Lately, I’ve been hearing grumblings from a lot of restless sports fans because they feel there’s nothing worth tuning in for during these dog days of summer. Football training camps are still a month away, most NBA and NHL teams have no money or no interest in the free agents available and even Tiger Woods can’t be bothered to show up for his own golf tournament. So unless you’re a diehard baseball purist who enjoys 18-17 pitcher’s duels, you’re pretty much out of luck. Or so they say.
While most folks were forced to watch the Serena and Venus battle in the “women’s” final at Wimbledon or Kyle Busch win another NASCAR race, I was at my local watering hole watching the most exciting sporting event of the weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s UFC 86 pay-per-view.
So in honor of the octagon, here are eight reasons why folks should tune in and see what they’re missing with the UFC:
1. Joe Rogan – You may remember him from such hits as Fear Factor and News Radio, but Rogan is the color commentator for UFC broadcasts. And much like when he’s at a Carlos Mencia comedy show, Rogan’s not afraid to call people out when he feels it’s warranted.
But don’t think that Joe’s just brought in because he’s a Hollywood name. No, the man knows his stuff. That’s probably because he first started mixed martial arts at the age of 13.
Fun fact: Rogan can probably kick your ass – he’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsui.
2. The Octagon Girls – Click this link.
Fun fact: Nuf’ said.
3. Rich Franklin – About a week ago, I had the opportunity to interview Franklin and was surprised at how funny the guy can be. I guess that’s because, up until this point, all I had seen was him in fight mode. But the dude is definitely funny.
Me: When the UFC first came out, John McCain, a guy who may very well be the next president of the United States, described it as “human cockfighting.” Fast forward to last year, and Time magazine estimates the UFC is valued over one billion dollars. So let me ask – what’s been the secret to success and what’s changed since those darker days?
Franklin: I guess people like human cockfighting now.
Fun fact: Prior to his UFC career, Franklin was a high school mathematics teacher in Ohio. Five bucks says he could make Ned Bitters cry with one hand tied behind his back.
4. Forrest Griffin – For starters, this goofy-looking 29-year-old walked away from a career in law enforcement and went on to win season one of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, which is largely credited for putting UFC on the map with mainstream America. If that wasn’t enough, last weekend this fan favorite became the first-ever Ultimate Fighter contestant to win a belt when he captured the light heavyweight title in an instant classic in the main event of UFC 86.
Fun fact: Despite having his arm broke by Edson Paredao in the early stages of a match in December 2003, Griffin went on to knock out his opponent – before the first round ended.
5. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – He’s part Junkyard Dog from the old World Wrestling Federation, part Shaquille O’Neal and part Bald Bull from the classic Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! video game. For pure entertainment value, he even comes out with a big-ass chain around his neck and howls into the night before and after fights.
Those amateurs who think Kimbo Slice is actually a good fighter should turn their attention to the man they call Rampage (it’s fitting Slice used to be homeless, because he’s a poor man’s version of Jackson). Both fighters shun fancy martial arts maneuvers, preferring to just step up and whoop ass. The biggest difference is that while Slice is beating up on proverbial tomato cans, Jackson has defeated names you’ve actually heard of like Dan Henderson and Chuck Lidell.
Fun fact: Three of Jackson’s four kids have Rampage as a middle name. The fourth’s middle name is simply Page. We officially have a George Foreman situation here.
6. Georges “Rush” St-Pierre – This Canadian badass is so good, people simply refer to him as GSP. Oh, and he’s the current welterweight champion, after embarrassing Matt Hughes and crushing Matt Serra in his last two fights. Considering those are the only two fighters who’ve actually defeated St-Pierre, it’s understandable that people are now trying to figure out what’s next for the Jean-Claude Van Damme-clone in the banana hammock.
Fun fact: St-Pierre began karate at the age of six because a bully would steal his clothes and money … Wait, did we just claim Canada has bullies?
7. B.J. Penn – At UFC 80, Penn was fighting Joe Stevenson for the vacant lightweight title. The 29-year-old Hawaiian opened a huge cut on Stevenson’s forehead in the first round, managed to get covered in Stevenson’s blood and then made Stevenson tap out to a rear-naked choke in the second round of the one-sided fight. So what did Penn do to celebrate the victory? Lick his opponent’s blood off of his gloves, like a mad man or gladiator.
Fun fact: His nickname “B.J.” is short for “Baby Jay,” his entrance music is a song by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, and yet, he’s one of the most dominant fighters in the UFC.
8. Anderson “Spider” Silva – Without question, Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the business today. He’s been the middleweight champion since last October and no one has gotten even remotely close to his title. In fact, Silva is so much better than everyone else that later this month he’ll be moving up a weight class for the first time to take on James Irvin during a Spike TV broadcast, Saturday, July 19. If you’re on the fence about the UFC, then set the Tivo or the DVR to record this fight and see what all the hype is about.
Fun fact: Silva and his manager wanted “Spider” to fight Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match, to prove that MMA guys are fighters too. Unfortunately, UFC president Dana White said he’d make sure it never happened as long as Silva is a part of the UFC.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter, and still doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.