FIGHT! Magazine’s June issue hits newsstands this week, containing articles on Jens Pulver and Lyoto Machida, as well as the following piece on the current state of competition in the MMA industry. Provided exclusively to CagePotato.com by FIGHT!, “Brave New World” features EliteXC’s Gary Shaw, Strikeforce’s Michael Afromowitz, and HDNet’s Mark Cuban weighing in on how they plan to survive and succeed in the vast shadow of the Octagon.
By Matthew Ross
First it was Royce vs. Ken on closed-circuit pay-per-view. Then came Forrest vs. Stephan on basic cable. Now? It’s the UFC vs. everybody else, coming to you live on enough channels to give your TiVo a nervous breakdown.
Welcome to a new era of MMA.
First, a recap. In 2005, Dana White and Spike TV revolutionized mixed martial arts with the advent of The Ultimate Fighter reality series, which introduced the channel’s historically frat boy-esque demographic to the world of organized ass-kicking. The results were rapid and dramatic. TUF skyrocketed up the Nielsen charts and Spike began airing live, high-quality UFC cards. What had once been a fringe sub-culture whose following in the U.S. consisted of fighters and a small but dedicated army of diehard fans had now become a mainstream attraction. New gyms began popping up in strip malls all over America. Guys like Chuck, Tito, and Randy became household names, and dudes could throw out terms like rear-naked choke and Thai clinch around their girlfriends without getting slapped in the face.
By the end of 2007, UFC championship bouts were regularly covered by the national news outlets, and the brightest stars had graced the covers of ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Men’s Fitness. As Dana White would tell any reporter who’d listen: “We’ve arrived.” Not since Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, and the rest of the Dogtown Z-Boys showed the world how to catch air with a piece of plywood and some polyurethane wheels had any sport ever gotten so big, so fast.
Not surprisingly, fans and journalists weren’t the only ones who caught wind of what was going down. Spike and the UFC may have gotten the ball rolling, but a bevy of broadcasters have teamed up with one or more of the savvy new MMA promotions to get a piece of the pie. While the empire created by Dana White and the Fertitta family shows no sign of ceding its title to any of the young upstarts, it’s impossible to deny that the UFC is no longer the only game in town. They may have the best overall roster of fighters and biggest brand recognition in the game, but things are about to get interesting.