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 one of those selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn't just affect you," Dana White spat out Thursday afternoon. "You just affected 16 other people's lives."
Aug. 15, 2009. San Jose, Calif. The biggest fight in the brief history of women's mixed martial arts goes down in front of a crowd of nearly 14,000 at the HP Pavilion, as Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos squares off with MMA's reigning prom queen, Gina Carano.
LOS ANGELES -- UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon's third-round submission win over Jamie Varner at the Staples Center on Aug. 4 had a little bit of everything that makes mixed martial arts at its highest level such a compelling spectacle.
The New England Patriots lose to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI and, for all eternity, they are the runners-up. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder fall to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals and there's no guarantee they'll ever get another shot at the title. Tiger Woods? He may or may not win another major championship. But either way, he'll have to surmount an entire field. No one is automatically placing him in a final round.
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.
UFC light heavyweight Forrest Griffin and I are only about three months apart in age, so you can understand why I was concerned recently when I heard that the 33-year-old fighter had been granted a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) for testosterone prior to his UFC 148 bout in Nevada earlier this month. We all know testosterone levels decline naturally as we get older, but I didn't think guys our age had to worry about it yet. I mean, I feel fine. Maybe the workouts (and, okay, the hangovers) are a little tougher to recover from than they were 10 years ago, but come on, Forrest. We're still young men, are we not?
A rematch is about making adjustments. If it weren't, we wouldn't bother putting the fighters through the toil and anguish of another training camp, another weight cut, another choice of walkout music. We'd just buy a DVD of their first fight and watch it again.
And Jon Jones cannot do a thing about it.
Three summers ago, when Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin met in the main event of UFC 99, the fight was promoted under the title "Comeback."
"If Carlos Condit is just going to wait for Georges St-Pierre, who won't be ready to fight until November, why even have an interim champion?"
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.
"UFC just offered me to fight BJ Penn... I said YES!!!!! Just waiting on him!!!!!! Let's scrap bra?"
Rich Franklin (28-6-1) knows he must be close to retirement because people keep asking him about it. For the last two years it's come up in nearly every interview, he said, and that tells him something, even if it's something he might not want to hear.
It's five weeks out from the biggest fight of the summer and you can almost see Chael Sonnen pacing his Oregon living room, scribbling down snarky one-liners about UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Within a stretch of seven days, the heavyweight picture in mixed martial arts sorted itself out nicely.
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.
LAS VEGAS -- Historically, the UFC heavyweight championship has been something rented, not owned. More than in any other division in the fight organization, the title belt gets passed around from one big guy's address to another big guy's address with notable frequency.
LAS VEGAS -- Frank Mir doesn't want to have to break UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos's arm this Saturday night. So he says. So he would have us believe. He finds such endings to fights distasteful, a little aggravating. Apparently, that's not reason enough for him to stop talking about the last time he did it, at UFC 140 in Toronto. Though, in fairness, those of us in the media won't stop asking about it.
Barely six months ago, he was on top of the world. As heavyweight champion of the UFC, he was widely acknowledged as the baddest man on the planet. And as the headliner of the fight organization's first appearance on network telecast, he was the spotlit star on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts history.
Now it's time to see what he's really made of.
Next weekend the UFC will showcase its star-studded heavyweight division, devoting a full main card to the big guys, including a championship bout and a former champ's shot at redemption. Every top heavyweight who's not injured, unlicensed or otherwise engaged will be there in Las Vegas.
It's tough to argue against Anderson Silva. The man has not lost a fight in over seven years, and in all the time since then he has decimated opponent after opponent with his lethal fluidity. He won the UFC middleweight championship way back in October 2006 and has successfully defended it a record nine times. He also owns UFC bests in consecutive wins (14), longest title reign (six years and six months, and counting) and most gasps of disbelief from awestruck fans.
Mixed martial arts may be the world's fastest growing sport, but its women fighters are getting left in the dust.
The most pivotal fight of Alistair Overeem's career will take place at a Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) hearing on Tuesday in Las Vegas, when the UFC's No. 1 heavyweight contender answers to elevated testosterone levels detected in his system between bouts.
Two friends and training partners turn bitter rivals and step into the cage to settle their differences. Boy, it doesn't get any more heated than this Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans feud.
There's a reason Michael McDonald is matched up with former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Miguel Torres at this Saturday's UFC 145 in Atlanta -- the promotion suspects he's ready and capable of great things.
May 26 was supposed to be a big night in mixed martial arts. A huge, hefty, ample, gigantic, colossal night.
Ultimate Fighting Championship, meet the real world.
Alistair Overeem had fought 47 times as a mixed martial artist before he stepped into the octagon last Friday night. He had not lost since 2007, and all but two of his 11 bouts over that stretch had stretched no farther than the first round. But the main event of UFC 141 was the Dutchman's debut in the eight-sided cage that's home to the sport's crème de la crème. So there were questions.
He went out not with a bang but with a whimper.
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.
In this season of giving, what gift should you wrap up and adorn with a colorful bow for the mixed martial arts fan who has everything?
