UFC: 5 Reasons Why It Is Going to Have a HUGE 2011
Every so often, whenever there's a lull in the news cycle or a slow day, the MMA media/amateur bloggers like myself like to bust old a cherished classic.
You can chart this story like a lunar eclipse, which makes sense because it's roughly as regular as one and almost as easy to predict.
This story is the a**hole Dallas Cowboys fan of MMA news: No matter what you do, where you live, or how far you travel, you just just keep encountering it. It's cyclical, recurring, and just a fact of life. Like rain, death, taxes and MMA vs. Pro Wrestling debates.
What am I talking about here, exactly? Only the ageless, guaranteed to provoke, “Smoke on the Water” of MMA stories: the “UFC/MMA is on the verge of disaster!” articles/editorials/group therapy sessions.
The headline isn't always as clear cut as that one, but variations of it just keep cropping up every so often. Declining ratings for the ultra-disappointing “Whoops, Brock's actually not a pr*ck” season of The Ultimate Fighter? That means interest in MMA has “plateaued” and may even be beginning to decline.
The loss of every big star—Fedor, Brock, Liddell, Randy one of the 55 times he retired—spells certain doom for the UFC's PPV fortunes. The inability to get on network TV means the UFC can't break through to the mainstream sports watching audience.
Every scandal in MMA, every in-cage brawl and profanity laced interview and pretend motorboating and controversial finish is the “black mark” that's “holding the sport back.”
Tell me you haven't read a story like that. Tell me you haven't read a story like that this week.
The latest version of the story has centered around the UFC's summer PPV schedule, which can be summed up in two words: not so good, Batman (it can also be summed up in more then two words). Since the record setting UFC 129 in Toronto, the promotion has moved from one disappointment to the next on PPV.
By most people's standards, anyways. I remember when people cracked champagne for 50,000 PPV buys. But now I guess 350,000 for Dominick Cruz's UFC debut is “disappointing.” But I digress.
Then, you have the almost supernatural confluence of injuries, scratched fights, and plain old back luck surrounding next month's UFC 133. I mean, seriously, at this point I wouldn't be all that shocked if the Wells Fargo Center got hit with a meteor or something.
In short, many in the blogosphere are calling for 2011 to be the year the UFC “falls off the perch” of PPV supremacy, and ultimately off casual sport's fans radars.
In a word: wrong. In three words: wrong, wrong, wrong. Here are 5 reasons the UFC is going to have a huge (second half) of 2011.
Reason 1: Jon Jones vs. "Rampage" Jackson
Last March, just before his UFC Light-Heavyweight title fight with “Shogun” Rua, Jon Jones saved an old lady from a mugger in an act of heroism so selfless that it would have made Clark Kent's nipples hard just to hear it.
OK, so he technically didn't “save” anyone. The mugger wasn't technically mugging anyone, but breaking into cars. According to reports, he fled the moment he saw the No. 1 contender to a UFC title making for him like an angry puma. So really, Jon didn't save anyone, just took the law into his own hands to ensure that
vigilante justice was done!
This September, he's going to save something else—namely, the UFC's sagging PPV schedule. Call me crazy, but even in the same month I don't see Rashad/Tito and Silva/Okami making it rain for the UFC. Not the way they've traditionally been able to make it rain the past couple summers.
But Jon Jones vs. “Rampage” Jackson? That's a combination of the sports newest celebrity meeting the man who is among the most popular and well-known fighters by mainstream fans.
That's a combination of a man with the perfect style to test a young phenom meeting a seemingly unstoppable fighter who's going to have to win this one the hard way. I guarantee you, this fight is going to shock you no matter who wins. Count on it.
This is the perfect fight (alongside Tito vs. Rashad) to set up the eventual Evans vs. Jones superfight. Or, it could be the perfect setup for a Tito vs. Jones superfight. Or it could set up a rematch of “Rampage” and Rashad Evans, who drew over 1,000,000 PPV buys the last time they met.
No matter what happens, the UFC wins.
Reason 2: UFC 134
Fun fact: 3 of the 5 guys in this picture aren't actually fighting on the UFC 134 card.
Whoa, didn't I just crap on this card as a PPV event that couldn't draw?
Yes. But luckily it doesn't matter. That's cause this summer, the UFC is going home, so to speak.
UFC 134 marks the return of the promotion to Brazil, home of the legendary Gracie clan, home of BJJ, and home of the vale tudo fights that were the inspiration for the original UFC.
This is the first UFC event in Brazil since 1998. And it's a hell of a homecoming, with the badass of all badasses, Anderson Silva, defending the middleweight strap against the last man to beat him, Yushin Okami. Fan favorites Forrest Griffin and “Shogun” Rua meet in a rematch of the fight that first launched Griffin into the elite ranks at LHW.
Will this card be a PPV smash? Probably not. Anderson has never been a phenomenal draw on PPV, and Okami hasn't exactly set the box office on fire in his headlining appearances.
But from a business standpoint, this event is already a win for the UFC. The event sold out in blank, indicating a big demand for their sport in Brazil, itself a rapidly emerging economic powerhouse. If we believe Dana White when he says that the future of the sport is global, then this can only be more good news for the UFC.
Reason 3: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 3
When Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard had their rematch this past January, most pegged the event as another example of the UFC's struggling fortunes. The event was a dud on PPV, with most fans saying before the event that it was a prime example of how the UFC couldn't create stars in the post-BJ Penn lightweight division.
Twenty-five minutes of “Fight of the Night” action later, and no one can wait for the three-match.
Then the UFC doubled down like Col. Saunders and added Kenny Florian vs. Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title to the card as well. That two world title matches on one card, both of which are all but guaranteed to be all-out wars.
All that on top of Sonnen vs. Stann, and Lauzon vs. Guillard, all on one card, plus the UFC Fan Expo in Houston that weekend? Yeah, UFC 136 blank is going to be one of the biggest UFC events of the year.
Reason 4: Nick Diaz vs. Georges St. Pierre
Speaking of doubling down, the UFC is returning to Las Vegas that same month of October, and they're bringing another title fight with them. For those keeping score at home, that's three UFC titles that will be decided in October 2011 alone.
This time, the title fight will feature the biggest crossover star in MMA now that we're (likely) in the post-Brock Lesnar era.
Doesn't it seem like we're always in the “post-(insert something)” era of MMA at any one given time? The post-Pride era. The post-Liddell era. The post-Brock era. The only ones who never seem to notice are...well, everyone but us hardcore fans. But I digress.
GSP vs. Nick Diaz. If that isn't enough to get your wallet cracked and your $49.99 out, how does BJ Penn vs.Carlos Condit sound? Those two fights alone are worth the price of the PPV—to say nothing of the war that Siver vs. Stout is almost guaranteed to be.
Reason 5: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos
And this time, fans have had a whole year to get to know his opponent.
Junior Dos Santos has been the uncrowned No. 1 contender for a good portion of his career. While Velasquez was on the shelf, Dos Santos was coaching “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Ambien-Brock. Fans got to at least see his face. He looked like a nice enough guy.
Then Dos Santos headlines against Shane Carwin, who's himself a scary 265-pound guy who hits like a mac truck. Oh, and he's also a civil engineer. That's cool. Unfortunately, Dos Santos spent nearly all of their 15 minutes together, ensuring that Shane would actually need an engineer to put his face back together.
This fight will be big, just like the two guys in it. With Overeem's departure from the Strikeforce HW tourney, the winner will also indisputably be the No. 1 Heavyweight in the world.