Like most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, I was once an "ultimate fighting" fan. "Ultimate fighting" is a term coined by mixed martial arts biggest promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
The first time I was ever exposed to MMA, was when I watched the first UFC tapes. Seeing a 170 pound little guy in gi submitting a 230 pound muscle head was all it took for me to be hooked into the sport. During those days the UFC was only available on ppv, and was only talked about on the internet. Nowadays, the UFC is mainstream. With livecards and realitys shows on spike tv, as well as ppv events, the UFC is now one of the fastest growing MMA organizations out there.
To any long time MMA fan, it is a dream to see the sport getting so much attention. Fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, and Georges St. Pierre are some of the UFC's biggest names out there. Many of these top fighters are well known by UFC fans, but what about names like Fedor Emelianenko, Takanori Gomi, Gesias Calvancante, and Josh Barnett?.These fighters are also some of the best MMA fighters in the world.
These fighters are not as well known to newer fans because they do not compete in the UFC. When I first heard of some of these names, I went on YouTube and watched their fights. What I first noticed was that many of their fights took place in a ring with ropes. I was amazed to see the fighters competing in a ring instead of a cage like the UFC. What I also found out was that an MMA organization held in Japan called Pride Fighting Championships, was just as big or bigger than the UFC in it's time.
Pride Fc events featured some of best fighters in the world competing for titles, as well as tournament titles. I watched an awe as thousands of Japanese fans would all gasp at the same when a fighter would go for a submission, or when they would applaud both fighters as they made their entrance, or when a fight would take place on the ground for twenty straight minutes without a single boo from the crowd.
As I watched these events I realized that these fans truly knew the fighters, the sport, and the spirit of the competition. Now in North America, you can see this change happening. A few years ago when two fighters would take the fight to the ground you could hear boos from the crowd. Now when fans see their favorite fighter take the fight to the ground they cheer and appreciate the science of the ground game. As well, fans are now getting to know many new fighters. With the UFC purchase of Pride Fc, many more top fighters have come in such as Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight champion), Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera (UFC Heavyweight champion), Wanderlai Silva, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (UFC Lightheavyweight champion), just to name a few.
Whats beautiful about the sport is that the best fighters are from all over the world, and compete in many different companies. Companies outside the UFC such as WEC, Elite XC, IFL, and the newly formed Japanese organization "Dream", all carry other top fighters. Lately you may have UFC's Randy Couture wanting to fight a fighter named Fedor. Fedor Emelianenko is considered by most people, the #1 fighter in the world. Randy wanted to challenge him to see if he could hang with the best, and when he found out that the UFC were unable to sign him, Randy left the UFC. Randy's situation is great for fans because they become interested at who those "other" fighters are. Once they found out who they are, and start to watch other organizations, they become true MMA fans.
To the newer UFC fans, I suggest searching for top ten weight class rankings in each MMA division. If you see a name that you do not recognize, YouYube the name and enjoy seeing some new MMA fights. After that, ponder at the possibilities at seeing the best in the world fight, such as when we got to see Anderson Silva take on Dan Henderson, or during May when we get to see BJ Penn take on Sean Sherk. Watching and waiting for those fights is truly the best part of being a true "MMA" fan. Enjoy the fights and be a proud "MMA" fan!