You can't hate on Dana White for the love he feels. The UFC president is passionate about mixed martial arts, the sport he ostensibly governs, with a fervor likely never experienced and surely never exhibited by Roger Goodell, David Stern or any of the other suits that sit at a commissioner's desk.
Sometimes White's passion gets the best of him, though, as was the case back in 2008 when he trumpeted the UFC's growth thusly to SI.com: "Remember that I told you this: In the next five to eight years, this thing's going to be the biggest sport in the world -- bigger than the [expletive] NFL, bigger than Major League Soccer, bigger than World Cup soccer or whatever the hell they call it. Bigger than anything. So remember I told you that."
We remember, Dana, and we trust that you've noticed that your five-year window is nearly closed. So maybe it's going to take the full eight for the fight promotion you run to become bigger than the football team you root for, the New England Patriots, not to mention the entirety of the wildly popular sport in which Tom Brady & Co. compete. And while surpassing the marginal MLS is a reachable goal, even the UFC's biggest stars have a long way to go before they'll be at the level, globally, of iconic footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Still, some of White's forecasts for the growth of his business have come true. He said the UFC would become so pervasive a sports brand that the promotion one day would stage two events on the same night in different parts of the world. And that is coming true this weekend. Sort of.
On Saturday night, the finale of Season 16 of
But is there really enough to go around? The UFC on FX card (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, FX; prelims on Fuel TV at 6) is headlined by a lightweight bout between George Sotiropoulos, coming off two straight defeats, and Ross Pearson, a loser in three of his last five. The next night, at the
Is this what we've all been waiting for? Is this, finally, the sign that the New York Football Giants and Manchester United are about to be surpassed?
That's clearly not the case. Just do the math, in fact, and it adds up this way: One plus one equals less than one. That is, the weekend's two events, combined, have less sizzle than one average UFC fight card. And Friday's fights will have TV competition from a Bellator event (8 p.m. ET, MTV2) headlined by a heavyweight championship fight and also featuring the Season 7 lightweight tournament final, while Saturday's will go up against big-time boxing telecasts on both HBO and Showtime.
How to navigate your way through the weekend of combat sports? There's nothing must-see about any of it, but there are moments worth paying attention to. Here are some things to watch for: