Consider this evening's historic broadcast as "UFC for Dummies."
With a name indicating a tongue planted firmly in its cheek, the "... for Dummies" line of instructional books have been a mainstay in every bookstore for several years now and became so popular that copycats began to spring up almost immediately. Let's say someone wanted to start growing their own tomatoes and carrots in the backyard but didn't have the foggiest idea where to begin. The "Gardening for Dummies" entry in the series would be the ideal choice to help add a healthy shade of green to their thumb.
And UFC on Fox 1 was exactly that for the Las Vegas fight promotion.
While pay-per-view (PPV) events add a little bit of backstory to each fight and its participants, it's minimal since the production largely assumes that if someone if paying good money to watch the show, they likely know their way around the Octagon and its fighters. They probably know that Josh Koscheck has solid wrestling and pretty good knockout power while also recognizing that Nate Diaz is just as likely to tear a limb off with a submission as he is pound his opponent out with excellent boxing.
But this show wasn't for those fans. It was carefully crafted to introduce the sport -- scratch that, the UFC -- to someone who had never seen an Octagon fight before or perhaps had only seen one or two in passing. It was set up to highlight the longtime money division in combat sports -- the big boys at heavyweight -- and two fighters -- Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos -- who promise to be a major part of it for years to come.
But we shouldn't expect the exact same treatment every single time the UFC shows up on Fox.
Why? Well, I'm glad you asked.
As Dana White has said almost every time he's had a microphone in front of him in the past week, Fox has been the best partner the UFC has ever had. In fact, their deal doesn't officially start until the turn of the new year but this event was scheduled for one particular reason. It was designed -- top to bottom -- as an introduction to the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) and in particular, the top dog in the business.
The format of highlighting only one fight -- the heavyweight title bout which was won by the Brazilian -- despite a lightweight tilt between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida which promised to provide fireworks -- and did -- was the most obvious anomaly. When the deal proper begins in 2012, the UFC will begin airing events on Fox more in line with that of a pay-per-view (PPV). It won't be a five fight card as is the norm with their numbered events but two -- possible three -- fights should be expected on each of the four scheduled events in the next year.
Having to allow time for that many punches, kicks, knees, and submissions won't afford the production team the opportunity to treat every show like a UFC primer. They will of course likely continue using Fox's visibly superior HD cameras as well as ariel shots provided by blimps but don't expect extended video packages for each and every fighter like the ones dos Santos and Velasquez received tonight.
The production leading up to and after the bout was what differed radically from a typical UFC show. In a commentary booth were Curt Menefee, Dana White, and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar providing analysis, insight, and predictions. The NFL on FOX theme -- at least I thought it was exclusive to NFL, perhaps it's the FOX Sports theme -- segued the show in and out of commercials.
But once the two titans started to make their way to the Octagon, the production felt very familiar. There was little deviation at that point from what fans would expect from the usual PPV offering from Dana White and company.
Tonight's production likely won't be replicated in full and was a one-time occurrence for an event that served to introduce the UFC to a much wider audience. It did, however, give us a glimpse into what the future of the UFC on Fox holds for us.
And I, for one, can't wait.