In the sports world at large, the first event cancellation in the modern era of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was a curiosity: A one-day headline on the home page of major websites and the subject of a quick mention on national sports broadcasts.
This is your life, Frankie Edgar. You step into the octagon for a fight, and across the cage stands a familiar face. Not every time, of course, but every second time. First there's the title bout. Then there's the rematch. That's the rhythm of the beat of your fighter's heart.
There's no UFC event this weekend, and no Strikeforce or Bellator fights, either. So what are mixed martial arts fans supposed to do with ourselves? Well, it's a prime opportunity for us to settle in front of a TV and scout for future stars.
It was late Monday morning when I decided to get a head start on the week by jotting down some ideas for a preview of this weekend's UFC on Fox event. Scanning the fight card, it occurred to me that quite a few of the bouts feature guys in the midst of stabilizing their careers after setbacks. Lyoto Machida. Phil Davis. Joe Lauzon. Mike Swick.
The venue for Saturday night's UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, is the 20,000-seat Saddledome. It might as well be Foothills Medical Centre, the Canadian city's 1,000-bed hospital.
Mixed martial arts is a dangerous game. You punch and you kick, you twist limbs and you choke off airways. And that's just what you do in training camp while preparing for an actual fight.
If you didn't know better, you'd have thought UFC president Dana White was talking about an act of God, some unavoidable misfortune that finds its way across the universe and zaps you right in the teeth. A tree falling on your house in the middle of the night. A meteor rocketing through the roof of your Camry as you zip along the highway. Nothing you can do.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- If you think it's an inherent conflict of interest for the UFC to act as its own regulator when it takes its event abroad, you're right. That's according to the UFC's VP of Regulatory Affairs and former Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Marc Ratner, who knows from prior experience that the fox cannot be left to guard the henhouse.
The UFC might have no way of entirely ridding its roster of steroid users, but it's at least going to try to make it tougher for them to get in.
LAS VEGAS -- UFC president Dana White doesn't usually bother to comment on the typical pre-fight bluster that comes falling out of fighters' mouths in interviews and press conferences before the big night, but even he couldn't resist taking the bait this time.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
1. Big-stage backlash. Now that the UFC is on network TV, with so many more viewers able to see the fights, it's inevitable that the wrong eyes will catch a glimpse. A curious football fan or let's-see-what's-on channel surfer will click over to Fox at the precise moment when a fighter suffers a broken limb, like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria did at UFC 140, or when one drops to the mat lifelessly after being choked unconscious, as Lyoto Machida did that same night. Or maybe the cringe-worthy moment will be a bloodbath like the first Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight, a bout legendary for MMA diehards but probably too brutal for the uninitiated to bear.
In a year where "Business as usual" became a tongue-in-cheek slogan for MMA fans in the know, it was a series of big business moves that changed the sport's landscape forever.
TORONTO -- If you ask Jon Jones, he'll tell you that his light heavyweight title defense at UFC 140 is at least a little bit of a relief. You might think the same thing if you'd gone from having Quinton "Rampage" Jackson poking at you in the press to fighting a guy who barely speaks English, and isn't inclined to talk much trash even in his native Portuguese.
If you have something better to do with your life than watch so-called reality television -- and who doesn't? -- you've not been missing much if you've chosen to skip The Ultimate Fighter. The Spike TV show did put the UFC on the map six years ago, but it's never evolved beyond a tiresome formula of a few minutes of fervent, if ham-fisted fighting wrapped around hours of sometimes drunken, always childish stupidity. In other words, typical reality TV fare.
"This is, without a doubt, the biggest fight in UFC history."
Mark Muñoz sure knows how to get himself noticed.
The other day, seeking a tidbit of information about UFC 138, I ventured to the fight organization's web site and had a brief moment of confusion. Had I got the date wrong? Is the event in Birmingham, England, not this weekend?
UFC 133 is over, and we're out of the injury woods for now.
It took around eight seconds for Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber to ensure that no one was going to confuse them for Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye. For one thing, the two UFC 132 main event fighters, combined, weigh in at not much more than Klitschko alone. And more important, unlike the heavyweight boxers, the bantamweight mixed martial artists came to fight on Saturday.
The other day, I was watching a ballgame on television and saw an advertisement for UFC 132. It promised violence.
It was a huge card for World Extreme Cagefighting. Just three months earlier, the California-based fight promotion had been purchased by Zuffa, parent company of the UFC. It was March 2007, and nearly 2,000 fans were packed into the special events center at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for WEC 26, which featured not one, not two, but three title bouts.
