Considering the ever-increasing demands of being an MMA fan, it can sometimes be difficult to savor the moment.
It's never been more expensive or more difficult to simply follow our sport. These days, we hurtle along at a breakneck pace—stuck in an eternal state of Fiiiiight Weeek!!!—seldom finding the opportunity to just stop and take a breath. We rarely appreciate the beauty of our surroundings because we're already rocketing on toward the next big thing.
So before we forget, before the experience fades into the next, this needs to be said:
July 2014 has been an awesome month to be a UFC fan.
We're still five days away from Robbie Lawler fighting Matt Brown on network television, and already, July has given us more highlights than we could reasonably expect from any single 31-day period. With so much crow (rightly) being made about the drawbacks of the UFC's ever-increasing schedule, it's only fair that we acknowledge this month, when the menu of events felt just right.
We began July with Chris Weidman silencing his critics at UFC 175, as the middleweight champion turned away Lyoto Machida's chance at a second title reign in a second weight class. On the same card, women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey reaffirmed her dominance, knocking out Alexis Davis in 16 seconds.
By mid-month, we had Donald Cerrone finally coming into his own as a lightweight contender, dispatching Jim Miller via second-round KO.
Most recently, of course, we had Conor McGregor.
The UFC's trip to Dublin on July 19 has to be considered the month's biggest, brightest surprise. Fight Night 46 took place in front of nearly 10,000 lathered Irishmen at the city's O2 arena, and while the actual fight matchups weren't spectacular—three mismatches and a lopsided flyweight contender bout comprising the main card—it may have been the loudest, most enthusiastic crowd in UFC history.
McGregor and fellow hot prospect Gunnar Nelson both waltzed past badly overmatched foes, sending the Dublin faithful home happy and hoisting their own stars a bit higher. The event wasn't nearly as good as some people tried to pretend it was, but it felt perfect in a supporting role to the month's other attractions.
Like almost everything else we saw during July, it overachieved, especially for a regional fight card that aired only on the UFC's digital subscription service.
Only B.J. Penn's sleepwalking performance against Frankie Edgar during The Ultimate Fighter 19 finale brought us down. It was gut-wrenching to watch an all-time great like Penn go out like that, but it's safe to say memories of his stellar career will quickly outweigh the melancholy of its end. In fact, there's been so much great MMA this month, you already have to think twice to even remember that Penn-Edgar III was part of it.
It's crazy to imagine the best might still be to come.
Lawler vs. Brown could determine a future No. 1 contender in the welterweight division but, above and beyond that, is expected to be in the running for fight of the year honors. That is, provided both guys come with the determination and never-say-die attitudes that have typified the rest of their careers. Frankly, it's nearly impossible to imagine a scenario where that doesn't happen.
When it's all said and done, it's not out of the question we might have two FOTY contenders during a single month. Stack those alongside the carefree fun of the Dublin card, and this month was just what fight fans needed at the midway point of a year that so far has been marked by the UFC's crushing schedule, injuries and performance-enhancing drug scandals.
Nothing wrong with taking a moment to let that sink in.
One reason we need to cherish these good times is that it won't always be like this.
August, for example, looks like kind of a ghost town. After the cancellation of UFC 176, the fight company will be left with four events that may not do much to move the needle with fans.
They include UFC 177, which features the head-scratcher of a bantamweight title rematch between T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao and the underwhelming flyweight pairing of Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso. Other August main events include Ryan Bader vs. Ovince St. Preux, Benson Henderson vs. Rafael dos Anjos (the class of the group, for what that's worth) and Michael Bisping vs. Cung Le.
So, yeah, that month might be kind of a bear.
But there is hope on the horizon for the second half of the year. The UFC will get some of its champions off the DL—Cain Velasquez, Anthony Pettis—and has some surefire blockbusters scheduled, including Jon Jones' rematch against Alexander Gustafsson in Sept. Also, the first legitimately intriguing season of The Ultimate Fighter in recent memory is on tap, featuring the introduction of strawweight women.
With those attractions set, perhaps the company can spend the latter months of 2014 on an extended high note.
If it does, we could all end up pointing to July as the month it all turned around.