By Nathan Smith
During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dana White said, “Globally, we’re already bigger than the NFL.” From a global stand point that may be true, but in the Pulp Fiction-esque United States, the NFL is still Marsellus Wallace. The UFC may never gain the notoriety that the NFL has in America but stand-out fighters continue to ink major product endorsement deals. Anderson Silva (Burger King, Budweiser), Georges St. Pierre (Gatorade, UnderArmor) and Jon Jones (Nike) are paving the way to success for future mixed martial artists. Although big-time corporate sponsorship for fighters is in its infancy, the other major professional sports leagues have seen their athletes gain almost as much notoriety outside the lines as within.
The UFC was purchased by Zuffa just over a decade ago and has been charging towards global domination ever since. Sure, the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL (well, maybe not the NHL) playoffs and championship contests annihilate the UFC ratings-wise but the premier MMA organization is gaining at a rapid pace. Take into account the combined several hundred years of history the 4 “major” professional leagues hold and it is glaringly apparent that the UFC and its stars are closing the gap like a fat dude towards a parked Roach Coach.
Comparing the UFC’s ratings and popularity with the aforementioned leagues is somewhat asinine and it would not be fair or rational to compare athletes from other sports with UFC fighters – but you have visited Cagepotato.com. We have never been accused of being fair or rational and matching fighters with their counterparts from around the world of other sporting organizations seemed as logical as a booze-filled headset.
Michael Jordan has become the benchmark to which all athletes are measured, although the comparisons have transcended far beyond the realm of athletics. Any activity or event draws comparisons to #23 (or #45 whatever). From Ken Jennings being the Michael Jordan of Jeopardy, to Joey Chestnut being the Michael Jordan of gluttony or Peter North being the Michael Jordan of male climax volume, Jordan is synonymous with superiority. In every single poll taken in the last decade regarding the “Top 100 NBA players in History” the battle is for #2 through #100. Michael Jordan is considered the greatest of all time in his medium (and I am not talking about minor league baseball). Anderson Silva, with his perfect 15-0 record and 10 consecutive title defenses in the UFC, has done things that may never be accomplished again in the history of mixed martial arts. Some day a fighter may come along (if he hasn’t already *foreshadowing*) and surpass Silva’s records but until his numbers fall, Anderson Silva is the Michael Jordan of MMA – period.
GSP is the focal point of Canadian MMA. He is the big fish in a larger-less-populated pond and the entire weight of a nation rests on his shoulders every single time he enters the octagon. Derek Jeter plays in the biggest media market in the world and has been given the moniker “The Captain” for the most storied franchise in the history of team sports. There is a lot of pressure to perform for both world champions and they are viewed with a certain amount of reverence by fans, media, and contemporaries. Both men have graced the covers of athletic magazines as well as high fashion publications and in regards to their female fans, let’s just call them “popular.”
It has been covered on CP that there is a thin line between love and hate in regards to Jon Jones and the same can be said for Lebron James after “The Decision.” Both men are loved and hated regardless of their stellar performances during competition. Both men are just entering the recognizable primes of their careers and have already captured championships. Add in the fact that both men are genetic freaks compared to their colleagues and it appears that the dominance of Bones and King James has only just begun. Maybe?
Not that long ago, both Rampage and T.O. were at the top of their professions. Rampage was sporting the UFC light-heavyweight strap and T.O. was widely perceived as the best wide receiver in the NFL. Both men were flamboyant, arrogant and a bit unstable. While Rampage did it with his trash talking combined with a John Candy inspired freeway escapade, Owens did it with his touchdown celebrations and an accidental overdose. Now, Jackson is on the last fight of his UFC contract and T.O. is desperately trying to make the roster on an NFL team. How the mighty have fallen.