Invincible. Untouchable. Irresistible. Unique.
He talked the talk. He walked the walk.
"The Baddest Man on the Planet."
Some call this the most wonderful time of the year, and fans of mixed martial arts have quite a bit to be thankful for.
"Ten years have passed," you'll say to yourself some day in 2021, "and we're still talking about Hendo vs. Shogun?"
"This is, without a doubt, the biggest fight in UFC history."
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It took the Ultimate Fighting Championship 18 years -- to the day -- to see its octagonal cage bathed in the luminous glow of the sports spotlight. It took only 64 seconds for the world -- or at least the portion of the U.S. television audience that tuned in to the promotion's network debut -- to see what all the fuss was about.
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?
I knew Nick Diaz was going to win Saturday night.
Anderson Silva might as well have put on a feathery outfit and ridden to the Octagon aboard an ornately decorated float borrowed from a local samba school.
Let me see if I have this straight.
He's nicknamed "The Dominator," but Dominick Cruz didn't exactly overwhelm Urijah Faber in the main event of UFC 132 Saturday night in Las Vegas. Still, Cruz was speedy and forceful enough to retain his bantamweight championship.
On the eve of the WEC's first and only foray into pay-per-view at WEC 48, I asked Urijah Faber what was at stake on a potentially bigger platform with the full weight of the UFC's promotional muscle at work behind him.
The other day, I was watching a ballgame on television and saw an advertisement for UFC 132. It promised violence.
You either care about this sort of thing or you don't -- if you don't, my apologies -- but I wrote last week that Alistair Overeem, the Dutch fighter and kickboxer who has spent most of the last five years knocking out non-entities in Japanese rings, is a fraud. This brought me many, many angry e-mails, some from dimwits but more were from people who just thought I was too keyed on what the man has done in actual fights. Writing off as a fraud an experienced and monstrously strong fighter who holds a K-1 Grand Prix title is ridiculous, the line went, and judging a man only by what he's done in competition is bad practice.
Big guys bring big excitement. That's not to say a heavyweight bout is necessarily more entertaining than one in a lighter-weight division. In fact, the opposite is more often the case -- the smaller fighters tend to be the fitter fighters, the quicker and more mobile fighters, the more skilled fighters with a more versatile array of those skills.
Alistair Overeem, who owns about as many heavyweight titles he never defends as he does wins over impressive opponents, is a fraud. At those moments when you are tempted to think that fighting is, for all its bright promise, about the most thoroughly debased sport one can follow, think of this thick rope of Dutch muscle and despair.
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?
Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin have a few things in common. Each has stepped into a mixed martial arts cage or ring 13 times. Each has walked out a winner after all but one of those bouts.
Ramsey Nijem and Tony Ferguson will be in Las Vegas on Saturday night, competing for the fighter contract the UFC awards to the winner of its reality TV show, The Ultimate Fighter. They're the last two survivors in the season-long game of musical chairs.
These mixed martial artists sure don't move around like they used to.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Matt "The Hammer" Hamill is not a bad fight. Jackson is a former UFC light heavyweight champion, a brawny aggressor who twice has earned a Fight of the Night bonus and two other times has pocketed the many thousand extra dollars company president Dana White awards for Knockout of the Night. Hamill also is a forward-moving strongman with a UFC Fight of the Night and a Knockout of the Night on his résumé. It will not be a boring bout.
"You just simply can't spit on me and tell me it's raining."
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.
Shane Carwin was working out Thursday afternoon at his training camp in Colorado when his cellphone rang. He ignored it, keeping his focus on preparations for his June 11 bout at UFC 131. The phone rang again. And again. "My phone was blowing up," Carwin later wrote on his blog, "so I looked over and saw some missed calls from Dana and Joe Silva."
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.
The steak is still there, but the sizzle is all gone.
I don't know how you feel about the matter, but I've always thought that ranking the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world was a slightly ridiculous thing to do.
If you're one of those fans who live for the TV sportscast highlight reels -- reverse dunks and upper-deck homers and 60-yard bombs to in-stride receivers -- Georges St-Pierre is not the mixed martial artist for you. You'll find much more satisfaction in watching Anderson Silva, who has put exclamation points on three of his past four fights with sudden and spectacular finishes.
Two things -- Georges St-Pierre's eye and his opponent Jake Shields' pesky toughness -- kept UFC 129 from an explosive finish on a night that, until the main event, was one of the more memorable in the sport's recent history.
Fifty-five thousand. That's how many fans will be packed into the Rogers Centre in Toronto for UFC 129 on Saturday night. It's a crazy number, considering that the fight organization's previous attendance high, set just last December, was not even half of that: 23,152 at Montreal's Bell Centre for UFC 124.
Beneath the stoic, Zen-like exterior of Lyoto Machida burns a lesson as bright as the lights of UFC 129: never stay in one spot.
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.
Did you happen to hear Gilbert Melendez in the aftermath of last Saturday night's explosive defense of his Strikeforce lightweight championship? Asked what's next for him, he didn't hesitate.
