Every situation can be approached from two angles, and EA Sports UFC and its Career mode are no different. While each future UFC star must start out by proving him or herself on The Ultimate Fighter, it's how you decide to approach your entire career that will determine how long it lasts. In that way, having to choose between Popularity or Longevity is actually a genius concept. When broken down, it's sort of like having to choose whether you want to approach a task with a scalpel or a hammer. One is precise and takes a great deal of skill to operate, while the other is likely to end up with something getting smashed to pieces. In the case of MMA, that's likely to be someone's face.
After each fight of your EA Sports UFC career, you'll eventually land on a screen that summarizes the previous match, detailing your Evolution Points, Popularity and Longevity. The Longevity portion refers to how much damage you took since the first time you stepped into the octagon. When you fill that meter to the top, you'll hang up the gloves and take a seat next to Chael Sonnen in the Fox Sports broadcast studio.
It should be noted, however, that no matter how careful you play the game, your career will not exceed 40 fights in the UFC. Even if you take little to no damage for the majority of these contests, when you get down to the last four or five bouts, your career damage will spike regardless of what you do. Still, just because you can't fight more than 40 times doesn't mean your career can't be cut short because you chose the hammer instead of the scalpel.
The key to a long Hall of Fame worthy journey through the UFC isnvolves fighting smart (scalpel approach). You want to avoid the back and forth slugfests that everyone loves to watch guys like Diego Sanchez bleed in. Instead, take the Georges St-Pierre approach, fighting to your strengths and nullifying your opponent's weapons. Finish the fight early, absorbing little or no significant strikes and you might just make that 40 fight mark. Stand in the middle of the octagon and trade bombs, however (hammer approach), and you might find yourself riding in the back of an ambulance at the end of the night.
This is where things get complicated. Popularity refers to how many fans you gain in each fight, adding to your career total. Popularity will determine what sponsors you unlock, plus influence what fighters will show up and train with you at your gym. While sponsors are actually quite irrelevant in this game (other than unlocking more walkout clothing), who doesn't like the idea of being a fan favorite?
This is where it becomes a balancing act. You have to ask yourself who you would rather be, the person who puts on exciting fights and is loved by the fans, or the champion who retires and sees themselves in the UFC Hall of Fame at the end of their career? The answer, as it turns out, might be slightly more simple than EA Canada intended it to be. That is to say, players who take the proper approach to their careers might be able to have their cake and eat it too.
Balancing Both Concepts
In our first career play through, we went a solid 40-0, not losing a single fight and eventually getting past the one million fan mark. Most of our fights were quick, submitting our opponents in the first round. We actually didn't take that much damage. Our second time through, we went with a brawler who compared to Roy Nelson or Mark Hunt. Our fights were definitely more exciting, and win or lose, often involved our blood spilled all over the canvas. One such incident involved Daniel "DC" Cormier dropping hammer fists on our face as our arms and legs went limp. That Yves Lavigne needs to be a little quicker with the stoppages.
The part that surprised us, though, was that our care free brawler ended his career far less popular than our play-it-safe submission artist. The key to this was our losses. Even though the fights were exciting, losing a fight reduces your total fan count. When you're raking in 40,000 new fans each time you win a main event bout, losing twice can mean not ever being able to slap on a Nike t-shirt like Jon Jones does. So although the popularity versus longevity concept is pretty great, like most things in games, there is a formula you can use to maximize the results.
So after all that storytelling, what is the lesson learned?
As it turns out, you can be hugely successful, taking minimal damage and be popular at the same time. While fans do love a good knockdown, drag out bar room brawl set inside an octagon, they love a dominant champion a little bit more. The flaw in the system is that you typically lose fans when you lose a fight. That makes your decision a simple one. Win all your fights and you're likely going to reach the top of the sponsorship ladder. Lose more than one or two, however exciting they may be, and you won’t have the time to recover before hanging up the gloves. Of course, if you have the heart of a lion like Diego Sanchez, maybe the only way you know how to fight is by throwing caution to the wind and uppercuts to your opponent's chin.