UFC 100 and the post-fight antics of Brock Lesnar have the Mainstream Media paying attention.
Pardon the Interruption has discussed MMA each day since returning to the airwaves following the centennial show in Las Vegas. That may not sound like much, but considering they spent Five Good Minutes with Jay Glazer yesterday, it’s clearly headway and the timing couldn’t be better.
While Lesnar’s post-fight spectacle certainly wasn’t intended to draw the curious eye of the casual fan and mainstream media outlets, now that they’re paying attention, an outstanding month with no fewer than five top level events will showcase some of the brightest stars in the sport and possibly cement Mixed Martial Arts’ standing as the sport of the future.
Without question, August 2009 is the single greatest month to be an MMA fan in the history of the world.
Instead of longingly waiting for that usual one event fix, all but one weekend in August offers a major showcase of some of the best fighters in the sport, beginning with arguably the best of all on August 1st.
Affliction: Trilogy takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California with Fedor Emelianenko taking on long-time friend Josh Barnett for the WAMMA Heavyweight title.
Though not necessarily the household name that Lesnar has quickly become thanks to his WWE past and UFC present, “The Last Emperor” is the unquestioned top heavyweight in the sport today and the Pound for Pound best in the eyes of many.
Emelianenko isn’t the only top name competing on the Affliction card either; while they might only put on an event every six months, there is no denying the impressive lineups that Affliciton’s Tom Atencio rolls out each time.
Former UFC veteran and Strikeforce champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral faces a stiff test from Gegard Mousasi, a 23-year-old riding a twelve fight win streak across several weight classes who is quickly becoming a favorite among MMA fans.
Additionally, Vitor Belfort takes on Jorge Santiago, Paul Buentello faces dangerous striker Gilbert Yvel and Japanese legend “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi returns to North America for the first time in nearly three years to take on Rafaello Oliveira.
Even the preliminary card is impressive, and the best part is that we’re just getting started.
One week later, UFC 101 invades Philadelphia with a long-awaited Lightweight title tilt between champion B.J. Penn and challenger Kenny Florian.
Penn is a polarizing figure in the Mixed Martial Arts community; his legions of fans love him with fierce passion, while his detractors are just as numerous and just as vocal. One thing that is not up for debate is the immense skill and domination “The Prodigy” has displayed in the 155 pound weight class over the last two years.
While Penn and Florian garner top billing on the marquee, the co-Main Event could be even better, as Anderson “The Spider” Silva returns to Light Heavyweight to face The Original Ultimate Fighter and fan favorite Forrest Griffin.
Like Emelianenko, Silva is considered one of the very best in the world, though his last two performances have left many fans longing for the destructive Silva that ran through the UFC Middleweight division upon his arrival three years ago.
If anyone is capable of bringing it out of him, it’s Griffin, a man who is known for rising to the level of his competition and pushing the action from the opening bell to the final seconds of the fight. Fireworks are a very real possibility.
As if that wasn’t enough to fill your weekend, WEC 42 takes place just one night later, headlined by bantamweight title holder Miguel Torres defending against undefeated Brian Bowles.
Though potentially overshadowed by the UFC’s event in Philadelphia the night before, this year’s WEC shows have been a hotbed for highlight and outstanding fights and the Main Event could easily continue that trend.
Originally slated to face each other back in April, Bowles was injured during training, eventually being replaced by Takeya Mizugaki. In his place, the Japanese fighter, who faces veteran Jeff Curran on this card, teamed with Torres to put on one of the early candidates for Fight of the Year.
Now we get the original battle between the 37-1 champion and the 7-0 Bowles who represents Athens, Georgia’s Hardcore Gym, the original home of the aforementioned Forrest Griffin, as well as three other solid main card match-ups.
Believe it or not, there is still more, including what could be a landmark event for the sport.
On August 15, Strikeforce hits San Jose and features Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos and Gina “Conviction” Carano battling for the Womens 145 pound Championship as the Main Event.
Carano, known to many from her time as “Crush” on American Gladiators, has emerged in the last year as the face of female MMA, her unquestionable good looks landing her at #16 in Maxim’s yearly Hot 100 countdown.
Don’t be fooled by those looks either; Carano is as talented inside the ring as she is beautiful outside of it, and Santos might actually be better. This fight will mark the first time that two women have headlined a major promotion and some believe it will serve as a watershed moment for the continued advancement of female fighters everywhere.
As if a potentially historic fight wasn’t enough, the other three fights announced for the Main Card are each title fights as well.
International star and heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem taking on UFC and Pride veteran Fabricio Werdum, a rematch for the Lightweight title between champion Josh Thomson and the man he won the belt from, interim champ Gilbert Melendez, as well as Nick Diaz and Joe Riggs squaring off for the Welterweight title.
After four shows in three weeks, fans get a break over, but just for one weekend, as UFC 102 rounds out an awesome August from Portland at the end of the month, with two icons in the sport meeting for the first time in the night’s Main Event.
Randy “The Natural” Couture and Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira are two of the most successful and most respected fighters in the history of Mixed Martial Arts. Couture is an inspiration to many, earning his first UFC title at age 34 and continuing to dominate now, well into his 40’s.
Nogueira, a long-time staple in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships, fights for the 39th time in his professional career, one that has seen him faces a veritable pantheon of MMA legends, with Couture joining a list that includes Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Josh Barnett and Dan Henderson.
Over the span of 28 days in August, the world has a chance to witness some of the greatest athletes the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has to offer.
There will be no WWE-esque theatrics or post-fight ranting.
There will only be the truly impressive displays of athleticism, talent, respect and sportsmanship the sport has been founded upon.
Hopefully, the mainstream media and the challengers to the sport will still be watching.