The Fight That Made Me a Huge Fan of Mixed Martial Arts
While spending a nice, relaxing Friday night watching Bellator 181, the main event of the show made me think of the fight that made me an MMA fan.
Truthfully I follow UFC almost religiously, but my interest in Bellator MMA has recently grown. The Bellator 181 card featured a couple of guys I recognized from their stints at the UFC, and I figured why not give it a shot.
The main event of the show featured the end of a trilogy between Derek Campos and Brandon Girtz. Both guys started throwing bombs of punches at each other. There wasn’t much of a fight on the ground. It was just two guys in the middle of the cage throwing down.
Much like the fight that sold me on MMA.
I’ve been a pro wrestling fan my entire life (this plays a factor later). My exposure to UFC was early when a tape of UFC 5 was purchased and my young self at the time gave it a view. The main event of that featured a “super fight” between Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie.
It was 35 minutes of nothing. So no, it wasn’t that fight.
Fast forward a few years to very late 2004, early 2005. As an avid watcher of WWE Monday Night Raw, this one show caught my attention and it involved the UFC. “The Ultimate Fighter” was set to premiere. The concept of the show was to give a bunch of guys the opportunity to battle their way to a six-figure UFC contract in a reality TV based setting. It was like mixing fighting with The Real World…I was sold.
Some of the fights that season were good, some of them were bad, but the show was sold by the fighters being able to sell their personalities. That’s where it connected for me immediately.
So what fight made me a die-hard MMA fan? Probably the same one that made you interested in it also.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephen Bonnar.
Both guys entered the octagon that night with a six-figure contract awaiting them. Both entered knowing that it was going to be a war, and both wanted to do whatever they could to secure that contract.
What did we get? Two guys in the middle of the cage throwing haymakers at each other. Kind of like the main event of Bellator 181 but times two. The fight was so great that the ratings for Spike TV during the fight surged because of the word spreading that people needed to turn the channel to see it.
Dana White, President of the UFC, has credited this fight as the one that saved the company.
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(Sidenote…crazy how different Dana White and the rest of them look 12 years later)
There’s been a few fights that have approached the greatness that Griffin/Bonnar was, but nothing tops it for me. It was the perfect storm of a fight.
It’s the reason I fell in love with the sport.