Finding anything in Atlanta can be difficult, especially when the destination in question has the word "Peachtree" in the address. A different man might have given up. But I was looking for what was, to me at least, the holy grail—a magical place that could solve many of my problems, both financial and emotional.
After what felt like hours of wandering, finally there it was. In a non-descript building on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, catty corner to a Chinese restaurant, I entered a strange new world.
For immigrants far from home, the Japanese grocery store must have been comforting. After all, if you were in search of seaweed-flavored chips or kiwi-flavored gummy candy, they certainly weren't available in bulk at Costco. The store, and others like it, might be your only connection to a homeland thousands of miles in the distance, literally a world away.
Of course the needs of others was the last thing on my mind at the time. I was purpose driven and not one to lose sight of my goal when it was so close at hand.
I was there for Pancrase, K-1 and Pride.
In addition to Japanese brands, snacks and food staples, a good third of the store was devoted to walls of VHS tapes, each labelled in Kanji that meant nothing to my gaijin eyes. After a quick consultation with the owner and then with the owner's teenage daughter, I had exactly what I wanted more than anything. I had another fix for my MMA habit.
My name is Jonathan, and I am an MMA addict.
In 1998, that was kind of a major problem to have. The sport was dying a slow and painful death in the United States. The UFC, the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts, was held in podunk towns and available only to those with the DISH network or an old-fashioned satellite. Copies were passed around like they were precious family heirlooms, with each generation devolving toward the unwatchable.
Tapes from Japan, where the sport was still a hot commodity, were likewise hard to get your hands on in a timely manner. Thus, the desperate search for the Japanese grocery store.
So, when longtime fans say that UFC Fight Pass is a streaming service that offers a repository of old fight shows as well as new fights from all over the world, they aren't just whistling dixie. Being a fan of MMA was work. To have it all at your virtual fingertips, available at the click of a mouse for $9.99 a month?
That's something worth celebrating.
I lay this at your feet to make my biases crystal clear. I want the UFC Fight Pass to succeed. It's in my DNA, as a fight fan who has seen this sport struggle and claw its way from the brink of death, to want to see the UFC standing strong, to see its history and pioneers preserved for fans old and new.
And yet, after an initial wave of excitement, the mood among UFC fans has shifted a bit. The WWE's announcement of a similar content delivery system that includes live pay-per-view streams has made the UFC's offering seem small in comparison. Fear over what Fight Pass will be lingers, as do concerns over security and the potential for abuse.
Much about Fight Pass remains muddied, so I talked to the UFC's chief content officer Marshall Zelaznik to get to the bottom of some of these issues. What follows is a breakdown of what Fight Pass is and what it is not.
Five questions. Five answers.
Questions of your own or thoughts to share? Let me know in the comments.