A month ago, the Bellator Fighting Championships was pretty much flying under the radar, a third-class destination on the landscape of American mixed martial arts. But with the parent company of the sport's foremost organization, the UFC, purchasing No. 2 Strikeforce, you might say those two outfits are now Nos. 1 and 1A, and you can take away the "A" if Dana White's much-emphasized "business as usual" post-sale approach gradually gives way to a consolidation of all Zuffa-owned talent. So that means Bellator has essentially moved up to the No. 2 position, right?
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.
Now you know why SI.com had Jon "Bones" Jones ranked at No. 1 among light heavyweights last month, above a bunch of fighters with more sparkly resumes, including then-UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
"Is this going to be the toughest fighter you've faced in Bellator?"
Zuffa's purchase of Strikeforce, late subject of much consternation and confusion, was a surprise only in its timing. Given long term trends in the fight game, a buyout was always inevitable. Whether it will turn in the end to be a good thing, I have no more idea than anyone else does.
Dan Henderson's fists-flying finish was so explosive in the Strikeforce main event Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, that it produced not one but three losers.
This is not the Bowl Championship Series. No competitor is going to miss out on a shot at the title or a trip to Pasadena because he is ranked No. 3 instead of No. 2 in the monthly SI.com mixed-martial-arts fighter rankings.
So, things didn't exactly go as planned at UFC 127 on Saturday in Australia.
This time, UFC president Dana White would have us believe, he's serious. This time when he says that the winner of Jon Fitch's next fight with B.J. Penn at UFC 127 will receive a title shot, he really means it.
Dana White has always nurtured the vigorous growth of the UFC as if he were the manager of a rising rock band loath to rush the act from nightclubs to theaters to arenas to stadiums for fear of muddying its hit sound.
Now I know what Vitor Belfort feels like. In the days after Anderson Silva stopped him with a devastating attack that was as spectacular as it was sudden, I took a few kicks to the face myself from readers for my February fighter rankings. The biggest point of contention was my flip-flopping the consensus opinion among media rankings and putting UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at No. 1 ahead of Silva, the middleweight champ. But that was not my only ranking that rankled readers. I took some heat for putting a division champion below a guy who's fought at that weight only once. And slotting Alistair Overeem at No. 2 among heavyweights made me the heavy for several readers who apparently don't put much weight in his Strikeforce title belt.
The Heavyweight Grand Prix is lying flat on the mat, stunned and fully mounted, punches raining down, the referee keeping a close eye on things, ready to jump in if need be. Now it's time to see if Strikeforce's ambitious tournament has some fight left.
Fedor Emelianenko will soon return to his hometown of Stary Oskol, Russia, where he'll take "one or two" weeks to decide whether recent hints of retirement were a momentarily lapse in reason or a moment of clarity.
The Meadowlands has seen its share of one-name star performers. Naturally, we'll start with Bruce, aka Bruuuuuce, as the native son of New Jersey is referred to by the thousands who've sung along with him over three decades at both the arena and the stadium in the swampy shadows of the New York City skyline. The sports and entertainment mecca's old football stadium, demolished last year and replaced by more luxurious accommodations, also was home for many seasons to a giant presence in blue, recognizable not necessarily by his first name but certainly by his initials, LT. Then there was the global sports luminary who in the late '70s used to kick around the place, an effervescent figure who goes by the name Pelé.
It's almost a foregone conclusion.
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.
Who does Anderson Silva think he is, Jon "Bones" Jones?
On the back cover of Gang of Four's first single, there is a reproduction of a picture and a letter. The picture is of a bull charging a matador. In the letter, the group spells out a dialogue they would like to accompany it.
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.
Herschel Walker needs no introduction, but I'll give him one anyway, in case you've forgotten about all he's done in sports or aren't old enough to fully grasp his legacy. That second possibility is certainly feasible for some in the youngish fan base of mixed martial arts, considering that the 48-year-old won his Heisman Trophy 29 years ago and had his Pro Bowl seasons way back in 1987 and 1988, which may or may not have been during the NFL's leather-helmet era.
The soldiers at Fort Hood got a pretty good show in chilly Killeen, Texas, at Saturday's UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2. After some initial snoozers, the action picked up and concluded with a bang when the event's final three fights ended in first-round finishes. Mark Hominick earned a title shot against featherweight champion Jose Aldo, and Melvin Guillard inched closer to Frankie Edgar's lightweight belt.
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.
That backward-leaning, chest-pressed-forward mad dash around the cage, arms in full wingspan, eyes wildly open and facial muscles still twitching from an explosion of ecstatic zeal, will never be forgotten. Not many UFC fighters could celebrate a win like Chuck Liddell. Not many could fight like him, either.
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.
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.)
This is the time of year when lots of folks are wrapping and unwrapping presents, so here are some suggested recipients in the mixed martial arts world whose gifts would keep on giving, all through 2011:
New Year's is a time for fresh starts, new beginnings. It's a time to look disdainfully at the person you have been, and look longingly into the idealistic future at the person you will become.
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