Ok, so as you might have intimated from my subtle, unbiased title, I’m a pretty big fan of UFC Primetime.
Now I know you’re reading this and you’re likely thinking, “What in the blue hell is Hobbie on about?” I know Primetime is just a marketing tool. I know it exists to sell PPVs, to help get stars “over” with fans and to generally be a vehicle for the UFC brand.
So what’s so special?
Us hardcore MMA fans spend so much time bemoaning the “almost mainstream but not quite” status of our beloved sport. I mean, don’t we all hate the infamous “Gladiator intro” on all UFC PPV broadcasts? How cheesy, am I right? I mean, there we are, trying to convince our skeptical friends that MMA is a legit sport when all of a sudden a low-rent Maximus is flexing and posing to the most banal of nu-metal.
And how about those pre-fight “interview” segments? You know, the one’s where fighter X, filmed in black and white, claims his opponent will “know he’s been in a fight” while fighter Y, also in black in white, retorts with a calculated “in this fight, don’t blink.” Again, and again and again.
SLAM CUT to fighters shadowboxing in what appears to be an empty black void, their only company some really aggressive backlighting and a constant Scottish drizzle coming down on their toned, tattooed forms.
And how about that “Ultimate Fighter,” huh? Not a week goes by where MMA fans aren’t decrying the reality TV show as the bane of this sport’s existence. It’s cheesy, sophomoric and, at times, all too “lowest common denominator.”
Every year, fans plead for more maturity and a greater focus on the fighters. And every year, the UFC gives us manufactured rivalries, endless pranks and enough “angry man vs. wooden door” bouts to last a lifetime.
So yeah, as hardcore fans, we tend to be really critical of the very same things that first brought MMA “to the dance,” so to speak. Sure, these things were fun and novel in 2005, but today? They’re dated, man. In the minds of some fans, they’re holding the sport back.
While I was watching the latest “Velasquez vs. Dos Santos” Primetime, it suddenly occurred to me that this is EXACTLY what the Chicken Littles of MMA have been waiting for. No cheesy nu-metal to be heard, no immature pranks or manufactured drama or training sessions in the mist-zone of purgatory.
Cain Velasquez came off looking awesome. I don’t know how many new female fans he picked up with that show, but it had to be a few. Man, what a good guy he came off as: a family man, a hard worker, quiet and respectful. In every second of that show, he was the exact opposite of the loud, bombastic, aggressive a***ole the average Joe would expect the UFC Heavyweight champion to be.
And by the time he was getting his face painted with his cute little tyke, I swear that even I wanted to pinch his cheeks a little bit.
Junior looked pretty good, too—much better then he did during his stint on TUF. His rags-to-riches story is compelling; the wide eyed, almost child-like glee with which he approaches his new-found super-stardom is imminently relatable.
There was no manufactured beef here. Never was it mentioned that these guys hate each other. This show scored a home run precisely because it focused on the absolute truth, which is:
1. These guys are the pinnacle of the heavyweight division in MMA, and
2. Their fight is a REALLY big deal—the first UFC bout on network TV.
For those of you wondering where the hallowed “mainstream MMA” is, it’s here folks. It’s called UFC Primetime: Show your friends, show your co-workers, show your girlfriend and your mother and your grandmother.
If the message, tone, style and substance of Primetime is representative of “the future” of MMA, then the future is looking good.