Posts tagged: PRIDE

Inside The Guard, A Versatile Position

Usually the starting point of grappling action in MMA matches, the guard is often overlooked by fans and even fighters, but a fighter using proper technique can prove the position dangerous.

Ortiz inside the butterfly guard of Griffin

The goal of the top fighter in the guard is to utilize ground-and-pound striking while aiming to improve their position. The top fighter also has the option of opening the guard and going for submission attempts.

The goal of the bottom fighter in the guard is most commonly to attempt various submissions off of their back or to escape using sweep techniques to return the fight to their feet. However, there are a few effective strikes from the bottom as well.

There are two basic forms of the guard: the closed guard and the open guard. In the closed guard the bottom fighter has their legs wrapped around the top fighter’s back, as well as their arms in cases. The aim of the closed guard is for the bottom fighter to keep the top fighter’s body as close to theirs as possible, limiting range in order to prevent devastating strikes and set up submission attempts.

In the open guard the bottom fighter uses his legs to control the opponent with the goal being to keep the opponent further away rather than close, because the bottom fighter becomes more vulnerable to strikes. The open guard can be used by the bottom fighter to set up submissions, but is most commonly used to create a sweep in order to return the fight to the feet or transition to the top position.

Alan Belcher trapped in Jason Day's rubber guard at UFC 83. Day lands 10 elbow strikes and 17 unanswered punches

There are various forms of the open guard such as the butterfly guard, the rubber guard, the x-guard, the spider guard, De la Riva guard and 50-50 guard. Arguably the most common in MMA are the butterfly and rubber guard.

The butterfly guard is a position in which the bottom fighter’s legs are hooked with their ankles inside the top fighter’s thighs. This allows for good control of the top fighter’s movements and distancing and allows for effective sweeps.

The rubber guard, created by Eddie Bravo, is gaining popularity and becoming more common in the MMA world. The bottom fighter uses a leg to trap the top opponent in their guard, opening up possibilities for submissions, sweeps and even effective striking from the bottom. Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki has developed one of the most effective rubber guards in MMA along with UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn.

The main goal of the top fighter in the guard is to advance his position. However, striking can be effective. Tito Ortiz is among one of the most effective strikers from the guard in MMA, in great part due to his devastating elbows. Elbows, hammer fists, closed fist strikes, and even Royce Gracie style palm strikes can cause damage from the guard.

Mousasi KO's Jacare via up-kick

Fighters inside an opponents open guard also have the option of standing in the guard to attempt various leg locks, such as knee bars, heel hooks and achilles locks. However, this can make them vulnerable to commonly the most devastating strike from the bottom guard.

Up-kicks have proven to be extremely effective in MMA and are a good tool for fighters on their back. Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi knocked out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in dramatic fashion with a single upkick in the final round of the Dream middleweight grand prix at Dream 6 on September 23, 2008.

The bottom fighter has a clear advantage in the submission game from the guard. The most common submissions pulled off from guard are the guillotine, arm bar, triangle choke and kimura. Other popular submissions are the omoplata and gogoplata, but these techniques are most often used as a sweep to simply transition to the top or a standing position. However, they can be very effective when used from the rubber guard.

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The top fighter must aim to improve his position above all else while in the guard. A ground-and-pound fighter must move out of harms way against a submission specialist rather than being contempt to strike from the guard. Mark Coleman learned this lesson not once, but twice when he was submitted from within WAMMA and former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko‘s guard during Pride FC competition in 2004 and then again in 2006.

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A Legend is Stopped, Others Rebound at UFC 110

Rising star Cain Velasquez defeated the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in dominating fashion in the main event of UFC 110 on Saturday to secure a spot as a top contender for the UFC heavyweight title.

Velasquez v. Nogueira

The two ground specialists exchanged in a brief standup battle in the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.  Velasquez landed a combo, which sent Nogueira to the canvas and he quickly followed up with vicious ground and pound that left Nogueria unconscious.  Referee Herb Dean called for a knockout stoppage, putting an end to the contest at 2:20 in the first round.

“We’ll see what happens with Mir and Carwin – see who wins that – and if the guys come out unscathed, they’ll fight for the title,” said UFC president Dana White at the post-fight press conference.  ”If not, then Cain Velasquez will get that spot.”

