Matchup for UFC on FOX 1 says a lot

Matchup for UFC on FOX 1 says a lot

Published Sep. 2, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

It used to be that when Dana White would call a press conference for a big news item, it would end up being something significant — but not something that would change the world as we know it, as he would proclaim.

That all changed in 2011.

First, the UFC bought its biggest competition (Strikeforce) and then finally made the transition to broadcast television with its deal with FOX.

And now another big announcement: The UFC’s first main event on broadcast television was announced Friday. People had faith in a big fight, but not a fight as big as the one delivered. The biggest fight White could make, the heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, was announced as the headliner for the first UFC on FOX event taking place Nov. 12.


The rumored options for the first FOX event were fairly significant. Chris Leben vs. Vitor Belfort was rumored but shot down, as were Frank Mir vs. Alistair Overeem and Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson. There would have to have been contracts signed to bring Overeem and/or Mir back into the UFC, as well. The hot rumor Friday morning was Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin, two legends of the sport, but White surpassed everyone’s expectations. How so?

He went by the adage “go big or go home” by giving UFC on FOX the biggest possible fight available.

What does this pairing mean? A lot for the fortunes of the UFC on FOX, actually.

This is the biggest and best chance for UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, to expand its audience beyond its wildest dreams. This is the moment that the UFC has been building to for years, and now we have the big selling point for the initial UFC on FOX card. And they did something no one ever imagined they would.

They got the biggest possible fight paired with the biggest and best chance at drawing an audience. And they put two of the best young fighters in the world in the premier division of combat sports on broadcast TV. This tells us a handful of things, but two stand out the most.

The first is that White and FOX weren’t kidding when they spoke of how they viewed the FOX card as something special. This normally would’ve been a fairly large PPV in terms of fight importance, though perhaps not one of the biggest-drawing PPVs to date. This is the first time in a long time that you’ve had the two best heavyweight fighters in MMA under the same banner; now you get to one-up that by putting it on broadcast television in the most important card in MMA history.

There is something special about the phrase “heavyweight champion of the world” in any sport.

The other, and perhaps the most important, is that White took the two best representatives of the future of MMA and is giving them a chance to become household names overnight. Both have great stories, as well, that’ll help bring in viewers. You have to look at both men’s histories to get a glimpse of the sort of power their personalities will bring and why they were chosen.

On the one hand, you have an NCAA All-American and the first-generation son of immigrants to the U.S, building a better life for his parents through hard work. Velasquez is the personification of the American dream. He also happens to be of Mexican descent and speaks Spanish fluently; with the Hispanic market being a burgeoning one in the fight game, it makes sense to bring the biggest Latino star out there onto the biggest card in company history. Velasquez isn’t a guy who has the background of a “Toughman” competitor. He was a world-class wrestler who developed an entire game and is a first-class human being to boot. It’s hard not to like the easygoing Velasquez.

Dos Santos had a similar path in Brazil. Coming from MMA’s ancestral the MMA, he’s slowly worked his way up the ranks over the years and is on the verge of being a champion. Admittedly rough with English, which is something he can only get better at with time and practice, Dos Santos’ place in the main event is also a nod to the fight game’s roots. With the UFC coming off one of its biggest cards in history at UFC 134, a Brazilian audience primed after an epic card has another big one to look forward to (if only by proxy). JDS shares in the same genuine goodness of character. He may not be able to speak English as effectively as his counterpart, but he makes for a tremendous representative for the sport, and for the UFC as well.

UFC on FOX 1 is going to be memorable for many things, but the biggest thing is that the UFC genuinely showed faith in its fans and in its fighters. We could’ve gotten a lot of good fights with name fighters, but Dana White delivered the biggest fight possible with the two best in the highest-profile division in MMA.

Sometimes it’s nice to have your faith rewarded.