Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Michael Bisping, John Dodson, T.J. Dillashaw, Diego Brandao and Dennis Bermudez have fulfilled their contractual and moral obligations to Spike TV and The UFC on this season's The Ultimate Fighter reality show. They spent six weeks in the UFC house and training center filming the reality show. They've spent the last couple of months training for their fights at tonight's The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.
But one thing they haven't been doing is a lot of incidental publicity appearances to promote the event. There was no pre-fight press call two weeks ago, no press conference this week, no workouts for the press, nada.
That's because the UFC is really mad at Spike TV for aggressively counter-programming their UFC on Fox debut on November 12.
Dave Meltzer explains at The Wrestling Observer (subscription required):
The straw that seemingly broke the camel's back was Spike promoting against them head-to-head on 11/12 with the way they did a misleading promotion for Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. The feeling is it would have been good for everyone to air old fights with the two that night at 8 p.m. and probably would have given Spike a good rating, but they went head-to-head, perhaps siphoning some viewers away, and promoted the head-to-head for several days just as "Velasquez vs. Dos Santos," and the FOX rating was very important to UFC.
While the UFC is certainly within their rights to be mad at Spike TV, there's little doubt that the ones who are hurt are the fighters, not Spike TV.
Spike TV is promoting tonight's show with a full day's marathon of this season's The Ultimate Fighter. The last episode drew a season high 1.7 million viewers. There's no indication that the casual fans who tune in to Spike TV on Saturday nights when they need their cage fighting fix will be missing the show.
But the hardcore fans, the ones who will be following the UFC to Fox, the ones who buy the pay-per-views that fund the promotion, they're missing out. Despite web sites like MMA Fighting working hard to deliver in-depth coverage of the fighters and the event, there's no doubt that the amount of coverage on MMA web sites is diminished.
That means the profiles of Dodson, Dillashaw, Brandao and Bermudez are significantly reduced with the hardcore MMA fans, the very demographic that they'll be counting on to follow them to Fuel TV, FX and Fox. It's also bad for Bisping and Miller. While the two coaches are far more well known than the contestants, they're competing with stars like Chael Sonnen for mindshare as they struggle for a title shot against Anderson Silva.
In the end, it's not Spike TV that is suffering, it's the fighters.