Well, that was quick. But it sure as hell wasn’t boring. Sort of like other first times, huh? Huh?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the business: Saturday, November 12 was the debut of UFC on Fox, with the most prominent MMA organization kicking off their association with the broadcast network by featuring the title bout in their Heavyweight Division, a fight between challenger Junior Dos Santos of Brazil and defending champ Cain Velasquez, an American of Mexican descent. Likely because of Velasquez’s Mexican-American fan base (and because of the other big fight happening tonight, from UFC’s competitors in the world of boxing, Pacquiao-Marquez III), the fight occurred in Anaheim, CA rather than the UFC’s unofficial home in Vegas. Beyond those facts, when sitting down to watch the fight, I knew absolutely nothing. There was nothing else on TV I wanted to watch, and I figured what better way to finally give watching MMA a chance than to watch it on network television, rather than having to shell out for pay-per-view or go out to a bar? After last weekend, and all that’s happened this week, I sure as hell didn’t want to watch any more college football.
I know absolutely nothing about MMA or UFC, so these are the thoughts of a complete newcomer, someone who, up until learning about Fox’s deal to broadcast some UFC fights outside of the realm of PPV, had absolutely no interest. In fact, a lot of my (admittedly uninformed) opinions about UFC and MMA resulted in active disinterest, and were the product of watching brief moments of it when flipping through low-tier cable channels like Spike and Versus and thinking it was kind of homoerotic to watch sweaty dudes sitting on each other’s faces, along with the fact that the stereotypical MMA fan decked out in Ed Hardy/Affliction/Tapout, flat-brimmed New Era and terrible tattoos didn’t make me think I was missing out on much.
Now, I have watched my first full UFC fight, a title fight no less, and I still don’t have a fully-formed opinion. Not because I didn’t enjoy it (I did, more on that later), but because the fight only lasted one minute and four seconds.
The broadcast was scheduled for an hour, and obviously geared toward the viewers they hoped to draw in, neophytes like me. UFC President Dana White has said he was willing to give up the money lost from not airing this highly-anticipated championship fight in pay-per-view to hopefully gain at least 100,000 new PPV customers for fights going forward. I have no idea if that will happen or not, especially with the way this fight transpired, but that was the goal.
The first half-hour was dedicated to grounding new viewers in the background of both fighters, with human interest pieces about their rough backgrounds (in Brazil for Dos Santos, growing up the son of poor immigrant workers for Velasquez) running alongside analysis about their particular fighting styles from UFC President Dana White and former Heavyweight champion/dude whosename I recognize Brock Lesnar, presided over by Fox NFL moderator Curt Menefee. Had I been a repeat MMA viewer, I’m sure this would all have been tedious, but it worked for me as a newbie, even giving me a rooting interest in having described the fighters’ respective strengths: Velasquez as a wrestler, and Dos Santos as a boxer or striker. Remembering previous memories of being turned off by MMA being minutes upon minutes of dudes sitting on each other’s faces, I knew I would be rooting for the boxer.
I got my wish. After the fighters had been introduced (mostly boos for Dos Santos, making me want him to win even more; unabashed cheers from the SoCal audience for Velasquez and his chest script tattoo BROWN PRIDE), the ref explained the rules, and then it was on. A few quick flicks of kicks and punches that didn’t really land took up the first minute or so, and then Dos Santos landed a big overhand right to Velasquez’s temple that obviously, at least momentarily, knocked him cockeyed. He toppled over, and, forgetting for a second that this wasn’t boxing, I was instantly shocked by the fact that as he went down and Dos Santos recovered from the lunging motion of his punch, Dos Santos went after Velasquez and started mercilessly pounding him about the face and head until he rolled over, covering his head, Dos Santos still pounding it into the mat, and the ref came in to stop the fight. One minute and four seconds in, UFC’s debut on Fox was over.
I don’t know if this was a disappointment or not for longtime viewers. It certainly seemed that way to White and Lesnar speaking about the fight in the long time remaining in the broadcast after its quick end, White especially tearing into Velasquez for not being prepared for the quick strikes of Dos Santos, Lesnar disappointed he won’t be fighting Cain in a rematch to try and get the championship back. But for me, as someone trying to go in with an open mind but prejudiced to think the whole thing might bore me, the fight was anything but a disappointment.
Perhaps because it was so quick, it actually provoked a visceral reaction. One violent swing, followed by a pouncing man pummelling his opponent into submission on the mat (if that is indeed what the floor of the octagon is called, because I have no clue), elicited it me something along the lines of: HOLY SHIT! followed by WHAT?! followed by a Beavis and Butt-head-like that-was-cool-huh-huh-huh-huh laughter. All the thoughts of “this sport seems kinda homoerotic, violence for the sake of violence is wrong, man all these fans are really living up to the douchebag stereotype” were wiped away in a quick jolt of reptile brain euphoria. And then, it was over.
Would I invest fifty bucks in pay-per-view to watch this again? No, I wasn’t that convinced. Am I swayed over to MMA in the MMA vs. boxing debate? Not yet. But will I watch the next time UFC airs a title bout on Fox? Sure will.
Other random thoughts:
- I’d sort of known that Joe Rogan, who I’ve never really been a huge fan of, was associated with UFC somehow, from seeing him on sports talk shows wearing a UFC beanie and looking ripped while talking about how boxing sucks, but it seemed bizarre seeing someone I mostly know as some dude from NewsRadio as a ringside announcer for a sport.
- In the buildup, like for the boxing prize fights I’m more used to watching (though I’m by no means an expert on that, either), they showed lots of hot women posing along with celebs entering on the red carpet. The celebs for this? Some people I wasn’t sure I recognized, Michael Strahan, and Mandy Moore. Mandy Moore? Yup, Mandy Moore.
- Fox needs some new intro music. First the World Series, now MMA using the Fox NFL Sunday music? Especially when combined with the presence of Curt Menefee, I half expected a robot to come out before commercial break and sit on another robot’s face. For UFC, it seems like some distorted rap metal or something would work better than the Fox NFL theme. I think Limp Bizkit is back together; they could lump together some riffs and grunts. Probably wouldn’t even have to pay them, since they do it all for the “Nookie.”
- Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez are both awesome names. That is all.