Velasquez’s performance earned him “Knockout of the Night” honors along with a $50,000 bonus.

The co-main event featured another legendary brazilian fighter and Pride FC champion in Wanderlei Silva, who squared off against Michael Bisping.  The contest saw both fighters standing and exchanging for the majority of the fight.

Bisping took Silva down several times in the first and second rounds, but was unable to keep him down once on the ground.  Silva caught him in a tight arm-in guillotine off of a Bisping takedown attempt with about 15 seconds left in the second round, but was unable to force a tap.

Silva v. Bisping

Bisping landed two fouls which briefly stopped the action in the middle of the third round: first a kick to the cup of Silva and then a finger to the eye.  Silva took the offensive, coming out swinging for the fences in the last two minutes of the fight.  Silva rushed Bisping and landed a right hook to drop him just before the final bell.

Silva was awarded a unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the contest 29-28 in his favor.

Bisping disagreed with the official decision. “It’s a close fight, but personally, I thought I won rounds one and two,” he said during the post-fight conference.  He also stated that he would love a rematch with Silva in the future.

Australian native George Sotiropoulos defeated Joe Stevenson by unanimous decision in a thrilling and extremely technical match.  Sotiropoulos controlled the fight on the feet, dropping Stevenson in the second and put him in several dangerous situations on the ground utilizing his superior submission game.

All three judges scored the contest 30-27 in a dominant victory for Sotiropoulos.  The match was named the “Fight of the Night” and earned both fighters a $50,000 bonus.

The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner Ryan Bader took down and controlled Keith Jardine on the ground in the first round of the second main-card fight.  Jardine controlled the second round with strong punches and leg kicks and was able to stuff the takedown attempts of Bader.

Bader landed a right hand that hurt Jardine in the third and quickly followed up with a flying knee to the body and a left hook, which dropped Jardine to the canvas.  Referee Josh Rosenthal called for a knockout stoppage, putting an end to the fight at 2:10 of the third round.

Cro Cop v. Perosh

In the first main card fight Croatian legend and Pride FC champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic faced overmatched Australian native Anthony Perosh.  Cro Cop was originally scheduled to face former IFL champion Ben Rothwell who was forced to withdraw just days before the event due to illness.  Perosh took the fight on two days notice.

Cro Cop controlled the fight, landing devastating strikes in the standup and denying Perosh’s numerous takedown attempts.  Perosh continually went for the takedown only to end up in Cro Cops sprawl and to receive brutal ground and pound.

Cro Cop landed a powerful elbow from inside the guard, opening up a cut above Perosh’s eye with about a minute left in the second round.  Cro Cop was awarded a TKO (cut) victory at the end of the second round after a dominant performance.

The “Submission of the Night” along with a $50,000 bonus was awarded to Chris Lytle who countered a takedown from Brian Foster to lock in a kneebar, putting an end to the preliminary card bout at 1:41 of the first round.

UFC 110 marked the organizations first trip to Australia and proved extremely successful for the UFC.  The event saw the second-fastest ticket sell-out in the 16-year history of the UFC.  Dana White announced his intentions to return, to Melbourne, Australia for an event in 2011, during the post-fight press conference.

UFC 110 – FULL

Silva Looks to Rebound at UFC 110

This Saturday Brazilian striker Wanderlei Silva will meet Michael Bisping (18-2) in the main card of UFC 110 in Sydney, Australia.  Silva hopes to rebound from his recent losses in UFC competition and reform himself as an elite middleweight fighter.

Wanderlei Silva

Silva, known as “The Axe Murderer,” “Cachorro Louco” and “Mad Dog,” will make his middleweight (185 lbs) debut this weekend.  Previously fighting in the light-heavyweight division (205 lbs), Silva is the former IVC light-heavyweight champion, the first even Pride middleweight champion (205 lbs) (2001-2007), the 2003 Pride middleweight grand prix tournament winner, and was named the 2004 fighter of the year by Sherdog.

