When UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones successfully defended his title against former friend and current foe Rashad Evans at UFC 145, the company proved that the future was bright.
While fans of mixed martial arts can debate all day if the former WWE wrestling star’s stint in UFC was good or bad for the sport's image, there is no question that Lesnar brought the company to a whole other level.
Lesnar was not the greatest fighter in history, but the fact that his name is on four of the seven UFC shows that ever sold over a million buys proves he moved the needle. The former heavyweight champion bridged that mainstream gap.
"It was always upfront and said in his deal that he could do the WWE. Everything we did with that guy, nothing ever leaked out of that camp, ever leaks out of that camp. Those guys did a deal with (WWE promoter) Vince (McMahon), and I guarantee you Vince said, 'Keep this a secret. Don't tell anybody.' And he did. He never said anything. He didn't call me. I sent them a text and said, 'Congrats on your deal. I'll be watching.' [Expletive] never got nothing back. They didn't respond and say, 'Hey, thanks we're pumped.' They just did their thing…Good for him, and I wish him all the best in the world over at WWE."
White knows what Lesnar did for his sport, and has no hard feelings. If it wasn’t for Lesnar, the UFC wouldn’t be the attraction it is today.
With that said, it’s a new era in MMA and UFC.
Jon Jones is a 24-year-old kid at this point in his career, yet is the three-time defender of his light heavyweight belt. With so much age and growth ahead for both the young star and the sport itself, the future of MMA is now and its name is “Bones” Jones.
As more and more fans and sponsors start to buy into this American brawler, the fanbase in the United States will lean towards backing him instead of Canadian fighter Georges St. Pierre and Brazilian champion Anderson Silva. There is something to be said for an American champion's marketability, as we have seen in the past with Lesnar, Randy Couture and many others.
Add in new weight classes and the UFC’s public recognition as the major leagues of MMA and the future is brighter than any one star. As long as White keeps the company's eyes on the prize, there is no stopping the UFC's growth.
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