It’s time for the UFC to stop being ‘lazy’ and get out of The Apex

It's time to get the show back on the road full time, and the UFC can't get out of The Apex soon enough.

By: Evan Zivin | 2 months ago
It’s time for the UFC to stop being ‘lazy’ and get out of The Apex
IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Diego Ribas

Two years ago, Dana White said the UFC needs to get back on the road full time, even going so far as to say that traveling again is “the right thing to do.”

So, if Dana believed that back then, and presumably believes it now, why the hell are we still getting Fight Nights at The Apex?

That’s the question after it was reported UFC had applied for five event licenses with the Nevada Athletic Commission for this fall, with only one being for a pay-per-view on December 16 at the T-Mobile Arena.

And the other Four? Yes, you guessed it: Four more blistering Fight Night events emanating from UFC HQ.

Oh and yes, there was a Fight Night at the Apex this weekend, thanks for asking. There was also an event there two weeks ago. There’s been an event at The Apex almost every month of this year so far and, with these additional licenses, that trend will continue on through the rest of the year.

The Apex has served as a home base for the promotion since emerging out of the Covid lockdowns. At its peak in 2021, The Apex hosted 72% of the UFC’s total fight cards, which is insane but was also understandable.

It was a different time then. People were actually allowed to work from home. Crazy, right?

Now, the point of this piece isn’t to crap on UFC or say they aren’t trying to get out, because they are. The percentage of fight cards being hosted at HQ has gone down quite a bit, with 50% of the fight cards in 2022 emanating from there and, right now in 2023, the number is hovering around 42%. With Fight Nights being announced for locales such as London and Sao Paulo, it’s very likely that number won’t hover much higher.

Still, 42% is a lot when the optimal percentage of shows that should be happening at The Apex is 0.

The benefits no longer outweigh the risks

Let’s be frank here: does anyone actually like The Apex? The only people who I assume do are Dana, Hunter Campbell, and the other C-Suiters since, if there’s one thing large companies love more than growth, it’s cost savings, and The Apex is nothing but cost savings.

As great as all those live gates must be, it also has to be pretty great not exceeding budgets to send an army of personnel and equipment across the map every weekend. It must be nice for the event staff who don’t have to worry about building and tearing down sets each week or setting up fighter accommodations from scratch. It must be wonderful having access to all the Performance Institute resources during fight week. From an economical standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world to keep doing it, especially if they put on a card only good enough to fill up the ESPN event quota, not arenas.

However, you know who it sucks for? The fans and the fighters.

The fans suffer because they aren’t getting the same quality viewing experience watching a card at The Apex vs. watching a card anywhere else. Not only are you not likely going to get a chance to be in attendance for the event (Dana barely tolerates having media there), the home viewing experience is tainted by how empty the venue is.

The main event from two weeks ago between MacKenzie Dern and Angela Hill was a terrific fight. That’s what makes it unfortunate that it happened in a room where it was so quiet at times you could hear a pin drop. Imagine how much more electrifying of a moment it would have been for Dern to win that fight in front of the same crowd Jailton Almeida had when he defeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

I’ve heard people say they like that kind of atmosphere because it makes it easier to hear the coaches giving advice, which I guess is great if you’re into that sort of thing.

Personally, I’m not that sophisticated of a fan. I come for the punchy-punchy. Hearing the corners can be interesting but it also makes me feel like I’m watching The Ultimate Fighter. That’s not a good thing when the combatants are supposed to be top ranked fighters in the pinnacle of the sport.

Give UFC Fight Nights a chance to succeed

And that’s why The Apex sucks for the fighters. Just take a look at this weekend’s card, or don’t because how many of the fighters competing this weekend can you name without looking it up?

Did you know Andrei Arlovski is fighting this weekend? Did you?

Wait, did I? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I love that guy…

The main event is a quality contender’s fight between Kai-Kara France and Amir Albazi but, as far as the UFC promotional machine is concerned, the show is a bunch of fighters the UFC probably doesn’t care if you’re interested in seeing or not because, instead of traveling and competing in front of a local crowd, they’re literally competing in front of Dana’s office.

Instead of getting the chance to sell out arenas and promote their brands to the most dedicated and diehard of fans, fighters like France and Albazi had the chance to bleed in front of whichever UFC employees couldn’t get a flight to Detroit for the Claressa Shields fight.

Well, that’s assuming Dana doesn’t decide to kick everyone out for one of his rich friends, like he did for Mark Zuckerberg.

I’m waiting for the event where Elon Musk asks for special treatment. The main event will probably be Sean Strickland vs. a giant blue checkmark.

How are the fighters supposed to grow as entities within the sport when they have to compete in an atmosphere that makes it feel like no one cares enough to come watch them fight? How are they supposed to become draws when they aren’t being given the chance to fill an arena?

The answer to all that is likely because Dana doesn’t want them to, but eventually Dana is going to need to be mindful of how flippant he is towards legitimate concerns regarding the quality or lack of importance given to Fight Night cards. The more he says “if you don’t like the fights, don’t watch them,” the more likely fans will start heeding his advice.

Get out of The Apex, Dana. For the sake of the UFC, get out and don’t come back.

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About the author
Evan Zivin
Evan Zivin

Evan Zivin is a writer, having joined Bloody Elbow in 2023. He's been providing his unique takes on the sport of MMA since 2013, previously working as a featured columnist for 411Mania. Evan has followed MMA and professional wrestling for most of his life. His joy is in finding the stories and characters within all combat sports and presenting them in a serious yet light-hearted way.

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