Part 4 of the strange history of MMA will look back at some of the biggest fights after UFC 100, and the UFC’s historic deal with FOX.
The popularity of mixed martial arts had reached new heights after UFC 100. The landmark event sold a record 1.6 million PPV buys, and was covered by almost every major sports media outlet in the US. On this show, Brock Lesnar managed to become even more hated by the MMA community with his post-fight antics, George St. Pierre continued to prove he was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, and on the undercard, Jon Jones proved he was ready for a step up in competition by submitting Jake O’Brien.
The UFC knew they had attracted a whole new market of fans after UFC 100. This was a very important time in the strange history of MMA. A number of superstars were beginning to emerge, and rivalries were heating up. All eyes were on the sport, and it didn’t take long for some huge fights to get put together.
The Champions Reign
Many of today’s MMA legends were in their prime during this time. George St. Pierre, who had just beaten Thiago Alves at UFC 100, was quickly booked to fight brash Englishman Dan Hardy at UFC 111. In a vintage performance, St Pierre beat Hardy from bell to bell.
BJ Penn was considered by many to be the best fighter on the planet around this time. At UFC 101, Penn dominated and submitted Kenny Florian, and just five months later became the first fighter to stop Diego Sanchez. Penn’s reign of dominance was ended in April of 2010 at the historic UFC 112.
UFC 112 was the first event to be held in Abu Dhabi, and the UFC stacked the card. BJ Penn was set to face Frankie Edgar in the co-main event, and Anderson Silva was taking on jiu-jitsu wizard Demian Maia in the main event. It would end up being one of the most bizarre nights in the strange history of MMA, with Edgar edging past Penn to win a decision, and Silva showboating and taunting Maia for much of their fight to win a unanimous decision.
Silva vs Sonnen
Many in the MMA community were quick to dismiss Silva after his performance at UFC 112, and none more so than Chael Sonnen. The American had voiced his opinion about Silva in a way that no one had before. He repeatedly taunted the Brazilian in the media, telling anyone who would listen that he could beat Silva.
Sonnen’s verbal thrashing of Silva was noticed by the UFC, and it was quickly announced that the two would fight at UFC 117. By the time the fight actually came together, the world was watching to see if anything Sonnen said could be backed up. It became evident very early that Sonnen was not all talk.
From the opening bell, Sonnen beat Anderson to the punch and repeatedly took him down. For four and a half rounds, Sonnen dominated the middleweight champion, landing 320 strikes against Silva’s 64. Halfway through the final round, the American took Silva down and it seemed that a new champion would be crowned. Then, with less than 2 minutes remaining in the fight, Silva submitted Sonnen with a triangle choke in what is undoubtedly the most amazing comeback in MMA history.
The Road to UFC on FOX
Since 2005, the UFC had an exclusive deal with Spike TV to broadcast their events. Things began to sour with the two companies in early 2011, and it didn’t take long for the UFC to begin looking for new a new partner.
On August 18th, 2011, one of the biggest stories in the strange history of MMA and gambling news was announced that the UFC had made a seven-year broadcast commitment to FOX. Unlike Spike TV, which specifically targeted an 18-35 demographic and has limited mainstream exposure, FOX was a major network, pulling millions of viewers every day. Fox agreed to air four fights on their main channel every year, as well as programming on their various broadcast channels.
The FOX deal was the first major sign that MMA had become mainstream. Millions of people would be watching the fights, and the UFC knew they needed to make a good first impression. They quickly announced that the first FOX event would feature a heavyweight champion fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
The first UFC on FOX event was held on November 12, 2011. Over 8.8 million people were watching the fight, which lasted only one minute and four seconds. There have now been 18 UFC events on Fox’s main channel, with each one brining in millions of viewers.
Part 5 of the strange history of MMA will complete the series by looking at the impact FOX has had on the UFC, and the emergence of today’s superstars such as Ronda Rousey and Conor Mcgregor. Leave your comments below 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 3 of the strange history of MMA can be seen here.