As the summer came to a close, the UFC culminated their rise to prominence by signing a deal with Fox that had a ripple effect with fight promotion and their Spike relationship and then went back to their roots with a show in Rio, Brazil that exceeded expectations inside and outside the Octagon.
August 2011: Blame It On Rio
In one of the biggest business stories in MMA history, the UFC inked a seven-year deal with Fox, ending their run with Spike that started in 2005 and bringing MMA action back to primetime network TV. There was no shortage of stories and opinions with threads on how the deal would affect placement of major fights and whether this meant that MMA had finally arrived in the mainstream.
The deal called for four events on “big” Fox, The Ultimate Fighter and other events moving to FX on Friday nights and Fuel TV becoming essentially the UFC network with 2000 yearly hours of original and archive programming. A bonus show would kick things off in November (Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson was speculated early), part of four straight weeks of UFC events.
The impact of the deal will truly be felt in 2012, but the early signs (major advertising and promos during NFL games) was a great sign that Fox was taking the relationship seriously.
The UFC returned to Brazil for the first time in 12 years with UFC 134, punctuated by three finishes by native sons that electrified the wild Rio crowd. Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva showed why he was such a favorite, defeating Yushin Okami with ease in a second round TKO victory while Mauricio Rua humbled a distracted Forrest Griffin in just two minutes.
But the lasting memory was Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira knocking out Brendan Schaub in an upset that had to be seen to be believed. The crowd went into a euphoric state and was a fantastic lasting moment of the historic return — a reason why the UFC said they were returning in 2012 with a show at a large open air venue. It was almost enough to make people forget about Nogueira’s unfortunate statement about not wanting to train with a gay student.
After undergoing surgery to remove a foot of his colon and with his future in doubt, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar announced that “he was back” with Dana White acknowledging that his top pay-per-view star was getting back in the gym in hopes for an early 2012 return.
The rest of a busy August in MMA continues after the jump.
Zuffa severed ties with the Golden Glory fight team over the process on how fighters were paid, releasing three fighters as a result. White broke down the issues and later said he was open to working things out as he wanted Alistair Overeem in the UFC…Rashad Evans defeated Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort decimated Yoshihiro Akiyama at the injury-riddled UFC 133 event, but the big story was Dennis Hallman’s choice of trunks. White was less than thrilled…Jon Jones called Evans a ‘jealous snake‘…Matt Hamill retired…Rampage Jackson said Jones was spying on his camp.
Fedor Emelianenko was released by Strikeforce but M-1 Global was quick to say he wasn’t retiring…Ronda Rousey started making noise about being the new face of women’s MMA…UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos was booked for UFC 139…Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal was announced…Chris Lytle announced he was retiring and then submitted Dan Hardy in a great moment. Despite four straight losses, Hardy kept his job…Ben Henderson looked incredible in dominating Jim Miller.
Trainer Sean Tompkins passed away at just 37 years old…It took 10 seconds for Kimbo Slice to win his pro boxing debut…Jason Miller was arrested…Pat Curran won Bellator’s featherweight tournament….Eddie Alvarez vs. Shinya Aoki II looked to become a reality...Jack Shields passed away…Pro Elite was rumored to be in talks with CBS/Showtime, while Zuffa said they were going to re-evaluate Strikeforce on Showtime.
Full archive of August stories on Bloody Elbow
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