Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will bring its brand of mixed martial arts (MMA) back to Australia tomorrow night (Dec. 6, 2013) with UFC Fight Night 33, headlined by a heavyweight match-up pitting local hero Mark Hunt against Brazilian import Antonio Silva.
But long before the "Super Samoan" and "Bigfoot" were able to ply their trade inside the Octagon, ZUFFA was testing the international water with a locked-and-loaded pay-per-view (PPV) fight card that would determine if the Outback was indeed a lucrative market.
In the end, it turned out to be the top pound-for-pound market in the world.
Combat sports fans weren't really sure what to expect when UFC made the announcement that it had booked the Acer Arena in Sydney for its UFC 110 fight card. After all, Feb. 21, 2010 was on a Sunday, to allow UFC 110 to air stateside in its usual PPV slot of Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET.
Then there was the card itself.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira led a cast of PRIDE FC all stars in a heavyweight headliner opposite then-contender Cain Velasquez, while Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Filipovic were tasked with turning away Michael Bisping and Anthony Perosh, respectively.
No titles were on the line "down under."
In fact, UFC was operating with four less championships than it does today. There were no flyweight, bantamweight or featherweight straps, and there certainly wasn't a women's 135-pound title. The event took place six months before "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey competed in her first amateur MMA fight under the CFL banner in Oxnard, California.
Three-and-a-half years never felt so long.
Whether or not the promotion rolled the dice, or perhaps just made the best card they could under the circumstances, is unknown. What we do know, is that UFC 110 made history, grossing $540,000 in merchandise sales to top its previous record set at UFC 83.
It also set the high water mark for the Acer Arena, previously held by heavy metal band Iron Maiden. All 16,500 tickets for UFC 110 were scooped up on the first day of sales, second only to the promotion's debut in Montreal back in 2008 as the fastest sellout ever.
The final paid attendance of 17,831 -- boosted by the addition of closed circuit television monitors inside the Arena ballroom -- was responsible for a $2.5 million gate, also second-best of all time for international events.
Then came Velasquez.
He needed just two minutes and 20 seconds to annihilate Nogueira in font of a stunned crowd, a win that would catapult him into a UFC 121 title fight opposite Brock Lesnar later that year. The aforementioned Silva and Filipovic also picked up wins, as did a relatively unknown light heavyweight prospect named James Te Huna.
Like Perosh, the hard-hitting Aussie was making his Octagon debut at UFC 110. Unlike "The Hippo," Te Huna made the most of it, pounding out veteran slugger Igor Pokrajac in the opening fight of the night. He's back in front of his countrymen tomorrow evening against Mauricio Rua.
ZUFFA returned to Sydney a year later with UFC 127, headlined by a welterweight battle featuring B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch and once again made history, selling out the Acer Arena in just 22 minutes before packing the house with 18,186 fans for a $3.5 million gate.
Not too shabby.
What kind of record-breaking numbers UFC can generate for tomorrow night's fight card on FOX Sports 1, which takes place at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Saturday night (Dec. 7) "down under," remains to be seen.
One thing we do know, is that history is on its side.