If you sat down on Sunday night for UFC on Versus 4, you couldn't help watching with just a little bit of skepticism and maybe consider a couple of alternative selections using picture-in-picture.
Are you ready for a big weekend of mixed martial arts? What, you weren't aware? Hey, just because a Countdown to UFC Whatever hype-it-up preview show hasn't been replayed over and over on Spike, Versus and all 32 flavors of ESPN throughout the week doesn't mean the cage is empty. There's Strikeforce on Friday, the Bellator Fighting Championships on Saturday and the UFC on Sunday. Clear out the TV room.
Look around Sunday night's UFC Live fight card long enough and you might start to wonder whether Weight Watchers is the newest UFC sponsor. From Nate Marquardt to Tyson Griffin to Joe Stevenson, it seems like everyone is slimming down and dropping weight classes.
Would two more rounds of Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin have helped decide the winner? And if so, would the judges in Vancouver have made the right call?
In some ways, going from The Ultimate Fighter to the UFC is a little like finally finding a job after months and months of unemployment. At first, you're overcome with joy. Mission accomplished, and all that.
If you want to know what the modern MMA heavyweight looks like, don't pay too much attention to what you see at UFC 130 this weekend.
The folks at the Bellator Fighting Championships don't want to hear it. Hector Lombard definitely doesn't. But even though the promotion's middleweight champion fought Saturday night and scored a vicious one-punch knockout in front of the second-largest viewership in MTV2 history, mixed martial arts has been on spring break for the last couple of weeks, pretty much, and will remain in a holding pattern for another week or so, before picking up steam with UFC 130 on Memorial Day weekend.
Of the many seismic shifts in the MMA landscape over the past few years, it's a little strange that something as seemingly mundane as health insurance would prove to rank among the biggest.
Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch would, between them, make for the core not just of a sound fight promotion, but one that could compete head up with UFC. All of them were scheduled to fight this summer. None of them will; all of them are injured.
Sometimes the guy who has his hand raised isn't the only winner.
You could bus the entire population of Thamesford, Ontario, the 100 miles of roadway through the province's industrial south to Toronto, hand each of the couple thousand people on those buses a ticket to UFC 129, and the collective townspeople would be but a speck in the Rogers Centre crowd.
One inevitably sunny Las Vegas week early in the year, the UFC sequesters all of its fighters in a hotel and gives them the need-to-knows of working for the biggest MMA promotion. At some point in the gathering, as the world's toughest men do their best impression of conventioneers, there's a section on self-promotion, and social networking comes to the fore.
There are a dozen wrongs you can cite about Strikeforce and the way it's done business as the Avis to the UFC's Hertz over the past two years. But there is no question that it delivers, more often than not, a thoroughly compelling product.
SAN DIEGO -- Anderson Silva says he's perfectly happy to close out his current UFC contract and, perhaps, his fighting career in the division he's ruled going on four years.
March 12 will go down in history as the day the parent company of the UFC consolidated its reign over the sport of mixed martial arts by purchasing its last real rival, the San Jose, Calif.-based Strikeforce.
So, things didn't exactly go as planned at UFC 127 on Saturday in Australia.
It's not rocket science to figure out the big winners from Saturday's UFC 126 in Las Vegas. Jon Jones emerged as a light heavyweight title contender with a victory against Ryan Bader. Anderson Silva, on the strength of a stunning front kick, was devastating in a first-round knockout of Vitor Belfort. A rusty Forrest Griffin won a unanimous decision over Rich Franklin after a long layoff, and the former light heavyweight champion should continue to progress when he hits the road to work with new trainers, as he says he'll do for his next fight.
Power rankings on the sports pages have always seemed a little silly to me. Yet I eagerly pore over them with the colossal seriousness that someone more educated than I might devote to a Kierkegaard treatise. When the experts rank my favorite NFL team at No. 21, say, I scan the list and invariably find a team ranked above us that we beat. (Us? We? No, I don't play pro football, but my unbridled, even unbalanced passion for the game has bred in me the righteousness to invoke such we're-all-in-this-together language.) Seemingly glaring indignities like my Giants being underrated by as little as one or two spots never fail to get me riled up, though not so much when we're ranked above a team we lost to.
He's not a main event fighter, never has been, at least not in the big show. He's not even part of Saturday night's co-main event -- you know, the other fight the UFC has chosen to trumpet on its poster for Fight for the Troops 2. That distinction goes to the big boys, Matt Mitrione and Tim Hague, probably because heavyweight bouts always make us sit up straighter in our seats.
Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is rarely rested, careless by nature and often in range of people with questions and notebooks. So he says a lot, and a great deal of what he says makes no sense.
The life of a pro fighter is filled with tough decisions. From who to fight next or which obnoxious Vegas nightclub to host your after-party at, there's always some pressing dilemma coming down the pipe.
These are tough times to be a UFC fighter, and they're only getting tougher.
Chael Sonnen is smarter than you. It doesn't matter if you're a Nobel laureate, the brightest light in Mensa or even Yogi Bear. The self-satisfied UFC middleweight is smarter than the average bear, too, and he's certain he is brainier than you as well. That is what gets the man in trouble.
If you want to know just how much can change in MMA over the course of half a decade, all you have to do is take a look at the UFC 125 undercard. Or, if you don't want to spend the time on a Google search, cut out the middle-man and just ask Brandon Vera. He can tell you all about it.
1. WEC makes its mark on TUF. Although the UFC's seminal reality show has maintained an impressive watermark of about 1 million viewers per episode going into its 13th season, the show could use a jump-start. And who better to give that then the Tasmanian devils of World Extreme Cagefighting, who are set to cross over to big-brother UFC as 2011 gets underway. Newly minted UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and recent 135-pound transplant Urijah Faber get my vote to coach TUF 13. They've got history (Faber handed Cruz his only professional loss early in his 145-pound title reign), beef (Cruz rubs the normally hang-loose Faber the wrong way), and good support squads (Faber with Team Alpha Male and Cruz with Lloyd Irvin and Alliance MMA). That's all the makings of good reality TV. (Now if only Spike producers could shoot the show higher than 30 frames per second.)
1. UFC sells 10 percent share to Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment. Despite several offers to go public or take on additional investors, the Ultimate Fighting Championship remained a private outfit since Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta purchased it in 2001. Amid explosive growth in the decade's second half, UFC president Dana White repeatedly said the promotion's parent company, Zuffa LLC, would never dilute its ownership. But in January, that's exactly what it did when it sold a 10 percent stake in the UFC to the Abu Dhabi-owned entertainment company Flash Entertainment. Fertitta said the sale would benefit the UFC's strategic goals in the Middle East and other developing countries while keeping intact its management structure. One month later, the promotion announced its entry into the Middle Eastern market with UFC 112, held an arena to be constructed specifically for the event. The first event would later prove challenging -- to put it charitably.
When Dominick Cruz and Scott Jorgensen step in the cage together in Glendale, Ariz., on Thursday night, consider it an appetizer.
When UFC president Dana White announced in late October that his promotion's roster would merge with that of WEC, its sister entity, this was the rare move applauded by more or less everyone who loves fights.
It was a place Matt Hughes probably never thought he'd be. Standing in the Octagon after just 21 seconds worth of work in the co-main event of UFC 123, looking over at his corner and asking, in full view of the UFC's cameras, "What happened?"
Five observations from UFC 122, where Yushin Okami beat Nate Marquardt to become the No. 1 contender in the middleweight division:
Japanese middleweight Yushin Okami is the kind of guy who no one really wants to fight, and I mean that in the best possible way. In the end, it boils down to risk and reward.
Two fight cards this week speak to the reasons Zuffa decided it was time to fold WEC into the UFC.
SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim to talk about Saturday's UFC 121 card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Thursday marks the start of a 10-day stretch featuring a massive amount of quality mixed martial arts, capped, of course, by the UFC heavyweight championship fight between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. While much of the fan and media focus over this period will center on Lesnar-Velasquez, there are several bouts worth anyone's attention.
As we move into the last quarter of 2010, it's time for SI.com's MMA readers to have their say. The biggest topic in September was reaction to the news that Chael Sonnen produced a positive steroid test for elevated levels of testosterone. If you read my column in the wake of the news, you know where I stand. Something must be done to further curtail performance-enhancing drug use in MMA, and that is a fine place to start the latest mailbag.
It happens sometimes that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva puts together a card both fans and media are quick to prejudge. It also happens that these events, on occasion, are among the organization's most exciting. That hope lingered Saturday night as UFC made its debut in Indiana without a championship up for grabs or a main event -- altered in August when Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was replaced by Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic to fight Frank Mir -- that held much importance.
