Don’t Look Back in Anger – A Snapshot of MMA 5 Years Back

In case you missed it (like I did since my day job got in the way this week and I missed a lot of MMA news), Chuck Mindenhall published an EXCELLENT piece looking back at the 5 year anniversary of the last EliteXC show on CBS.  Go read it now.  It’s filled with a ton of backstage nuggets regarding the circus that surrounded, and led up to, the last fight card for EliteXC.

After the piece was live, Ariel Helwani later tweeted a YouTube video of an angry Dana White’s response to the events at the last EliteXC show as a brief glimpse into the past:

It is odd to think that this was only 5 years ago. MMA as a sport is still very young, but because so many events take place year to year, many of the events come off as ancient history, and it’s refreshing to read pieces like Mindenhall’s and even this one by Ben Fowlkes about the history of fighters’ sponsor banners.

The MMA world in 2008 wasn’t even a world. It was a fragmented state with different factions and organizations vying to cash in on the success of the UFC.  The demise of EliteXC is one part of the the evolution of what would make most of the US equate UFC to MMA.  The rest of the Pangaea effect (probably starting with the UFC purchasing Pride FC a year earlier in 2007) included the demise of the IFL and Affliction within a year of each other.  Yes, the IFL was operating in 2008.  And, if we pull back just 3 months before the folding of EliteXC, we’d note that the IFL closed its doors, making way for Big Country Nelson and Andrei Arlovski to lock horns at the last EliteXC show.

Here’s a bit of a retrospective.  The UFC events that took place before, around the same time as, and after the events of the last EtiteXC show include:

UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Neer – September 17, 2008

UFC 89: Bisping vs. Leben – October 18th, 2008

UFC 90: Silva vs. Cote – October 25th, 2008 

On the surface, none of these fight cards were all that memorable or had any real ramifications on any title or in any division at that time.  In fact, only the Leben/Bisping fight stands out to me because of the fallout from Leben’s failed post fight drug tests where he was popped for banned substances.   That and Leben’s unfortunate choice of braided hair.

Inspired by Urijah Faber

What does stand out is that Jim Miller made his UFC debut on the prelims for UFC 89.  Miller would work his way into title contention and is currently a top 10 lightweight.  Also, Junior Dos Santos, a then unknown heavyweight out of Brazil, took out favored contender Fabricio Werdum with a well placed upper-cut.

In 2008, we all said, “Who’s that guy?”

After one of the best post-fight victory laps around the octagon, Dos Santos would later go on to win the Heavyweight championship and make one of the most awkward TV promos ever, before getting a Nike endorsement deal.

Timing.  Timing.  Timing.  Just 5 years ago, fighters who are now staples in the their respective classes were unknown commodities.  Just 5 years later, those “Internet Sensations” and Internet sensation killers have all retired or moved on from the sport.  If nothing else, this should be a cautionary tale of how you build a promotion.   You can take the quick and fast money and be remembered as a wild and crazy footnote in the sport.  Or, you can invest in the future and in the stars and contenders of tomorrow and really sustain the sport and the promotion.

More than anything, it just reinforces the fact that you should make every attempt to watch the prelims as well as the main event of any fight card.



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