In 2005, The UFC had yet to enter mainstream. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) on Spike TV was born, to introduce the sport to a demographic that hadn’t seen the hard-to-find pay-per-views.
Though unrefined as fighters, the gritty performance by both men in the finale caused the number of viewers to soar during the fight. UFC president Dana White has proclaimed on many occasions that the UFC was at the time on the brink of folding their tent and going home. The Griffin-Bonnar fight propelled the UFC to the next level.
Dana White was involved in boxing and is one of its biggest fans. As such, he knew the mistakes boxing promoters had made---ripping off fighters; not creating fights between champions of different organizations. And unlike the NBA, NHL, and NFL, the UFC is government regulated. Although there have been a few questionable decisions by UFC brass, such as giving Brock Lesnar a title shot with a scanty 2-1 record, White has won many fans with his conduct and vision. And we get it, it’s about the money.
The UFC is successful now, and it’s eaten up all potentially credible competition. In this sport, that’s good: too many organizations threaten to bring back the days when PRIDE and UFC champions couldn’t meet, and fans were left wondering who’d beat who. That wasn’t good for the fighters and it wasn’t good for fans.
In August, UFC 151---scheduled for September 1st--- had its headliner derailed between 205 pound champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and Dan Henderson, due to an injury to the challenger. The injury was declared by Henderson close to the fight, but it had in fact happened around three weeks prior. Despite that fact, it was the champion who had to withstand a stream of bile and vitriol from his boss, Dana White, for refusing to accept Henderson’s replacement, a completely undeserving Chael Sonnen, a man who gabbed rather than fought his way to the potential shot, a man who hasn’t even had a fight in the weight class in years, a man whose last fight was a loss in a lower weight class.
Bones rightfully turned down the fight. He said he needed to respect the belt and properly prepare for its defense. Reading between the lines one sensed the champ felt Sonnen hadn’t earned it---he just didn’t want to come out and say it. The mean comments continued to pile on, though, from White and fans, who wanted to see this fight and God knows why.
Dating back to 2005, Sonnen is a sad 6-5 in the UFC. His last fight was a loss to Anderson Silva at 185. Of his losses, 4 were by submission, one via TKO. According to some, he talks a good game. He tries to sound like Ali, but comes off rehearsed and pretentious, and often stumbles through the poems likely written by someone else for him.
His performance in the first fight against Anderson Silva (who had a serious rib injury) allowed him to run off at the mouth, despite being submitted in the fifth round. This piqued interest in a rematch. The sound beating Sonnen took in the rematch did three things: it made the UFC a lot of money; it proved Anderson Silva was injured in the first fight; it demonstrated once and for all Sonnen does not belong in the ring with the champion.
The bullying and pressure online for Bones to make the fight with Sonnen, including strips torn off him regularly by his boss, made longtime fans cringe. Combine the attacks with terrible TUF ratings---due to moving it from Wednesday to Friday nights and having time zone delays on last season’s supposed ‘live’ TUF---and you have the next season of TUF being coached by Jones and Sonnen, with a fight happening sometime next April.
The reasoning behind making this fight was neither reasonable nor rational, but purely emotional. Not much help is coming from the media, because a lot of it relies on Dana for access to and footage from events. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
I stopped watching the NHL and NFL when ridiculous calls in the playoffs made me question wasting my time and energy. I’m not yet ready to give up on the UFC. It’s done too much for fans to date. But I’m looking at it now with a sideways glance.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dana White in June, 2011, and thanked him for all he’s done for the sport I love. But this fight serves only to diminish the sport and its street cred. Fans can't cut slack here.
I’ve been a fan since UFC 1 in 1993. I’ve seen the sport evolve from a freak show of freaks to a freak show of freakishly talented, fit athletes. There’s no need for the sport to revert back to 2001. Dana already has several supercars, not sure how many more he needs. Sadly, no one wins here but the least deserving actor of all, Chael Sonnen.
Dana, 2001 called. It wants its fight back.
Follow me on Twitter @RenkoStyranka