UFC president Dana White probably doesn't spend much time wishing it were still 2004. Back then his company was millions in the hole and desperate for a TV deal. These days, Zuffa sits atop a pile of money and has a pair of cable channels at its beck and call.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, in hopes that it might shift the culture of competitive mixed martial arts away from a widely adopted philosophy that rationalizes the use of illegal drugs to enhance performance -- i.e. everyone does it, people will always cheat when opportunity or money is on the line -- should immediately and forcefully declare it no longer wants to be in the business of promoting steroid users.
Half an hour before stepping into a cage against Tommy Morrison, the famed boxer who on this June evening in 2007 could not prove for certain he was HIV-negative, John Stover was told about the rules changes.
It's an old joke, repurposed for several different industries, but it survives because it's true:
Todd Duffee's looking for work if you have some.
As the calendar turns from August to September and the end of summer nears, this is as good a time as any for SI.com's MMA readers to have their say in 140 characters or less.
They came from the cities and they came from the smaller towns. An odd collection of kickboxers, sumo wrestlers, grapplers, jiu-jitsu masters, karate kids and garden-variety badasses descended on Denver in 1993 for the first UFC card. It wasn't known as UFC 1. There was no series, no ambition that more cards would follow. It was supposed to be a one-time event, a made-for-TV charade, meant to determine which fighting style was superior. For all the times fight fans wondered whether Bruce Lee could beat up Mike Tyson, this was supposed to provide the answer.
It's late May on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Mott Gym is packed. This is a welcome sight for Lennis Cowell and John Azevedo, who fondly remember the halcyon days when wrestling drew more than 2,000 fans -- four times today's average -- to dual meets against Cal State Bakersfield, the California coast school's rival.
The trouble with being a hot young prospect in the UFC is that there are so many ways to go wrong, and only one way to go right. It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem, not to mention a minor headache.
All too quietly Yushin Okami has established himself as the most successful Japanese mixed martial artist inside the UFC.
Jake Shields can once again go about following his bliss.
Not yet fully fleshed out, the fight calendar for the back half of 2010 already reads like a best-of list. While this is sure to get augmented as promoters update their schedules for the remainder of the year, it's clear there's more than enough mixed martial arts to keep fight fans occupied. Here are the 10 fights (plus 10 more honorable mentions) I'm most looking forward to:
I can think of at least two good reasons why Chris Leben would take a fight against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 just two weeks after beating Aaron Simpson via TKO.
There's something about these Ultimate Fighter Finale events that feels like the scene at the middle of a mountain hiking trail. You have people going up, people going down, and people who haven't decided yet whether they have it in them to climb any farther.
Every company should be so lucky as to have an employee like Rich Franklin. He's courteous, affable, and even the people who don't like him don't seriously dislike him.
When current WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby and I established the now-buried MMA Media Top 10 in 2001, it became a goal of mine to see mixed martial artists ranked in a real way. Yes, there were periods when I soured on the idea -- e.g. confusion among weight classes in different regions of the world and the likelihood that top fighters in competing promotions would never fight -- but for the most part I hung in there, convinced the exercise was worthwhile because it put fighters' accomplishments into context, assigned them value on the open market, and held promoters accountable when it came to matching title fights.
If you feel at all uneasy about the racially-tinged exchanges between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans, you're not UFC president Dana White.
Hey, Josh, I can't wait for UFC 114 on May 29. It feels like the first major UFC event of the year to me. Maybe because we were forced to wait on Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans for what felt like forever. I was so bummed when Jackson was off the card in Memphis because he went to film The A-team, but all the trash talk has me fired up again. What do you think about the card? Do you think it will be the biggest event of the year for the UFC? Thanks. -- Jared Westwood, Memphis, Tenn.
What we learned from UFC 113 in Montreal:
Let me start by saying something my friends and family already know: I'm generally awful at being sentimental. But in trying to sort through a decade of covering mixed martial arts -- April 2010 marks my 10-year anniversary reporting on this rags-to-riches tale -- it occurred to me, if there was ever a period worth getting reflective about, it's this one.
Leonard Garcia-Chan Sung Jung was like a KFC Double Down. I know we're all supposed to love healthy, clean, well-prepared food but I'll be damned if two pieces of fried chicken with cheese and bacon in between them isn't just amazing sometimes. Just like how we're all supposed to love highly technical bouts, but sometimes seeing two guys go out and just wing it is fun as hell. --Brian Alleman, Tulsa, Okla.
Well, we won't have a hard time remembering the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first effort in Abu Dhabi. In the shadows of all things red, fast and Italian, Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta came to the Arabian Peninsula touting two high-performance machines of their own.
