If you've watched even just a few minutes of an NFL game on Fox recently, chances are you've heard the news. This Saturday night the UFC debuts on the network with a live heavyweight championship bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. And yeah, it's a pretty big deal.
It's not because it's never been done; the now-defunct EliteXC put on a live event in prime time (aptly named "Primetime") on CBS back in 2008. But the UFC -- unquestionably the sport's premier organization -- has long resisted the siren's song of a network deal ... until now.
Saturday night's event isn't your typical UFC fare, however. While pay-per-view cards typically feature at least five fights, usually with a few prelims thrown in for good measure, this is a one-fight, one-hour special. It's the main event, sans appetizer. Think of it as a sample to get you hooked before the UFC's deal with Fox begins in earnest in 2012.
Will it work? That may depend on whether Velasquez (the heavyweight champ) and Dos Santos (the challenger) can deliver with the pressure from their boss and from fight fans everywhere cranked up to an all-time high. It's a gamble, in other words, and it's a big one.
One man who hopes it pays off is UFC president Dana White, who says he's essentially giving away the short-term pay-per-view dollars in this case just to spread the gospel of the UFC to the millions of unwitting congregants out there. With the event just a few days away, I sat down to talk to White about what we should expect from the UFC's network TV debut, and what he thinks he can accomplish with just one hour of America's time.
But the way that I approached this whole coming-out party on Fox is we live in this little bubble. I live in a world of armbars and rear-naked chokes and triangle chokes and ground-and-pound and all that stuff, but there're millions and millions of people who have never even heard of any of that and don't know anything about the UFC. As big as the UFC may seem, it's not. We're so far from mainstream still, and now we've been given the opportunity to do it. That's why Saturday is so important.
No. So who was? When we talk about worldwide, it's Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee. As human beings, I don't care what country you come from or what language you speak, fighting's in our DNA. We get it, we like it, and we're infatuated by who the toughest man in the world is. Manny Pacquiao, this little hundred-and-something-pound guy from the Philippines, is known around the world. Fighting is, as human beings, what we're really into.