When the Ultimate Fighting Championship joined forced with media conglomerate Fox Broadcasting Company to spread out hours of hard-hitting content across three stations it seemed like it was the next giant leap for the organization.
Much like joining Spike TV and launching the hit reality-series The Ultimate Fighter made them known worldwide, this gave them the potential to be seen by more eyeballs than ever before and make globally-known superstars.
Since the deal began last November we have had three events that in various forms and fashions can be considered disappointments – In their first event on the network they aimed high pitting Cain Velasquez against Junior dos Santos for all the marbles at 265-pounds.
Capturing lightning in a bottle, similar to how Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin did in 2005 was what we wanted, instead we got more of a powerful thunder strike focused at the skull of Cain Velasquez, giving us 64-seconds of action on their debut on the network.
The second offering on FOX offered plenty of star-power with three former UFC title-challengers on the bill but exciting moments were few and far between in the decision-heavy event.
Finally several weeks ago we got an action-packed four-fight bill capped with Jim Miller and Nate Diaz putting on a thrilling lightweight title-eliminator but without the star-power they scored the lowest rating for a MMA telecast on network television.
When Junior dos Santos walked to the cage this past Saturday night as Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” that’s notorious with the Rocky series blasted through the speakers at the MGM Grand Garden Arena a look of determination enveloped in his eyes as he marched towards the eight-sided cage that housed the former two-time title-carrier Frank Mir who wanted to spoil his coming out party.
Outside of the cage he is well-known for his gentle giant persona with a growing English vocabulary, natural charisma and his trademark smile but when he steps inside the octagon and Bruce Buffer calls his name that disappears and a killer emerges.
Mir was less than six months removed from breaking the arm of Junior’s friend, mentor and training partner Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in horrifying fashion so the heavy-handed Brazilian wasn’t willing to play with him on the floor and the former champion couldn’t force it there either.
Their main event clash was pretty much one-way traffic with the 27-year-old Phenom softening him up before putting the nail in the coffin in the second frame.
But the biggest thing I took away from this fight wasn’t that the 265-pound kingpin dominated the winningest heavyweight in UFC history, it was that he was a superstar after his lone appearance on FOX.
8.8 million people in North America tuned in to see the Brazilian bomber make short work of Velasquez and each of them were excited to see him go to work inside the octagon.
For years, the only way to scope whether or not someone was a money making star in the organization was for them to put up big numbers on pay-per-view but now with the expansion of the sport worldwide it’s bigger than that.
There was a large population of the crowd in Las Vegas last night that travelled from Brazil to see their home-grown champion put his belt on the line, getting people to watch on free television is one thing, getting them to fly across the globe is a completely different kettle of fish.
Right now, he might not be capping a million pay-per-view buys when he fights but he can pack arenas in Brazil and become the biggest star to the Portuguese-speaking public, a much more valuable tool as they invade that market.
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