You know there's something strange going on when three UFC champions put their respective titles on the line within a two-week span, and the most pressing questions they face revolve around when they're going to gain or lose weight so they can fight one another.
In terms of sheer fight-finishing excitement, Wednesday's UFC Fight Night on Spike TV delivered in a way that last weekend's pay-per-view outing didn't. Maybe you have to sit through a ton of commercials to get to it, but who says you never get anything good for free? Here are some of the things we learned from Wednesday's action:
What we learned from Saturday's UFC 111 card in Newark, N.J.:
Never again. If his loss to Matt Serra in 2007 provided any lasting impact on Georges St. Pierre, it's that never again would he be cocky walking into fight. Never again would he consider himself unbeatable. Never again would he fail to take every possible step to ensure his readiness. Never, he's repeated like some mantra, again.
Two cards. One night. Mixed martial arts, the global sport that it is, was in full force Sunday evening deep into the morning Monday. From the continued growth of two of the UFC's most impressive prospects in Broomfield, Colo., to the return of a maligned heavyweight and a Dream featherweight championship fight in Yokohama, Japan, there was plenty to take away from a busy few hours of fights.
During a month loaded with important MMA, here are 10 bouts that stand out for more than just compelling matchmaking:
After a public campaign that featured press conference outbursts, incoherent Internet videos and even a cable TV cameo, former three-division champion boxer James Toney finally got what he wanted this week -- a contract with the UFC.
With the latest Strikeforce Challengers card hours away, many loyal SI.com readers decided to chime in with their thoughts and questions. Lets go to the mail- and Twitter-bags, shall we?
Mixed-martial-arts great Mark Coleman learned this week that his services would no longer be needed by the UFC. After nearly 14 years as an MMA fighter, beginning with the days of bare knuckles and headbutts and continuing on through the initial decline of the sport in the U.S., the golden days of the Pride organization in Japan, and then back home to the UFC again just last year, the 45-year-old Coleman has been given his walking papers.
It was a night to celebrate wrestling at UFC 109 in Las Vegas. In the evening's main event at the Mandalay Bay stood two of the game's early pioneers, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman, wrestlers responsible for changing how mixed martial arts was fought.
Mike Swick had gotten used to going back to the locker room a winner. Four straight victories and two-and-a-half years without a loss will do that. But as he sat backstage at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England, after dropping a decision to Dan Hardy at UFC 105, it hit him. For the first time since 2007, he was going home a loser.
Five years ago Monday, The Ultimate Fighter debuted on Spike TV and changed the trajectory of a sport. For as much impact as Zuffa had in popularizing mixed martial arts and the UFC, it could be argued that no group is more integral to the sport's turnaround than the brass at a fledgling cable network attempting to establish itself as a bastion for all things male.
Last week I wrote that mixed martial arts' long-term health and viability is rooted in ensuring the best fighters meet in competition. My recipe included co-promotion, which prompted an active discussion with readers via e-mail. Many of you agreed that something needed to be done. Some didn't. Here is a sampling:
Not quite two weeks into the new year, Zuffa LLC, the driving force behind the UFC and WEC, has already promoted three cards and announced a 10 percent sale of its business to a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government.
SI.com's Josh Gross hands out the year-end hardware.
FIGHTER OF THE DECADE: Fedor Emelianenko Emelianenko isn't the only fighter to ply his trade exclusively during the first decade of the 2000s, but he is the best. Competing in a wholly unforgiving sport, the 33-year-old Russian boasts -- not that he would -- an unparalleled resume featuring 31 victories in 33 fights. The other two? A dismissed loss in 2000 (that he violently avenged) and a no-contest against the second best heavyweight in MMA history, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who Emelianenko has beaten twice.
1. UFC 100 heralds new era (July 11, 2009)
SI.com's resident MMA guru Josh Gross points out five key storylines from UFC 107, highlighted by lightweight champion B.J. Penn's successful title defense against Diego Sanchez.
Dan Henderson's days with the UFC are over. For now, anyway. On Monday, the heavyweight signed a four-fight deal with rival organization Strikeforce, sparking a heated response from UFC president Dana White and continued speculation on the terms of his contract.
UFC 106 may not have turned in the blockbuster heavyweight clash that it originally promised, but the UFC dug deep into its roster and made the best of a difficult situation in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The result was entertaining, if not earth-shattering, and there are a few lessons we can take with us as we leave the Mandalay Bay and head out into that glittering desert night: