THIS YEAR WAS a somewhat testing one for Dana White and the rest of his UFC team but there is no doubt that the high points eventually outweighed the lowlights.
The UFC pride themselves on hosting the best MMA fights in the business and we witnessed some cracking match-ups that enthralled us and kept us entertained us over the course of 2012. The year was not without controversy, both inside and outside the Octagon but as 2012 draws to a close here are five things we’ve learned along the way.
1. Mainstream televised UFC fights start to find their feet
Having signed a TV deal with Fox late in 2011, this was to be the year where the UFC was to kick on and firmly establish themselves as a top-flight sport around the world. The first televised event didn’t live up to expectations as Dana White chose to exploit his deep fighter divisions while keeping his superstars for the more lucrative pay-per-view events.
White quickly realised the error of his ways and began adding the big names to the cards and the second event — featuring Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping — peaked at a viewing audience of nearly six million. The events on Fuel TV and Fox proved to be a more than useful platform for fighters to gain experience and state their credentials in front of a much wider audience. As the year progressed it seemed as if every event got better and better culminating in UFC on Fox 5 which hosted one of the best cards of the entire year.
This has opened up a whole new audience for the sport and while the growth may not have been as quick and drastic as everyone expected, the mainstream UFC events will be a mainstay on our screens in the future.
2. We still don’t know who the GOAT is
While the eternal debate over who is the best pound-for-pound fighter predictably rumbles on, we had the unique opportunity to view the candidates in action throughout the year. Anderson Silva would be the name of most people’s lips if talking about being the greatest of all time and he has proven again this year that he is the most likely man to inherit this accolade. Despite only fighting twice he easily despatched the biggest threat to his legacy, Chael Sonnen, in April before putting an end to Stephan Bonnar’s career at UFC 153, breaking a lot of records along the way.
YouTube credit: kimmy littley
Georges St Pierre returned to action after a long injury lay-off to remind everyone that he is still up there in terms of being regarded as one of the best fighters ever. Having beat Carlos Condit to unify the welterweight belts, GSP showed his unrivalled athleticism and courage to claim the win.
The only thing stopping Jon Jones being called the greatest of all time is his youth. The twenty five year old has only been competing in the UFC for four years but in that time he has seen off his toughest opponents in any matter of ways en route to becoming a champion. The single loss on his record is a disqualification against Matt Hamill and he has hardly been in trouble throughout his twelve UFC fights. If he continues in this vein, there is no doubt he will be recognised as one of the true greats.
3. Shift of power towards the fighters
It used to be the case of “What Dana says, goes” in the UFC but 2012 has seen a shift of power with the fighters having more say over who they fight and what their next move is. This was very evident when UFC 151 had to be scrapped due to a crippling injury list but not before Jon Jones became the first champion in UFC history to refuse a fight that would have potentially saved the event.
While the input from the fans still plays a part in the match-making process, it seems as if much more emphasis is now being placed on who the fighters actually wants to fight. A rumoured super-fight between Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva was put to bed after GSP chose to fight Nick Diaz next time out, a man who is coming off the back of a loss and an enforced suspension from the sport.
4. MMA is not an easy sport to partake in
We’ve all watched a sport at some point; whether it was snooker or darts, football or MMA, and thought “I could probably do that.” Well watch this Dana White video blog about a friend of his who had a white-belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and drunkenly challenged UFC fighter and BJJ black-belt Joe Lauzon to a grappling match. Then think again.
YouTube credit: UFC
5. It is still one of the most exciting sports in the world
MMA has come a long way over the last number of years but 2012 was a breakout year for the sport. From the intricacies of the ground games to the sheer brute force of some of the knock-outs, MMA is still one of the only sports that could have a ten second bout and the fans would still be content with the outcome.
It has been on the verge of overtaking boxing as the most watched combative sport for a number of years and although it hasn’t quite reached that point globally yet, it is well on its way to doing so.
YouTube credit: GrilliTheFace2