MMA as a sport is undoubtedly about more than just 1 company, I have no doubt we can all agree on this. However let me ask you a question, without the UFC would you be a fan of the sport today?
For a lot of people, and I include myself, the answer to this question is no. Yes it is true that I have had an interest in the martial arts for as long as I can remember however it was finding the UFC, or to be more accurate a season of The Ultimate Fighter, one afternoon while off work that properly introduced me to MMA as a sport and I haven’t looked back since.
It is this week as the UFC celebrates it’s 20th Anniversary that I find myself thinking back fondly to those days, starting to watch events and catching up on recent fights to get some context, then getting totally drawn in researching the history of the UFC and MMA as a whole, expanding my horizons to other organisations, developing my knowledge of the sport and more specifically grappling which I did not have much experience of at the beginning, taking my first BJJ class, delving into the local scene here in Glasgow and further afield, starting HDHU (Head Down Hands Up) which eventually brings me here to Kumite.
In essence what I am trying to say is that in 7 short years this sport has become a massive and important part of my life and it would not be that way without the UFC. The best thing about all of this is that in the grand scheme of things we are still only at the beginning. Even with the leaps and bounds that the UFC has taken within the past 5 years, I honestly believe that we have still only scratched the surface of the sport which MMA could eventually become and regardless of what you think about The Ultimate Fighting Championship or those that run it, they are the ones that are going to continue to push the boundaries which in turn will help feed the rest of the sport growing below it.
With UFC 167 coming up this weekend we have the perfect opportunity to both look back at everything that we have enjoyed and all that has brought us to this point, as well as gaze forward to the future. We have the well known veterans like Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen, Thales Leites & Josh Koscheck fighting alongside current and potential future contenders like Rory MacDonald, Robbie Lawler, Erik Perez & Sergio Pettis. The main event on Saturday night especially encompasses this ethos with one of the best pound for pound mixed martial artists in history, Georges St. Pierre facing off against the rising star and No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks. Either history will prevail and GSP will complete another chapter of his legacy or a new era will begin with a changing of the guard.
For me it looks like the perfect card to usher in the next 20 years and I cannot wait to see what the future brings for the UFC.