That was then. Company president/barker Dana White spoke those words around 10,000 times during the months of hype for last Saturday night's heavyweight championship bout that, all by its lonesome, encompassed the hour-long UFC on Fox telecast, the fight promotion's debut on network television.
This is now. Just like last weekend and the one before that and the one before that, the UFC has another evening of goosebumps it would like to interest you in. But this time the selling point is not a title bout/TV milestone (last week) or an international event on basic cable (two weeks ago) or even a confirmed No. 1 contender eliminator (three weeks ago).
• COUNTERPUNCH: Experts' predictions for UFC 139
With the exhausting mixed martial arts schedule of the past month, you could imagine Dana having a hard time selling the $54.95 pay-per-view telecast of UFC 139 to anyone but close relatives. (And considering how sadly uncivil the poor guy's own mother has been to him of late, maybe even those sales wouldn't be a shoo-in.) Luckily for White, Saturday's event in San Jose, Calif. (9 p.m. ET, PPV), has three robust marketing touchpoints: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Dan "Hendo" Henderson and a meeting between two fighters whose parallel paths have nearly but not quite intersected through all the years they've both been stalwarts of their sport.
Rua (20-5) is a former UFC light heavyweight champion. He held the belt for less than a year, though, seizing it with an emphatic knockout of Lyoto Machida in his second shot at "The Dragon" in May 2010, then losing it no less emphatically to Jon Jones via TKO 10 months later. Before that, he was with the Pride Fighting Championships, most notably capturing the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix championship. He knocked out Ricardo Arona in the title bout, after getting there with an impressive trio of wins over Alistair Overeem (TKO), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (decision) and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (TKO). Shogun is just 29, but it seems as though he's been around forever.
Henderson (28-8) has been around forever. He's 41 and has been a professional mixed martial artist since 1997. He may or may not be the reigning Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. Why the ambiguity? Well, he hasn't lost or vacated the belt since winning it with a TKO of Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante last March, but his only fight with the promotion since then was at heavyweight, a rousing first-round TKO of the formerly legendary Fedor Emelianenko.
And now "Hendo" is returning to the fight organization for which he first competed way back in '98 at UFC 17, when he beat two opponents in one night -- yes, it was the old days -- to win a middleweight tournament. In between the early UFC and his Strikeforce reign, Dan fought for many years in Japan, mostly for Pride. When the organization was bought by the UFC's parent company and disbanded, Henderson was simultaneously the champion in both the welterweight (185-pound) and middleweight (205-pound) divisions.
When Hendo and Shogun finally clash, we might end up with an impact similar to last weekend's. I'm not drawing a comparison to the influence of Velasquez vs. Dos Santos in the big-picture sense -- pundits and fans still are abuzz about what that title fight telecast, which peaked at an MMA-record 8.802 million viewers, means for the sport's mainstream incursion in the long term.
No, I am using the word impact in the way it came to be understood by Cain, who involuntarily became acquainted with the canvas a minute into his first title defense. Both Henderson and Rua hit hard, too. All of Dan's last four victories have been by KO, and he has 13 such wins over his career. Mauricio has an astounding 17 KO's in 20 wins, including his last five. On the flip side, Shogun has suffered only one true KO loss (to "Bones" eight months ago) and Hendo has never been KO'd.
Think something is about to give?
"I guess I can get knocked out just like anybody else," said Henderson said during a UFC 139 conference call with MMA media on Wednesday. "I've been lucky not to get hit on the button in my fights. Good luck to him on that one."
5: Years since he has lost a nontitle bout. Henderson's three losses since the summer of 2006: to "Rampage" in a September 2007 fight to unify Jackson's UFC light heavyweight title and Henderson's Pride middleweight belt (both of which are 205-pound weight classes); to Anderson Silva in a March 2008 fight to unify Silva's UFC middleweight title and Henderson's Pride welterweight belt (both at 185 pounds); and to Jake Shields in an April 2010 challenge of the then-Strikeforce middleweight belt holder.
0: Losses by knockout. Henderson has been submitted three times and has dropped five decisions.
17: Numerical designation of his debut with the fight promotion. UFC 17 was held in that fight capital of Mobile, Ala., in May 1998, back in the time of one-night tournaments. Hendo decisioned Allan Goes and Carlos Newton to capture the evening's middleweight tournament.
2: Victories, among his last three, that have been Knockout of the Night (vs. Forrest Griffin in August, Lyoto Machida in May 2010 for the light heavyweight title).
3: Victories, among his last four, that have been against fighters who previously had beaten him: Griffin had submitted Rua in the Brazilian's UFC debut in 2007; Machida had won a much-disputed decision a little over six months before the title changed hands; and Mark Coleman, whom Rua TKO'd in a 2009 Fight of the Night, had beaten him -- and broken his arm -- in a 2006 bout in the Pride Fighting Championships.
85: Percentage of his wins (20) that have come by KO (17).
What we should expect: At some point, the 41-year-old Henderson will slow down. For his sake, he'd better hope it doesn't happen this weekend. Rua not only hits hard but is explosive, a combination that makes him especially dangerous in fisticuff exchanges. When he's throwing and you're throwing, you've got to be sure to connect before he does or at least get out of the way of his bombs. Henderson favors the standup game, but with his Olympic wrestling pedigree he has the tools, assuming they're not too worn out, to put Rua in bad positions. Expect him to do his fighting not from outside of Rua's range but from in close -- too close for Shogun's comfort.
Why we should care: The term "legend" gets thrown around way too much in this sport and others, so I'm going to sidestep that and simply sell this bout as a clash of two forward-moving fighters who never cease to bring the action. That should be enough to get you seated in front of the TV, but factor this in, too: Though nothing's been promised, logic holds that the survivor of Saturday night's main event should be next in line for a shot at Jones (or Machida, if he grabs the light heavy title from "Bones" in three weeks).
"I'm excited about [fighting] Shogun. This is something the fans have been looking forward to for a long time. He's a tough opponent, well rounded, and definitely a huge challenge for me to get past."--Henderson, during Wednesday's UFC 139 media conference call
"This is certainly a marquee fight for me, a very important fight. Dan Henderson is a legend in MMA."--Rua, during the same call
UFC meets AARP: If Wanderlei Silva and Cung Le met when each was in his prime, Le would have needed a stunt double to stand in for him for any facial closeups in his next film. But at this point the 39-year-old UFC debutante has more left in the tank than does Silva, who is "only" 35 but has little tread remaining where the rubber meets the road.
The dominated: What must Dominick Cruz be thinking? No matter whether former featherweight champion Urijah Faber wins this fight or ex-bantamweight belt holder Brian Bowles takes it, Cruz's bantam belt -- which he won by dominating Bowles back in 2010 and which he defended against Faber in July -- seems pretty safe. Is that the sense you want a presumed No. 1 contender showdown to convey?