Part 3 of the strange history of MMA will reflect on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and the long road to the biggest event in MMA history, UFC 100.
The first season of the ultimate fighter was a success on every level. Before it, most people imagined MMA fighters as thugs, uneducated and violent. The TV show helped to show the fighter’s true personalities and backgrounds. Sure, there was some thuggish behavior during the season, but for the most part TUF 1 offered a look into the lived of true martial artists.
Many people, including UFC President Dana White, credit the ultimate fighter season 1 as being the most important events in the strange history of MMA. The show had gotten good ratings, and more fans tuned in every week to see who would advance to the finals. Some people even chose who they thought would win the show through online gambling sites in the US. The middleweight finals were eventually set with Diego Sanchez against the undersized Kenny Florian, and at light-heavyweight, fan favorites Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar were set to clash.
The fight that changed everything
The ultimate fighter season one finale was headlined by Rich Franklin and Ken Shamrock. The finals of TUF 1 were seen by most as filler fights before the main event. At middleweight, Diego Sanchez made quick work of Florian with a first round tko. The next fight would change the sport forever.
Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar engaged in what many believe is the best 3 round fight in the strange history of MMA. Instead of utilizing his expertise in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bonnar chose to stand and strike with Griffin. For three rounds the fighters stood toe to toe and hit each other with everything but the kitchen sink. In the end, Griffin won a razor thin unanimous decision, securing a 6-fight contract with the UFC.
The analytics of that fight between Bonnar and Griffin are astounding. Over the 15 minute fight, the number of viewers rapidly increased, meaning that people were calling each other, telling them to watch the fight. Spike TV was so impressed by the fight (and the huge number of viewers that watched it) that they agreed to run a second season of the show. There has now been 24 seasons of the original TUF, and a number of international seasons as well.
The rise of the PPV sales and the emergence of future stars
The first season of TUF brought the UFC’s popularity to new heights. Their first event after the season finale was only one week later, and sold the most PPV’s in the company’s history. That show was headlined by Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture in a rematch of their fight two years prior. The Liddell-Couture rivalry was the biggest in the sports history for many years, with their third fight setting another record for PPV buys.
The UFC rose steadily for the next few years. A number of stars began to surface in the late 2000’s including George St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, and many more. St. Pierre created a massive MMA fan base in Canada, and quickly became the face of Canadian MMA.
With the help of Spike TV’s marketing, the UFC went from a fringe sport with a bad reputation to one of the fastest rising sports in history. The years between 2005 and 2009 were pivotal in the success of the UFC, and MMA in general. July 11th, 2009, was one of the events that brought the sport to even new heights.
The biggest event in UFC history
By the time UFC 100 had rolled around, the UFC had a number of extremely popular fighters. The sport was no longer stigmatized. These fighters could be seen on ESPN, magazine covers, talk shows, etc… Many people wondered how the UFC would stack the historic 100th PPV event, and they did not disappoint.
The two biggest stars in the sport at that time were without a doubt George St. Pierre and WWE import Brock Lesnar. The fighters could not have been more opposite. St. Pierre was a quiet, humble champion that fans adored. Lesnar embraced his heel role and was profoundly disliked by 95% of the MMA community. The UFC put both of these fighters on UFC 100, as well as a highly marketed fight between Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson.
This event broke every record in the company’s history, and is still the best selling PPV of all time. UFC 100 was an extremely important milestone in the strange history of MMA. It became clear that the sport was only going to get bigger, and the future of mixed martial arts looked bright.
Part 4 of the strange history of MMA will focus on some of the most important bouts after UFC 100, and the UFC’s historic deal with FOX that helped elevate the sport to new heights. Leave your comment blow, and make sure to check out GamingZion’s online sportsbooks in the US for a full list of the best sports betting sites in the United States!
Part 2 of the strange history of MMA can be seen here.