In 2001, Zuffa purchased the UFC from a struggling Bob Meyrowitz. It was the start of exciting things. New owner Lorenzo Fertitta had the connections in Las Vegas to get the show up and running there. PPV would soon follow.
The first event back on cable pay-per-view, available to most of the American public instead of just those with a satellite dish, was supposed to feature Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort. That fight would have been epic, but a Belfort injury changed everything, as I explained at SB Nation:
That opponent ended up being Vladimir Matyushenko, a solid wrestler who would test Tito, but thrill no one. What should have been a moment to remember turned into an epic disaster. They booked three title matches for the show and each one ran the full 25 minutes. The show ran over its allotted time window and thousands of fans had the main event cut off mid-fight, never getting to see Ortiz's hand raised. UFC President Dana White, as always, was blissfully blunt when asked about the card: "UFC 33 is the only one I can remember where every fight sucked.
Although it didn't succeed as hoped, UFC 33 was a milestone for the new company. The new pay-per-view clearances gave the sport a fighting chance to survive.
At a glance:
UFC 33: Victory in Vegas
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
Estimated PPV Buys: 75,000
Key Fight: Tito Ortiz vs. Vladimir Matyushenko