Today in MMA History: First episode of 'The Ultimate Fighter' hits airwaves

If you were an MMA fan in January 2005, chances are you remember where you were when the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” premiered.

That’s not just because of what the show eventually became or even because of what it meant for the growth and possible salvation of the UFC, but also because of what it was like to be an MMA fan in North America at the time.

Think of it this way: In 2004, the year before “TUF 1” debuted, the UFC put on just five events. They were all pay-per-view offerings, since there was no such thing as a UFC Fight Night event back then, or even a UFC TV deal.

Which is not to say the UFC never appeared on basic cable. There were sporadic appearances on FOX Sports Net a couple years earlier, plus the occasional TV news show piece about the new sport of MMA, which may have been either barbaric bloodsport or ascendant cultural phenomenon, depending on the timing and the source.

But other than that? MMA was something you saw on VHS tapes and DVDs that you traded with friends. It was something you hunted down on the still somewhat primordial Internet. When the year’s few events rolled around, you pitched in on a pay-per-view or went in search of some bar with a Tito Ortiz poster hastily taped to the wall.

It existed on the margins. You got excited if you met someone else with an interest in it.

So when a relatively new cable network called Spike TV – billed as “the first network for men,” and anchored by pro wrestling and various iterations of “Star Trek” – starting running ads promising a weekly MMA show, it was something special.

Here was this fringe sport being wrapped up in the warm embrace of reality TV, which at the time was an immediately recognizable form that still felt like it hadn’t yet been done to death. Here, it seemed, was the introduction MMA had been waiting for. A martial arts tournament disguised as a game show, with plenty of the strangers-in-a-house drama that was a staple of the form.

Even the cast of the first season fit perfectly into the reality TV show mold. You had the seasoned coaches, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, who each offered different but still compelling versions of what an MMA fighter could look and be like.

As for the contestants, you had serious, college-educated types like Kenny Florian, who could also help dispel the notion that all cage fighters were tattooed skinhead bar bouncers. You had kooky ones like Diego Sanchez, who at one point ran out into a downpour in order to “harness the power” of the storm.

Then there were agents of chaos like Chris Leben – introduced in the credits as “Chris L.” like some contestant on “The Bachelor” – along with guys who clearly didn’t belong, like Jason Thacker.

It was a volatile mix clearly designed to produce typical reality-show antics, and it worked. To help things along, producers made sure that this group of professional athletes had plenty of free booze on hand, because what athletic competition is complete without a little tequila?

But there were other reality TV features that clearly didn’t fit what the show wanted and needed to be, such as the “challenges” that took place in nearly every episode, or the practice of sending fighters “home” once they’d been eliminated from the competition.

The result of the latter was a dwindling cast both in the house and in the gym, which made for fewer and fewer antics and training partners – both problems, but for different reasons.

There was also a near-mutiny when fighters balked at being asked to cut weight and fight for free, which is what precipitated UFC President Dana White’s now famous “do you want to be a f*cking fighter” speech.

For longtime fans of the sport, the true appeal was that almost every episode ended with an actual MMA fight. That’s not so special now – there have been roughly 10,000 seasons of “TUF” since then, or so it seems, and that’s in addition to the almost weekly UFC events of varying caliber.

But in early 2005, that world was a distant dream. Those of us who obsessed over this fringe sport often held our fandom close, like a semi-shameful secret, but we also stubbornly believed that other people might like this stuff if they gave it a chance.

The UFC, in fact, was betting on it. White loves to tell the story of how that first season came to be, how it was the final all-in bet from the Zuffa parent company and the Fertitta brothers who’d been losing money on it. How, even as they were filming what was essentially a weekly ad buy for Spike TV, the network itself was in a state of upheaval.

To hear White tell it, it wasn’t until the wildly successful finale, helped along greatly by the epic battle between light heavyweight finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, that UFC executives even felt confident of the company’s survival.

All that still felt miles away to the average viewer tuning in on that January night in 2005. Back then, most of us were just happy to see the sport we loved on TV. We longed for more of it. We hoped it wouldn’t go away. We thought it might even thrive if only people would sit down to watch.

And if it was the trappings of reality TV that would serve as the bait to lure them in, sure, we could sit through a challenge or two. In a way, the fact that the show has now fallen into a pattern of low ratings and diminished importance in the world of MMA only proves how well it worked. It did its job so well that it eventually became obsolete.

Not bad for a formulaic reality show operating out of a Las Vegas strip mall.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

“Today in MMA History” is an MMAjunkie series created in association with MMA History Today, the social media outlet dedicated to reliving “a daily journey through our sport’s history.”

Source: MMA Junkie

Saturday's UFC 220 broadcasting crew is set, includes Jimmy Smith's UFC debut

The broadcasting crew it set for Saturday’s UFC 220 event, and it includes Jimmy Smith’s UFC debut.

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TG Garden in Boston, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

FOX Sports officials today told MMAjunkie the fight-night commentators include play-by-play man Jon Anik with color commentators Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz. Megan Olivi will have on-site interviews throughout the broadcasts.

The FOX Sports desk in the Los Angeles studio includes former longtime Bellator broadcaster Smith, who recently signed with the UFC. He joins Karyn Bryant, Kenny Florian and Rashad Evans. Smith will also do color commentary for some future UFC broadcasts.

UFC vet Marlon Vera and Victor Davila handle the Spanish language telecast on FOX Deportes.

UFC 220 features heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) vs. Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), as well as light-heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), atop the card.

In addition to a UFC 220-geared edition of “UFC Tonight” today on FS2 (7 p.m. ET), FS1 airs the ceremonial weigh-ins on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, and a UFC 220 pre-show airs on FS1 on Saturday a 7 p.m. ET. Following UFC 220, a post-event show airs on FS1 at 1 a.m. ET.

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

After viral video, UFC notables have a message for bully victim Keaton Jones

Keaton Jones’ emotional video – one that quickly went viral – showed the truly heart-breaking effects bullying can have.

Keaton Jones’ mom, Kimberly Jones, posted the gut-wrenching video after picking up her son from his Knoxville, Tenn., school.

In the video, as well as the accompanying caption, Keaton explains why he was scared to go to lunch because of the bullying, which included dousing him with food and milk.

Hoping to show the true effects of bullying, Kimberly posted the video (via Facebook):

As she wrote: “For the record, Keaton asked to do this AFTER he had he me pick him up AGAIN because he was afraid to go to lunch. My kids are by no stretch perfect, & at home, he’s as all boy as they come, but by all accounts he’s good at school. Talk to your kids. I’ve even had friends of mine tell me they’re kids were only nice to him to get him to mess with people. We all know how it feels to want to belong, but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere.”

The emotional video has resulted in an outpouring of support, especially from the Tennessee sports scene.

The UFC – including champs Daniel Cormiers and Tyron Woodley, fighter/commentator Paul Felder, vet Rashad Evans, and UFC commentator Kenny Florian – also were part of a video the UFC dedicated to Keaton (via Twitter):

Tennessee native and UFC Fight Night 123 winner Scott Holtzman also hopes to get some time with Keaton (via Twitter):

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Jon Anik, Kenny Florian partner with FOX Sports for enhanced 'Anik & Florian Podcast' experience

UFC commentator Jon Anik and multi-time title challenger Kenny Florian have partnered with FOX Sports to make their podcast bigger and better going forward.

Anik and Florian (14-6 MMA, 12-5 UFC), who fought for a UFC title three times before retiring in May 2012, are a duo who have called numerous UFC shows from cageside, worked together on the analyst desk for FOX Sports properties and are 128 episodes deep into a podcast together, will see their show distributed on a new platform starting today.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity to partner the ‘Anik & Florian Podcast’ with FOX Sports,” Anik told MMAjunkie. “We have worked hard over the last two-and-a-half years to establish the show and carve out a place in the podcast space, and I think this partnership with FOX just allows us to take it to the next level.”

According to a FOX Sports exec, the podcast, which sees new episodes released each Monday, will be enhanced “slowly over the coming weeks, adding video and graphics.” Aspects that have grown the podcast’s popularity will stay in place, such as guest interviews and the “Ray Longo Minute” with noted MMA coach Ray Longo.

Although the “Anik & Florian Podcast” has been in existence for more than two years, Anik said now was the right time to strike a deal with a partner like FOX Sports.

“Certainly among our goals for the podcast was to align ourselves with a content and distribution partner, but the right one,” Anik said. “I think FOX was always the best and preferred destination for our show. Thankfully, the interest was there on both sides and I just can’t wait to get started. Much of the show will remain the same.”

The biggest change going forward, Anik said, will likely be an expansion into a video format. FOX Sports made a noted pivot to video content earlier this year, and it appears the “Anik & Florian Podcast” could be a part of that vision.

“I know FOX would like to add a video component in the near future, so that is something we’re all looking forward to,” Anik said. “I mean, you don’t grow and care for hair like Kenny Florian’s without trying to put it on camera whenever possible.”

Past episode of the “Anik & Florian Podcast” are available for download.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

FS1 broadcast plans set for UFC Fight Night 114

The UFC’s fifth event in Mexico takes place Saturday when UFC Fight Night 114 goes down at Mexico City Arena.

The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass and features a flyweight headliner between Sergio Pettis (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Brandon Moreno (14-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC).

MMAjunkie today confirmed with a FOX Sports official that Todd Grisham and former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann will call the fights cageside.

Analysts for Friday’s UFC Fight Night 114 weigh-in show on FS1, as well as the pre-fight and post-fight shows Saturday on FS1, will be former multi-time UFC title challenger Kenny Florian (14-6 MMA, 12-5 UFC) and retired lightweight veteran Yves Edwards (42-22-1 MMA, 10-10 UFC). Karyn Bryant serves as anchor for the programs.

The UFC Fight Night 114 card, along with broadcast plans and air times, are as follows:

MAIN CARD (FS1, 10 p.m. ET)

  • Sergio Pettis vs. Brandon Moreno
  • Alexa Grasso vs. Randa Markos
  • Alan Jouban vs. Niko Price
  • Humberto Bandenay vs. Martin Bravo
  • Sam Alvey vs. Rashad Evans
  • Alejandro Perez vs. Andre Soukhamthath


  • Jack Hermansson vs. Brad Scott
  • Dustin Ortiz vs. Hector Sandoval
  • Henry Briones vs. Rani Yahya
  • Jose Quinonez vs. Diego Rivas

PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. ET)

  • Joseph Morales vs. Roberto Sanchez
  • Alvaro Herrera vs. Jordan Rinaldi

For more on UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Michelle Waterson returns to analyst desk for Sunday's UFC Fight Night 113 event

UFC strawweight contender Michelle Waterson will join the broadcast team for this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 113 event, MMAjunkie today confirmed with FOX Sports officials.

Waterson joins UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping and former title challenger Kenny Florian as analysts on the FOX Sports desk in California alongside host Karyn Bryant.

Meanwhile, Dan Hardy and John Gooden will call the fights cageside from SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. Heidi Androl interviews fighters backstage, while Bruce Buffer will take his familiar position in the octagon.

Waterson debuted as an analyst in January, when she was at the desk for “UFC on FOX 23: Shevchenko vs. Pena.” She believes the opportunity to do it again will actually continue to help her in-cage game, as well.

“I’m excited about it because as a martial artist, I think it’s always important to remember that you’re a student of the game, and the best way for me to do that is to force myself into situations where I have to study people that I don’t normally do,” Waterson told MMAjunkie. “I think that being behind the desk really does force you to step back as a fighter, yourself, and just analyze it from an outside perspective.”

UFC Fight Night 113 features a welterweight matchup between potential future contenders Gunnar Nelson (16-2-1 MMA, 7-2 UFC) and Santiago Ponzinibbio (24-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC). Both the main card and preliminary bouts air on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Waterson, who’s currently an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA strawweight rankings, admits that despite a decade of professional fighting experience, sitting behind a desk still brings out the nerves. But she’s excited to offer her expertise on the card, including the night’s co-feature, which sees a clash of fellow strawweights with Joanna Calderwood (11-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Cynthia Calvillo (5-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC).

“There’s a lot of hype behind Cynthia,” Waterson said. :She’s been able to pop off some really impressive wins, scrambling submissions. I think by her fighting ‘JoJo,’ it will be a great test for her because ‘JoJo’ is a great standup fighter who is more lengthy, more rangy and doesn’t necessarily like to go to the ground, so I’d like to see how Cynthia deals with her standup.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 113, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Announcers, analysts set for UFC 213 pay-per-view, The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale on FS1

The UFC’s sixth annual International Fight Week festivities take place next week in Las Vegas.

Back-to-back fight cards sit atop the schedule, with The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale set to take place July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and UFC 213 slated to go down on July 8 from the same location.

