If you’re a regular reader of this section, then you’ve come to (hopefully) grasp my appreciation and admiration for mixed martial arts.
I can still recall the snide comments and brush-offs I received three years ago from a lot of my colleagues in the business when I mentioned that MMA – and more specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship – was on the verge of becoming the next big thing in American sports.
Flash-forward to 2008 and MMA and the UFC are firmly entrenched in American pop culture. The sport is a hit, especially among the 18-to-34 age group that is so highly coveted by advertisers.
It’s not hard to see why. Combine boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling and submission grappling and there’s something in MMA that appeals to the masses.
Fights are quick (three 5-minute rounds for non-title and five rounds for title bouts) and unlike boxing, there’s a clear distinction as to who the champion is at a specific weight class – although the waters in the UFC have been muddied a bit by suspensions, injuries and contract disputes, leaving seven “champions” in the five weight classes.
On April 2, Coloradans will get their first chance in 14 years to see the UFC live (the first and second UFC pay-per-views in the company’s history were held here back in 1993 and 1994) when the company holds its UFC Fight Night 13 card at the Broomfield Event Center.
In case anyone was still questioning the popularity of the sport, especially locally, just look at the ticket sales. The near 7,000-seat arena sold out the very first day tickets were released to the public. The usual two-hour Fight Night show has also been granted a third hour of television air time by Spike TV, due to UFC stacking the card with 13 fights for this specific show.
UFC President, Dana White, is looking forward to having the UFC back in the place where the company started.
“When you look at what we’ve been doing the past year, we’ve been opening up new markets,” White said. “This one is special because of the UFC’s history in Denver.”
Headlining the Fight Night card is a lightweight bout (155 pounds) between Kenny Florian and Joe Lauzon. Prior Fight Night cards have featured Fight of the Year bouts such as 2006’s Diego Sanchez-Karo Parisyan welterweight war and 2007’s Roger Huerta-Clay Guida (he and Parisyan are on the April 2 card) lightweight bout.
“Fight Night shows seem to produce those types of fights,” White said. “A lot of people in the office have been talking about this fight. It definitely has the potential to be a great fight.”
The Fight Night show is the official kickoff to the upcoming season of the reality TV show that started the MMA craze in America, The Ultimate Fighter. Now in its seventh season, TUF has produced several top-level fighters, and one of the fighters from the inaugural season, Forrest Griffin, is a coach on the newest season. Griffin, whose three-round war with Stephan Bonnar in the Season 1 finale is still regarded as one of the best fights in UFC history, will take on this season’s other coach, light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, at the show’s conclusion in July.
MMA clearly has strong roots in Colorado. What’s the local scene like? Over the next months, I’ll try and answer that question.
I’ll be visiting with as many local martial arts studios as I can, trying to gauge how their business has been affected by the success of the UFC.
If you’d like to be a part of this upcoming series, contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 303-933-2233, ext. 15.