For a long time, there was a beloved tradition with myself and a group of friends: After work, we would all gather at one house and watch USA Tuesday Night Fights.
This was around the time when the UFC was just starting, and boxing was still thriving. The program showcased boxers on the rise and gave them their own spotlight, which in turn allowed fans of the sport to get to know them much better.
Names like Riddick Bowe, Vinny Pazienza, Fernando Vargas, Pernell Whitaker, George Foreman and others fought on the show (either on their way up or on their way out), and some excellent bouts were brought to us on free television.
The UFC should do the very same thing.
Granted, they might not be able to do it every single week, but twice a month or even once a month would be better than nothing.
Not every up-and-coming fighter is going to be discovered on TUF—especially since each show usually only focuses on one or two weight classes at a time. Having a smaller show for those fighters could not only deliver some great bouts, but it would also allow fighters to create their own following at a grassroots level.
There is something about a fighter creating a buzz that makes their climb toward the title compelling. Fight fans love that feeling of discovery when they see a newer fighter making waves and clawing his way upward, and this would give those fighters a chance to have more of the spotlight than they normally would.
It could also prove to be a vehicle for those fighters who are on a slump or have been regulated to undercard status. They could possibly headline at these smaller shows, growing their brand while getting some fights under their belt.
But, as with anything else, the real winner would be the fans. Having a regularly scheduled MMA show that put the newer fighters in action gives the viewer a chance to really see just how gritty and scrappy some of the new names are.
Then, when they make the transition to the next level, they will be enjoying greater name recognition than if they were to simply “show up” on an undercard as a new name and face. In short, they would bring a “buzz” with them, and that makes people want to watch, much like the days when UFC PPVs had known names in all the slots.
Once upon a time, Nick Diaz was making his UFC debut against Jeremy Jackson, and most people watching didn’t know either fighter from Adam.
Had a smaller UFC-backed show been in existence then, a fighter like Diaz would have probably built up a nice following and from there could have brought quite a buzz into the cage with him at UFC 44.
God knows I would have been watching.
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