The Ultimate Fighting Championship has only existed since November 1993. In its current Zuffa-owned form, it has only been around since 2001.
That is a relatively minuscule amount of time for a sport to develop, yet the UFC has grown so much since 2001 that the product is barely comparable to that of yesteryear.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Boxing dominated the American sports landscape and it produced stars such as Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Mike Tyson.
But by the 1990s, the sport was losing steam and the American sports landscape was ready for something new.
Rorion Gracie, brother of Royce, devised a tournament to find out what fighting discipline was the best.
Could a boxer beat a karate master?
Would a jiu jitsu fighter beat a kickboxer?
The world wanted to know and Gracie knew this. It exploded in popularity and a sport was born.
If we fast forward to 2005, the first season of the Ultimate Fighter (TUF) aired on Spike TV and millions of new fans were introduced to mixed martial arts.
The timing and the great list of fighters could not have come at a better time.
The UFC was badly in debt before season one of TUF. After the now-legendary bout between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin at the TUF season one finale, the world took notice of the peculiar sport that mixed striking and submissions.
Was the UFC in the right place at the right time?
I would say that it was.
Boxing had badly lost its luster by the time Zuffa and UFC President Dana White took ownership of the UFC in 2001. And the decision to start the Ultimate Fighter reality show in 2005 was a genius move by the UFC.
However, I do not think the UFC simply got lucky.
There were many factors that lead to the success it has today.
Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and all of the UFC's hard-working staff have made it happen through toil, tribulation and true grit. The UFC connects to its fans better than any other sports organization and they try harder to cater to us.
We appreciate them for this.
The UFC comes off like the underdog. It's pretty damn cool to be a fan of the UFC. Us UFC fans are like our own little club. We get it and others don't and that is perfectly fine with us.
The UFC is the blue collar sport to the white collar sport of the NFL. Most athletes in the UFC are accessible, friendly and pretty darn awesome.
I can vouch because I have been lucky enough to meet a few of them.
Even though the UFC benefited from the decline of boxing, the fact that MMA is unique compared to other sports and the TUF reality show, the UFC did not luck into this.
It was in the right place at the right time to an extent, but this is no more a truth than the fact that the first Super Bowl was held at the right time.
The UFC benefits from great and giving athletes, hard-working employees and fiercely loyal fans who, combined, go above and beyond to do their part to help the sport grow.
The UFC caught a few breaks, however it was not simply lucky. There is way too much that has happened for this to be luck.
One thing is certain: The UFC is here to stay!
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