. Quite frankly, it could have been an epic disaster, but it has a definite charm. Faber and Snoop are both genial presences and they seem to enjoy watching the fights together. Snoop isn’t so ignorant so as to be irritating and Faber is good at steering the ship and explaining what is going on for Snoop and the viewer.
There’s nothing like the Snoopcast in MMA today. No one other than Snoop is going to be christening the “take the booty” position, complete with Faber unsuccessfully trying to bait Snoop into renaming it the Suge Knight position. Brian Stann is highly unlikely anytime soon to sing “he is leaking” to the same tune approximately 40 times on the same telecast, nearly causing his broadcast partner to pour a pitcher of gin and juice over his head. The average Ultimate Fighting Championship telecast gives off the feel of a safe, professional promotional vehicle. The Snoopcast, by contrast, has the feel of two friends hanging out late at night and joking around while watching the fights.
The Snoopcast is clearly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s why UFC has offered it as an alternative commentary track as opposed to the primary option for the Tuesday night series. It’s also a type of format much better suited for lower-level fights than elite competition where the stakes are higher and more serious analysis is called for. Most fans are discovering the fighters on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, along with Snoop, so the playful Sean O’Malley rhymes are fitting. It would be grating if Snoop were just learning of the existence of Edson Barboza or Dustin Poirier, for example. However, what’s most refreshing about the Snoopcast is not anything about it in specific but rather just that it offers up a different template for presenting MMA in general.
In recent years, the UFC has become very comfortable in its formula for presenting fights. The introductions for the cards are basically the same. The announcers present the fights in the same ways. The video packages bring up the same points and don’t go outside the box. The shows look, sound and feel largely the same way they did a decade ago. There’s nothing wrong with that presentation, but it lacks the sort of fresh energy that’s optimal for bringing in new fans.
One of the key reasons people still look back fondly on Pride Fighting Championships was that it was so different in presentation from pretty much all the American promotions. Between the ring, the stage, Lenny Hardt and the different style of matchmaking, Pride was offering up a distinct product from other promotions, specifically the UFC. The UFC and Pride approaches both had their pros and cons, but it was good that they offered different things for different fans. It’s not an accident that fans tend to remember cards with unique characteristics, and Pride was unique from what UFC is doing. Unfortunately, so few UFC cards these days feel like they have a different flavor.
To be sure, UFC’s Snoopcast isn’t going to be the future of MMA. It’s ultimately just a gimmick to sell an under-the-radar show. The hope is that in spite of that, it will encourage UFC decision makers to think outside the box a little more often. It’s easy to imagine some people who wouldn’t be engaged by a usual UFC card on Fox Sports 1 being drawn in by the vibe of the Snoopcast. That’s a good thing for the sport, and there are so many alternative routes to promotion.
Sports in general can become complacent when it comes to presentation. Team sports can get away with that more easily because they have city and school loyalties that draw fans back from year to year. Individual sports need to reinvent more often in order to create new stars and keep fans from losing interest. We don’t need Snoop Dogg doing play-by-play for the next UFC pay-per-view from Madison Square Garden, but hopefully the charm of his involvement will make the company just a little bit more adventuresome moving forward.
Todd Martin has written about mixed martial arts since 2002 for a variety of outlets, including CBSSports.com, SI.com, ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, MMApayout.com, Fight Magazine and Fighting Spirit Magazine. He has appeared on a number of radio stations, including ESPN affiliates in New York and Washington, D.C., and AXS-TV’s “Inside MMA” television show. In addition to his work at Sherdog.com, he does a weekly podcast with Bryan Alvarez at WrestlingObserver.com and blogs regularly at LaTimes.com. He received his BA from Vassar College in 2003 and JD from UCLA School of Law in 2007 and is a licensed attorney. He has covered UFC, Pride, Affliction, IFL, WFA, Strikeforce, WEC and K-1 live events. He believes deeply in the power of MMA to heal the world and bring happiness to all of its people.