Biggest MMA Stories from First Half of 2013
There has never been a more shocking year in MMA than 2013, which has already given us some of the biggest stories ever.
This year has managed to tug at the emotions of even the most casual of fans, which has opened the floodgates to many heated debates.
Some of these stories were so controversial they grabbed national headlines and even managed to invoke passionate responses from those who don't follow the sport at all.
Everybody loves a juicy story, and at Bleacher Report, fans are given an opportunity to catch up on breaking news, formulate their own opinions and share them with others.
Today, we kick off our recap of the first half of 2013 by remembering the most talked about stories so far this year.
Transgender Fighter Looking to Get Licensed
The media circus went into overdrive mode in March when the world learned of Fallon Fox, the first known transgender MMA fighter.
MMA journalist Loretta Hunt broke the story during an exclusive interview for Sports Illustrated. Fox, who was born as Boyd Burton, revealed to Hunt that she had undergone sex reassignment surgery back in 2006, which also included supplemental hormonal therapy.
The story climbed beyond the confined walls of MMA into the national spotlight and brought about some serious, ethical questions.
Having been born a man, would Fox have any unfair physical advantages in her fights? How would surgical augmentations and hormonal therapy make up for a naturally larger bone density?
Some of the biggest names in women's MMA, including UFC champ Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, have expressed their concerns about stepping into the cage with Fox. Tate told ESPN that she wouldn't be willing to fight Fox due to some serious safety concerns:
I have nothing against transgender people. You should live your life however you want. It's about fighter safety. I wouldn't feel comfortable getting in with someone who is a woman but developed as a man. I just don't think it would be safe.
Fox has endured a few road blocks in receiving license to compete, but she finally got the green light to resume her professional MMA career at Cage Fighting Alliance 11, where she submitted Allanna Jones with a shin choke.
The win marked yet another highlight reel finish for "The Queen of Swords" and puts her professional record at 3-0. She hopes to one day join the UFC and become a world champion.
UFC Releases Jon Fitch Along with 16 Other Fighters
In February, the MMA community was stunned when the UFC announced its release of over a dozen fighters; however, the biggest shock came when it was revealed that perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch's name was included in that list.
According to MMAFighting.com, the complete list included Fitch, Wagner Prado, Mike Russow, Jacob Volkmann, Vladimir Matyushenko, Che Mills, Jay Hieron, Terry Etim, Paul Sass, Jorge Santiago, Mike Stumpf, Simeon Thoresen, C.J. Keith, Motonobu Tezuka, Josh Grispi and Ulysses Gomez.
Fitch, who was coming off a unanimous decision loss to Demian Maia, was still a top contender and one of the most talented fighters on the UFC roster. The mantra in the UFC is usually three strikes and you're out, but this certainly wasn't the case for a consistent fighter like Fitch, who was 14-3-1 in the Octagon.
If these releases weren't surprising enough, UFC president Dana White revealed to reporters, via Graciemag.com, that 100 more fighters would be released to trim down the roster. As for Fitch, White claimed the former welterweight title contender was too expensive and on the downside of his career.
The backlash from the public and those within the UFC was felt almost immediately. Fighters like Brendan Schaub, who spoke to Ariel Helwani after winning a unanimous decision over Lavar Johnson, admitted to using his grappling and taking a more cerebral approach in fights as opposed to "standing and banging."
With more cuts imminent, the fear set in for other fighters potentially losing their jobs.
Down Came Chris Weidman, Who Washed the "The Spider" Out
In one of the most stunning upsets in MMA history, Anderson Silva's seven-year reign came to a dramatic end at UFC 162.
On paper, Chris Weidman was considered by many as the toughest opponent Silva has ever faced in the middleweight division. Despite assurances from other fighters and pundits in the sport, the general MMA community couldn't see beyond Weidman's lack of experience.
The general perception was that this would be another easy fight for the pound-for-pound kingpin, and afterwards, we could all go back to drooling over potential superfights that would likely never happen.
After UFC 162, there was enough humble pie to go around and feed several armies. Weidman lived up to the hype by dropping Silva with a glancing left hook followed by a huge right hand to earn the second-round knockout and win the UFC title.
Perhaps the most complex part of this entire story was Silva's behavior. He completely seemed disinterested and detached from everything that was going on around him.
Everyone is aware of his Muhammad Ali-like tactics in the cage. He tends to leave his hands down in an attempt to bait opponents to rush in and open up opportunities to counter, but there was something unsettling about his performance against Weidman.
Instead of a confident counter fighter, Silva looked more like a bully mocking and playing around with his opponent.
During his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, he stated he was no longer interested in the middleweight title or a rematch with Weidman.
Women Headline UFC Event for First Time
Over two years ago, UFC president Dana White told TMZ reporters that women would never fight in the UFC.
To say things have changed would be a heavy understatement.
At UFC 157, Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche became the first women to ever compete in the UFC and headline a major MMA pay-per-view. Those familiar with women's MMA from watching Strikeforce and Invicta were already on board for the UFC's newest investment.
Unfortunately, casual fans weren't particularly warming up to the idea of Rousey headlining over legends like Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, who were both featured in the co-main event bout. Public perception quickly turned around when the world realized Rousey's growing popularity.
She was featured in tons of different interviews, including multiple appearances on ESPN and other mainstream television outlets.
By the time the fight actually rolled around, the MMA community looked at Rousey and Carmouche as two world-class fighters competing in the Octagon and not just a couple of girls soaking up unwarranted spotlight.
UFC Fighter Pay, Jacob Volkmann vs. the UFC
UFC fighter pay has been the most persistent, controversial topic so far this year.
During an interview with MMAJunkie.com, UFC president Dana White exploded in response to all of the fighters complaining about not being compensated enough for competing in the biggest MMA promotion in the world:
You don't like the structure? All right, we'll pay the lower-level guys more money – no more f--king bonuses. You guys come in, you negotiate your contracts, and we do away with all bonuses. That's what I'm thinking about doing. The bonuses are something we've been doing out of the kindness of our f--king heart. It was something we liked to do. Apparently, people don't like it. They want the lower-level guys to get paid more money.
Former UFC welterweight Jacob Volkmann has led the charge in attempting to increase fighter pay. During an interview with Above and Beyond MMA, Volkmann blasted his former employer for insufficient pay and "horrible" health care benefits.
Volkmann certainly hasn't been alone in his quest to expose the UFC for allegedly underpaying fighters. Former top UFC contender Jon Fitch made a video breaking down personal figures earned with the promotion.
In speaking with GrappleTalk podcast, current UFC fighter Tim Kennedy even went as far as claiming he'd make more money working as a garbage man than competing in the Octagon. John Cholish told MMA's Great Debate Radio that he retired at the young age of 29 because he felt it was actually costing him money to fight for the UFC.
Even former UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is unhappy with the UFC's business practices. In an interview with MMA H.E.A.T.'s Karyn Bryant, he stated that "UFC fighters are being taken advantage of."
Talk of fighter pay has dominated the first half of 2013 and will likely continue to do so in the coming months.