Top 10 Fights That Pushed MMA Closer To the Mainstream
During the early years of the MMA, the sport was labeled human cock fighting. It was seen as too violent. It started out the furthest from mainstream possible.
Over time, and with the right match-ups, MMA has begun to hit more mainstream markets.
MMA now can be seen on several channels. Highlights on ESPN and HDNet and ESPN currently have shows dedicated to MMA news.
The sport still isn't where it wants to be or where it can be, but it’s clearly moving in the right direction. Here is a list of the top 10 MMA fights the helped push MMA closer to mainstream.
10. Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki (Strikeforce: Nashville)
Two current lightweight champions from different promotions located in different countries. Melendez (Strikeforce, USA) and Aoki (Dream, Japan) fought for the Strikeforce belt which Melendez detained with a unanimous decision win.
9. Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva (UFC 99)
A great match up between two legends in MMA, the story here was the location of the event. For the first time ever the UFC held an event in Germany and even thought the PPV numbers weren’t high it expanded the reach of MMA into another part of the world.
8. Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg Santos (Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg)
A huge step forward for women’s MMA as this 145 lbs. title fight actually headlined this card. I card that did really well in ticket sales too, 13,976 was the attendance for a live gate of $736,000. Santos won the fight in the first round and has since defended her belt two more times, both on the main card of those events.
7. Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin (UFC 116)
Called the “biggest” match in UFC history, this fight anchored the second highest PPV numbers in UFC history at slightly over one million buys. The event was held at the MGM grand in Las Vegas and Lesnar retained his belt with a second round submission.
6. Randy Couture vs. James Toney (UFC 118)
The only fight on the list that hasn’t happened yet, but it has already helped push the sport further into mainstream media. A champion Boxer (Toney) against a champion MMA legend and hall of famer (Couture) face off for the first time. How much the fight helps will come down to the outcome though.
5. Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Serra II (UFC 83)
The first trip to Canada for the UFC played host to a rematch between Georges St-Pierre and welterweight champ, Matt Serra. Serra shocked the world back at UFC 69 when he knocked out GSP in the first round. Serra was unable to repeat as GSP dominated him for the 2nd round TKO. This event holds the second highest ever at 21,390 behind UFC 97 which was also in Canada.
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II (UFC 100)
Lasting one round longer then their fight meeting, Lesnar learned from his mistakes and defeated Mir via second round TKO. UFC 100 marksthe largest PPV numbers (1,600,000) and though the card was stacked, it was headlined by Lesnar vs. Mir II.
3. Roger Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia (UFC 69)
An action packed three round scrap that Huerta captured via unanimous decision. Following the fight Huerta graced the cover of Sports Illustrated (Pictured), making him the first MMA fighter to be featured on the cover.
(Picture provided by Sports Illustrated)
2. Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz II (UFC66)
The fight was very similar to their first meeting with Liddell winning via TKO. The fight though pulled in unheard of numbers at the time for both live gate ($5,397,300) and PPV (1,050,000)
1. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonner (Ultimate Fighter season 1 final)
This fight changed how MMA was viewed and really put in MMA on the map. A complete 15 minute war that actually saw more viewers watching as the fight went on. Without this fight who knows where the sport would be right now……