I missed you, too, Brittney Palmer.
Since the first weekend of March, fans have had nothing but Bellator Fighting Championships (BFC) and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) to hold them over. That's more than 1,000 hours for those counting at home.
It seems like such a distant memory now. I have vague recollections of Thiago Alves beating the tar out of Martin Kampmann, only to have the Dane submit "The Pitbull" in the last minute of the third round. It's the kind of comeback victory mixed martial arts (MMA) fans love and use as proof this is the most exciting sport in the world.
I have hazy memories of four men -- weighing 125 pounds each, if you can believe that -- putting on two excellent, albeit strikingly different, fights. Joseph Benavidez dominated his opponent, Yasuhiro Urushitani, for five minutes before lighting him up and knocking him out mere seconds into the next round. The other two flyweights, Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson, battled back and forth for 15 minutes in what would eventually be ruled a draw.
A fun night of fights, but it was so long ago. I find myself wondering if it actually ever happened. After all, seven weeks is a long time to wait for Octagon action for both fans and for the UFC itself.
Maybe I'm spoiled nowadays when it seems there's either a pay-per-view (PPV), an FX or Fuel card or one of the handful of events being broadcast on Fox this year airing week in and week out.
After tomorrow night / tonight, we only have to wait a week before UFC 145: "Jones vs. Evans" beams into our television, satisfying our bloodlust. And then only two more weeks until the next UFC on Fox event following that.
In fact, as I peer into my crystal ball, I notice a three week period is the longest gap between UFC events all the way through the end of the summer.
It's safe to assume Dana White and company were hoping the latest season of TUF -- which premiered during this seven week lull on March 9 -- would compensate for the lack of proper events but it's been a poor facsimile at best and downright ignored at worst. The reality show program hasn't produced a fighter who is thought of as championship caliber since the 155 pound-centric fifth season. A win over Jim Miller presumably puts Nate Diaz, the TUF 5 winner, one fight away from a title shot.
The talent pool has been diluted and the format is tired and trite. Ratings have responded appropriately. But that's a different article altogether.
It should serve as a notice to UFC. Fans want higher level fights than what TUF affords them. And they want them in greater frequency.
Seven weeks is far too long for the number one fight promotion in the world to stay out of the limelight. In a time where they are trying to grow and expand, 42 days is a lifetime in terms of exposure. Sure, other professional sports have off-seasons, effectively putting them on the backburner for months at a time but UFC doesn't have the brand recognition Major League Baseball (MLB) or the National Football League (NFL) have.
Hell, people want to talk and read about the NFL so much, ESPN and other sports outlets covered Peyton Manning's signing to the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow's subsequent departure to the New York Jets like CNN would cover the US going into war. Every angle, no matter how ridiculous, was covered.
UFC doesn't have that luxury. It needs to produce events on a consistent basis to ensure its name stays in conversation.
I'm not saying a show every weekend -- although that would be fantastic, wouldn't it? -- is the answer, but it seems the company dropped the ball when scheduling the first quarter of 2012. Going into mid-year, only a couple of weeks pass in between events which is exactly where UFC needs to be right now.
MMA fans live in a bubble. We basically eat, sleep and breathe the sport. But the truth is, for many casual fans, UFC isn't something they seek out every day.
Out of sight, out of mind, after all.