MMA Is Exploding in 2012.
Dana White said that 2011 was the best year in the history of the UFC. Bjorn Rebney might agree when it comes to Bellator. ProElite is making a comeback, and Strikeforce has been re-upped on Showtime. The UFC’s milestone deal with FOX will bring millions of mainstream fans and millions of mainstream dollars to the organization, which means that 2012 may be the year that you won’t have to explain what an octagon is to your parents and their friends.
Dana White was on the cover of the December issue of Broadcasting & Cable—the television industry’s bible. To put that into perspective, that cover is reserved for the best of the best in television—presidents and kick-ass executive producers of studios and networks. Never before has it featured a former boxing instructor turned media mogul, and certainly not one who was self-made in the past 10 years. Holy shit, Dana!
With Viacom’s purchase of a majority stake in Bellator— which moved to Fridays on MTV2 this year—fighters and sponsors who may have been shunning the organization for fear of the unknown will have confidence that their talents and money will not go the way of the IFL.
HDNet continues to add shows, including MFC and Dream, which will keep the incomparable Michael Schiavello busy coming up with witty ways of describing a straight right. Fledgling network Fight Now TV is making inroads with cable companies and satellite providers to extend coverage in the U.S. beyond Cablevision.
SiriusXM Radio has added TapouT Radio, with industry stalwarts Punkass and Skyskrape (and myself), and Clinch Gear Radio added Stephen “The Fight Professor” Quadros to its lineup of MMA programming that already includes Sirius Fight Club with RJ Clifford, Randy Gordon, and Ricky Bones.
Spike TV, the longtime home of the UFC, just announced its new show MMA Junkie Live with Craig Carton, (myself, again, sorry for the shameless self-promotion), and former UFC welterweight Nate Quarry as hosts and John Morgan as roving reporter. It will be a weekly, live MMA news magazine show that will broadcast from the iconic MTV Studios in New York City’s Times Square—where Carson Daily made Total Request Live a destination for teenage girls everywhere in the 1990’s.
Meanwhile, Fuel TV added UFC Tonight with Kenny Florian and Todd Harris and Champions Roundtable with Jay Glazer, which complements the full array of UFC content that comes part and parcel with the live fights on FOX.
All in all, this means great news for fans, fighters, broadcasters like me, Ariel Helwani, Jon Anik, Mauro Ranallo, Megan Olivi, Karen Bryant, and Kenda Perez, and writers like Ben Fowlkes, Jonathan Snowden, Mike Chiappetta, Jim Casey, Chuck Mindenhall, John Morgan, and Lutfi Sariahmed who make up this magazine and websites such as Yahoo! Sports, Sherdog, MMA Junkie, and MMA Fighting.
Lump in likely sanctioning in New York later this year, and what we have here won’t be a failure to communicate, but perhaps for the first time in the short history of organized MMA, not enough content to quench the thirst of a burgeoning fan base.
As they say in Hollywood, however, content is king, and when it comes to mixed martial arts, all of the above media activity won’t mean squat without great fights.
2011 saw the rise of Jon Jones, with his Jason Bournelike finishes, including choking Lyoto Machida unconscious at UFC 140. Frankie Edgar cemented his legacy with two epic bouts against Gray Maynard, finally finishing him with a stirring come-from-behind knockout at UFC 136. Michael Chandler proved that there is competition for Eddie Alvarez in Bellator. Nick and Nate Diaz put 209 on the map by putting beatdowns on BJ Penn and Donald Cerrone respectively. Alistair Overeem capped the year by retiring Brock Lesnar, setting up one of the most interesting heavyweight title tilts—with Junior dos Santos—since UFC 100.
All of this happened during a year laden with injuries that scrapped an alarming number of main events. In other words, 2012 will be BEAST.
Mike Straka is co-host of MMA Junkie Live on Spike TV and TapouT Radio on SiriusXM, and he is the UFC correspondent on Fight Now TV. His book Fighting Words: In Depth Interviews With The Biggest Names in Mixed Martial Arts is available everywhere books are sold.