The landmark announcement of the UFC joining the likes of the NFL, MLB, and NASCAR as a member of the FOX Sports family was made today and it has created a sizable -- albeit appropriate -- amount of buzz.
The promotion's lifespan can only be describes as a rollercoater. From the unexpected highs it experienced at its birth to the crashing lows when it was nearly outlawed and booted from pay-per-view (PPV), the ride has been anything but smooth.
Then in 2005, the dizzying journey back up began. At first, it seemed like a rocket ship, ripping through the lower stratosphere while destroying everything -- Pride, the International Fight League, Affliction -- in its wake. The promotion's growth has plateaued in the past few years and seemed to have become a more manageable task.
I type this without even the slightest hint of hyperbole: this is single-handedly the best day in the sports of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Why's that? Well, read on.
For the better part of a decade, UFC has nearly become synonymous with the Spike television channel. This is the same Spike that is also known for gems like Manswers, 1000 Ways to Die, and Blue Mountain State. If you like those shows, more power to you but the executives at the company aren't exactly angling for any Peabody Awards.
It's that lowest common denominator broadcasting that Spike was doling out that the UFC was getting lumped in with that was really hurting its image.
Is MMA a brutal sport filled with cuts, hematomas, and buckets of blood? Absolutely. But so is boxing. And barely a week goes by that an NFL wide receiver isn't carted off the field because some blood thirsty free safety nearly took his head off.
Moving from a niche network like Spike is exactly what a niche sport like MMA needs. If it truly wants to go mainstream, it needed to be on one of the big four networks. Fox signed on and so here are are.
Beyond the four events that will appear on free-to-air TV, there will be a live Fight Night-esque card every other month on FX. This channel has a reputation not unlike that of Spike in that it airs edgy, hip programming that 18-34-year old males eat up.
That's where the similarities end. There is a world of difference between Coal and Rescue Me or between Blue Mountain State and Louie. It's a much better fit for the fight promotion looking to take the next step.
The Ultimate Fighter's revamp will also be exciting to watch and a testament that things will definitely get shaken up between now and when the first show airs on November 12.
Much like their coverage for the NFL and the other sports Fox carries, there will be pre- and post-fight shows complete with fighter interviews and press conferences. No, we won't see Terry Bradshaw or Howie Long at any UFC events -- at least I hope not -- but the same type of programming decisions that have worked so well for the other sports should translate well into the Octagon.
There are so many options and opportunities that this deal opens up, it's impossible to think of them all. In fact, just typing that sentence, I immediately thought of hosting a fight immediately after the Super Bowl in 2014 when Fox will next host the NFL's championship game.
The lead-out program almost always nets 20 million viewers.
This is a very exciting time to get a fan, folks. Strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride.
And on a personal note, as a huge, long-time fan of the sport, I can't be more happy about this. From renting months-old VHS tapes from Video Update back in 1995 to today, it's been an incredible journey. I'm incredibly excited to follow the sport to the next step.