The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass and features a lightweight main event between Michael Johnson (17-11 MMA, 9-7 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (17-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

MMAjunkie today confirmed with a FOX Sports official that Todd Grisham and Brian Stann will call the fights cageside, with Bruce Buffer serving as ring announcer.

Analysts for Thursday’s The Ultimate Fighter 25 weigh-in show on FS2, as well as the pre-fight and post-fight shows on FS1, will be former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and former multi-time UFC title challenger Kenny Florian (14-6 MMA, 12-5 UFC). Karyn Bryant serves as anchor for the programs.

The same group will serve as analysts for Friday’s UFC 213 weigh-in show on FS2, as well as the pre-fight and post-fight content on FS1.

Calling the action at UFC 213, which is headlined by a women’s bantamweight title rematch between Amanda Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) and Valentina Shevchenko (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, will be a three-man booth featuring Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Stann.

Megan Olivi will serve as the backstage reporter for both International Fight Week events.

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale and UFC 213, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC analyst Kenny Florian commends Derrick Lewis for calling out Mark Hunt

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

MMA analyst Kenny Florian believes UFC Fight Night 110 headliner Derrick Lewis is going to be an integral part of the UFC heavyweight division for the foreseeable future, and that’s because he brings a unique package to the table.

Lewis (18-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC), who meets Mark Hunt (12-11-1 MMA, 7-5-1 UFC) in the main event of Saturday’s FS1-televised card at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand (early prelims stream on UFC Fight Pass), has needed just over three years in the UFC to become a fan favorite.

Not only does “The Black Beast” deliver violent knockouts at a consist rate, but his skills are complemented by an edgy (and oftentimes crude) personality, which has gained him a solid following in a short time.

Although Lewis, No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, has already beaten some solid veterans such as Travis Browne, Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga in the midst of his current six-fight UFC winning streak, the matchup with No. 11-ranked Hunt is his most significant to date.

Lewis specifically requested the bout, and Florian, who serves as an FS1 studio analyst for all UFC Fight Night 110 programming, said that’s a commendable action and reason why Lewis has quickly caught momentum.

“What’s so cool is Derrick Lewis, out of all the people he could call out, he calls out Mark Hunt,” Florian told MMAjunkie Radio. “I think it shows that this is a guy who is willing to stand and trade, and he wants to put on exciting fights. First and foremost, this guy is an entertainer.

“He’s hilarious if you look at his Instagram. He’s very, very funny. He does want to go out and be entertaining; he wants to be remembered. You’ve go to respect that. Not a lot of people who are strikers are going to call out Mark Hunt.”

Lewis told MMAjunkie prior to UFC Fight Night 110 that he asked for Hunt because he considers “The Super Samoan” to be the toughest member of the UFC heavyweight division. Hunt may not have the prettiest of records when it comes to wins and losses, but he’s competed against the very best for more than a decade.

Florian feels that, win or lose, Hunt will help answer more questions about the extent of Lewis’ ability. There aren’t many capable of out-striking the former K-1 champion, but if Lewis can pick up his ninth knockout in 10 octagon victories, it would be a testament of where he belongs in the division, Florian said.

“I think that Derrick Lewis definitely can be a cleaner fighter,” Florian said. “There’s still a lot for him to learn. As far as beating someone like Mark Hunt, yeah, that puts him on the top, especially considering the fact he just beat Travis Browne.”

If it were up to him, Lewis would be next to challenge heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) if he can get past Hunt. Lewis said he matches up up very well with the current champ and would be confident in a title bout.

Florian (14-6 MMA, 12-5 UFC), who fought for a UFC title three times before retiring in May 2012, is not as willing to commit to the idea of Lewis being the one to dethrone Miocic. However, he does know a victory would validate him on an even greater level.

“He’s on a little win-streak here, (and) he’s a marketable guy as well,” Florian said. “I definitely think a win over Mark Hunt puts him right there near the top. The heavyweight division is kind of light (on talent), no pun intended. I think it puts him in a good position.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.


Filed under: News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2463 with Kenny Florian and Geane Herrera

Stream or download Wednesday’s edition of MMAjunkie Radio with guests Kenny Florian and Geane Herrera.

Florian joined the show to talk about UFC Fight Night 110, which takes place this weekend and is headlined by Derrick Lewis vs. Mark Hunt. Herrera is looking for an opportunity with Bellator or ONE Championship after taking some time off following his dismissal from the UFC.

You can listen below or download the episode from SoundCloud.

Filed under: News, Radio, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie