Before Dana White joined Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta in acquiring the organization in January 2001, the UFC and MMA as a whole was looked upon as a freak show of sorts. The sport was illegal in many states and was nearing the point of complete failure.
At that point in time, White would have been laughed into oblivion if he had made the following comment.
"We rebuilt this industry, we rebuilt the fight business," White said in June 2008. "And we think we have the right plan and the right strategy over the next five years, and I think mixed martial arts and the UFC is going to be the biggest sport in the world. Bigger than soccer, bigger than football, bigger than anything."
Even when White made that lofty declaration only four years ago, it seemed like a major stretch to think MMA could be mentioned in the same breath as the mammoths of the sporting world. While MMA is still far from matching football in North America, it has seemingly surpassed the sport on a global scale. Soccer is still much more popular than MMA across the planet, but there are certainly less people laughing at White's goals for global domination.
In the United States, the UFC is now televised alongside the NFL on the Fox network. The universal language of fighting has also allowed MMA to explode in several other countries, prompting some to push for the sports inclusion in the Olympics.
That may be years away, but the sport will inevitably find itself in the Summer Olympics as long as it continues its infectious growth. Would MMA have been included in the London games over the coming weeks, a competition including the following fighters would have been incredible to watch.
Author's note: Due to the year-round nature of the sport, Olympic MMA would more than likely feature amateur and lower-level professional fighters, as is the case with Olympic boxing. As the headline suggests, the teams in this article are purely fantasy.