While some of the world still debates whether or not the UFC and mixed martial arts (MMA) are legit, Dana White and MMA's biggest brand are prepping for the biggest night in MMA history. Dana White, UFC's brash mouthpiece, will be out to prove that his sport is not only legit but more popular than any other pay-per-view event in the world as he preps the UFC 100 on Saturday night July 11th in Las Vegas. And if you know Dana White at all then the next sentence is going to surprise you more than anything. The key to the UFC's success thus far (and potentially in the future) is education first and foremost.
What exactly does that mean? Well if you consider that the criticism of the UFC usually includes the words "human cock-fighting" and some ill-advised comment about how Mike Vick went to jail for lesser offenses involving dogs instead of humans then you would understand. When you live in a world where UFC and MMA have such an uphill battle image-wise while boxing gets a free pass because it is "the sweet science" it can get frustrating as an owner. And Dana White has taken the job of education and put it on his shoulders.
Mr. White's claim isn't that the sport isn't brutal and violent at times. His claim is that the sport is the next evolution of fighting. It is a fighting sport with lots of rules that allow combatants to use any number of martial arts, wrestling, and other fighting styles to compete. It was the foundation of the sport back in the dark days where UFC gets the worst of its reputation. Back in those days fighters from different disciplines including kung fu, karate, wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu, and kick boxing came together to try to decide which style was "the best." In hindsight it seems silly.
As it turns out, as the sport has developed there is no right answer to the question of which discipline is the best. Ultimately with the strict rules that have been adopted over the last decade or so, the best discipline is a combination of many of the disciplines together. College wrestlers get into MMA and quickly learn that their skill sets must be supplemented with boxing and kicking like a kick boxer. Guys who get into MMA with a background in jiu-jitsu quickly realize that they better learn some wrestling techniques or additional boxing footwork.
Dana White finally found a way to teach the world about the UFC in 2005 with the advent of The Ultimate Fighter, a reality TV show on Spike TV. Using this reality TV show, White has shown the world all the training in various disciplines and strategy that goes into fighting in the UFC. He has taken what some viewed as cock-fighting and shown just how finely tuned and disciplined the athletes need to be in order to compete at a high level. He humanized an otherwise brutal sport.
The Ultimate Fighter has also turned out to be a great farm system for the UFC. Today's current roster of UFC fighters is littered with fighters who cut their teeth on the TV show first. Former light heavyweight champs Forrest Griffin, and Rashad Evans were both former winners. For UFC 100 the coaches from the most recent season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson are one of the main attractions to the fight card. Viewers were able to follow these guys throughout the entire season and now will have incentive to see them fight it out on Saturday.
While the rest of the fight card doesn't feature champion of the UFC's "showcase division" of light heavy-weight, it is still stacked from top to bottom. Headlining the night is former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar who looks to avenge an early career loss to Frank Mir. Welter-weight champ Georges St. Pierre defends his title against Thiago Alves in a matchup that is possibly the most anticipated bout of the night. The aforementioned matchup of Bisping and Henderson is expected to be entertaining even without a title on the line.
In all there are 11 matchups slated for Saturday night. While some will be "dark matches" (without television coverage) it still should be a night big enough to mark the 100th UFC event.