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Monday, 03/03/2014, 11:05 am

Is UFC Fight Pass Worth The Cost? An In-Depth Review

With the UFC Fight Pass now behind a pay-wall, and two live events in the book, it’s time to judge the service’s worth. Back at the end of 2013, the UFC officially announced  the program, promising three key components: live events, access to the UFC’s fight library, and a slew of original UFC programming, for the price of 10 dollars a month. To examine the worth, it’s important to examine each of these three components individually, and to see how, so far, they’ve measured up to the promises made about them, in addition to looking at how well they do from a technical standpoint.

The Live Fights:
What did they promise? 150 live fights in 2014, on the level of other “Fight Night” cards, and the ability to go backwards and forwards through the event in real time, with the full event to be available immediately after completion.
Did they deliver? So far, there have been two live events streamed entirely on Fight Pass, in addition to several streamed prelims from various other cards, so the UFC seems well on their way to meeting that 150 number. Whether or not they are on the level of other “Fight Night” cards is open for debate. The two Fight Pass events have both been fun to watch, and have featured some top-15 fighters such as Tarec Saffiedine, Dong-Hyun Kim, and Tatsuya Kawajiri, in addition to some of the lower level roster fighters that fans have come to expect to see on this sort of event, such as Nam Phan and Max Holloway. However, since these Fight Pass shows are generally going to be regional events, expect to see more fights between very inexperienced fighters who probably aren’t UFC caliber fighters yet, such as Anying Wang and Albert Chang, who were 1-0 and 2-2 when they signed with the UFC.

On the technical side of things, Fight Pass has delivered somewhat well for watching live fights. After several technical hiccups with the Saffiedine vs Lim card, the UFC made some adjustments and the Kim/Hathaway card performed quite nicely. I watched the fights on both my PC and an iPad, and both were able to stream the card live with a remarkable picture quality and minimal lag, despite having fairly average internet speeds. However, one thing that I was not able to do was rewind the fights while watching live, and had to wait until several hours after the event to catch some of the prelims that I missed.

The Fight Library:
What did they promise? Over 3,000 individual fights, including every UFC fight, over 500 PRIDE fights, 600+ WEC bouts, 500+ Strikeforce fights, in addition to bouts from Affliction and the WFA.
Did they deliver? This area is where Fight Pass needs the most work, and has so far failed to live up. While they have been steadily adding more and more fights to the Fight Pass library, it, at the time of this writing, does not even come close to the number of fights promised. There is a fairly decent-sized selection of UFC bouts, though certainly nowhere near the full library. UFC 1-18 can be watched in full, and the main cards of almost every card from 2013 are also featured. There are more UFC fights currently up than those, but they’re mostly individual fights from various periods of history in the organization. While both full Affliction events are up, there are almost no Strikeforce fights up, and a very minimal amount of WEC fights are present.

From a technical standpoint, the UFC also has some work to do with the fight libraries. First of all, the layout of the library is rather sub-par. Most of the fights are organized into either overly broad categories such as “2012” (which only has 24 fights listed, currently), or curated into categories that are completely useless when trying to find specific fights, such as “BJ Penn and The Prodigies” or “Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell’s Out Cold Countdown.” I assumed that I could bypass all of that nonsense by simply typing in an event number into the search bar, but even that doesn’t always work as well as it should. Typing in “UFC 10” will show not only not only every fight from UFC 10 that is in the library, but also everything that has the number 10 in it, such as UFC 102, 106, etc, and some other random fights from events like UFC 11. Typing in fighters’ names tends to work better, and it’s not too difficult to find a specific fight (assuming it’s uploaded to begin with), but it’s also not nearly as easy as it should be. As far as the streaming goes, the quality of the videos are generally pretty strong. Occasionally there are some playback issues, but a simple refresh generally fixed the problems for me.

Original Programming:
What did they promise? International Editions of TUF, in-depth Interviews with stars of the sport, and exclusive content.
Did they deliver? By and large, Fight Pass has come through quite strong in this regard. Most of their old original content, such UFC Unleashed, Best of PRIDE, Ultimate Insider, UFC Wired, and their Countdown to UFC series are all featured, with varying degrees of finalization. About 35 of the most recent Countdown shows are there, and most of the UFC Unleashed and Best of PRIDE episodes that aired are currently uploaded. They also have every season of The Ultimate Fighter, including the international versions of the show, including TUF: Brazil and TUF: China. Fight Pass will also be the exclusive viewing platform outside of Brazil for TUF Brazil 3, which features a heated rivalry between Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen. There is also a fair amount of backstage interviews with fighters, both pre and post-fight, particularly from the more recent cards, and more formal one-on-one interviews with important fighters and coaches. Furthermore, Fight Pass also features several fighter documentaries, fitness tips from Mike Dolce, and extended look backs at old UFC events. All and all, the UFC is doing an excellent job of producing more original content for Fight Pass, though they have a bit of work to do in uploading all of the older content.

From a technical standpoint, the original programming more or less shares the same pros and cons of the fight library. Some poor organization, but solid video quality.

So, after all of that, is UFC Fight Pass worth the 10 dollars a month? It depends. If you want access to all of the UFC library before you pay a cent, Fight Pass isn’t for you, at least not yet. If you want to watch live, fun, and slightly lower-level UFC events, and feel as though 10 dollars a month is a good price for that, or you just can’t get your fill of UFC-themed content, then by all means, sign up. Personally, I think that it’s worth the 10 dollars a month, at least for now. While UFC Fight Pass currently fails to deliver on all of its promises, it has shown a steady improvement since its launch two months ago. If the UFC continues this improvement, fills up the library, and listens to what the fans want, I see this network being worth the money for many years to come, and there is more than enough content to keep a fan busy for at least another month or two. However, if the UFC doesn’t stay dedicated to this improvement, and Fight Pass fails to live up to its potential, then I will quickly cancel my subscription, and encourage others to do the same.

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