The UFC is fueled by its biggest stars competing on the center stage.
While there are literally hundreds of fights now over the course of a calender year, it is the champions of the sport displaying their Midas touch which really goads us into opening up our wallets and grinning at all of the caged violence on display.
With the schedule for the second half of 2013 having mostly come together, it would appear that fans can bank on being cash poor by year's end. Assuming every title fight on the books escapes the injury bug, it will be one of the sweetest stretches in UFC history.
The party officially albeit quietly kicks off at the end of July when all 5'3" of Demetrious Johnson will wave his flyweight belt in the face of the action-packed John Moraga and hope to still be standing tall.
August is stacked with many caustic fights spread across four shows and features two rock 'em sock 'em title scraps: featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo looks to defend his belt against the crafty challenger Jung Chan-Sung, more affectionately known as "the Korean Zombie," and lightweight boss Benson Henderson hopes to still be in charge when he collides with Anthony "Showtime" Pettis.
Things kick into high gear in September when light heavyweight juggernaut Jon Jones takes on a tall order—literally, as he stands 6'5"—in the very Swedish Alexander Gustafsson.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow culminates at the end of December when ace no-more Anderson Silva will attempt to recapture his middleweight belt from "Cool Hand Luke" Chris Weidman, and rowdier-than-ever Ronda Rousey hopes to armbar any remaining sass out of Miesha Tate.
Stuffed between those fights, it doesn't get any less awesome, as hulking heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos complete their trilogy in blockbuster fashion, while the safest sheriff in town, Georges St-Pierre, will attempt to lay down the law on the bearded outlaw that is Johnny Hendricks.
The UFC believes all that bang for your buck will deliver at the box office in a big way. It even threw together a world tour featuring four of the aforementioned champs and their respective title challengers.
While there is nothing necessarily transcendent about this potential jaunt of high-profile fisticuffs, if everything comes together like a Quentin Tarantino film, it should end up providing a much-needed shot in the arm for a sport that has waned more than it has waxed since the end of the Brock Lesnar era.
Starting with UFC 91, where he pummeled the heavyweight belt away from then-champ Randy Couture, up through UFC 126, where current champ Cain Velasquez returned the pummel, Lesnar headlined—for all intents and purposes—four consecutive PPV events with over one million buys...with the watermark taking place at UFC 100, which reportedly brought in over 1.6 million buys (click here for complete list of reported buyrates).
Since the untimely death of Lesnar's MMA career, only two fights have cracked 900K buys for the respective PPV they headlined: Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz and Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II. While the UFC still packs a potent punch, it's been lacking some of the snap it's had in years prior.
A combat sport must continually churn out enough affairs that capture the collective heart of not just the hardcore fans but also the casuals and beyond to maintain the proper buoyancy to keep itself afloat in mainstream waters...otherwise, it's always at risk of floating out to sea.
It can survive without the spotlight that larger-than-life stars create, but to thrive, larger-than-life fights are a necessary evil that must reincarnate over and over again. Anything less than magic-in-a-bottle meets assembly line will not cut it for the purposes of grandeur.
Dana White knows this all too well.
So it will be interesting to see how things feel after UFC 168; anything less than a million pay per view buys for Silva vs. Weidman and Rousey vs. Tate would be a disappointment. White, for his part, has predicted upwards of 1.4 million...which would comfortably make it the second biggest PPV of all time.
But this is about more than the tangible. It is the intangibles that make the man, not the clothes.
What kind of buzz will be in the air? How hot will the water get at the proverbial office cooler? Will the fire for effect leave fans burning uncontrollably for more fighting? If all the elements come together, then just maybe at the end of 2013, we will be saying that the UFC is bigger than ever.
Silva beating Weidman and setting up a trilogy certainly wouldn't hurt.
Great expectations indeed.
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