Fighting out of Curitiba, Brazil, Silva developed his devastating muay tai striking at Chute Box Academy under Rudimar Fedrigo.  Upon moving to the United States in 2007 to compete in the UFC, he has trained with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.  Silva is currently training for his upcoming fight at his newly opened facility, Wand Fight Team Academy based in Las Vegas.

Silva holds a professional MMA record of 32-10-1, 1NC coming into his fight at UFC 110.  Despite his impressive record, against top-level opponents, he has lost five of his last six fights, including his last two inside the octagon.  However, Silva hopes to transform himself as a middleweight fighter.

With a strong background in muay tai as well as a black belt in brazilian jiu jitsu under Carlos Gracie Jr., Silva is a complete MMA fighter.  His muay tai skills have proven pivotal and at times devastating throughout his career.  Of his 32 career wins, 20 have come by way of knockout or TKO.

UFC 110 Open Workout

Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson knocked out Silva in their third professional meeting on Dec 27, 2008 at UFC 92.  Jackson landed a quick left hook that sent Silva to the canvas, leaving him unconscious, in the first round (3:21) of the light-heavyweight battle.  Silva was victorious by way of knockout and TKO in their first two fights, which took place in Pride Fighting Championship.

His next fight proved more competitive as Silva lost a unanimous decision to former UFC middleweight champion RichFranklin on June 13 in the main event of UFC 99.  It was a back and forth battle featuring both fighters on their feet striking for the majority of the fight.  The contest, which won fight of the night honors, was fought at a catchweight of 195 lbs.

Despite his reputation as a distinguished striker, Silva’s striking defense has been his most noticeable weakness in recent fights.  In his last six fights he has faced three knockout losses.  Of his 44-fight career Silva had never been knocked out and had only ever been TKO’d twice before this point, one due to a cut.

Silva’s muay tai skills will be extremely relevant in his fight with Bisping and will likely be utilized as often as possible.  Bisping is a striker as well, and is known for keeping the fight standing.   Of Bisping’s 18 career wins, 11 have come by way of knockout or TKO.  The match will likely be a stand-up battle, featuring two talented strikers relatively new to the middleweight division.

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Live pay-per-view coverage of UFC 110 will begin at 10 p.m. EST

Countdown To UFC 110 Video

Bisping-Silva Should Impress

Michael Bisping (ufcmedia.com)

Australia is currently the hotspot for MMA action, as we get ready for UFC 110, which will occur in Sydney. Highlighting the Main Card is the much anticipated Nogueira vs. Velasquez. However, there is another fight that may draw more attention.

Only separated by three years of age, middleweights Wanderlei Silva (33) and Michael Bisping (30) are more dramatically separated by eight years of professional experience. With his first professional bout in 1996, Silva has risen to become not only a great fighter at 32-10-1 (1 NC), but also a great leader and teacher, starting his own fight team (Wand) in Las Vegas, Nev.

Bisping, on the other hand, began his professional career in 2004 at Pride & Glory 2: Battle of the Ages, in which he won the fight in 0:38 with an armbar over Steve Matthews (2-4-0). Since then, Bisping has generated an 18-2 record – his only losses occurring within the past two years. He was undefeated with a record of 14-0 until a loss to Rashad Evans (14-1-1) in 2007 at UFC 78 on a split decision.

More recently, Bisping, also known as “The Count,” added his only other loss against United States wrestling specialist Dan Henderson. Prior to the fight, which occurred at UFC 100 in Las Vegas, Nev., Bisping and Henderson squared off in a different venue: The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom. Bisping coached the UK’s team, as he grew up in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

In a fight with implications of a shot at Anderson Silva for the Middleweight Championship Belt, Bisping looked to improve his record to 15-1 and contendership, but Henderson had other plans. In what seemed to be an evenly matched first round, both fighters exchanged blows using their hands and feet, which is not surprising, beings that Bisping’s style indicates a background in kickboxing, BJJ and Muay Thai.

By the end of the round, it was quite obvious that Wolfslair MMA Academy’s own, Bisping, was fatigued, and at 3:20 in the second round, after another match of punches and kicks from both fighters, Henderson landed two big punches to defeat Bisping via an absolutely ruthless knockout.

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Bisping would rebound nicely, as he ventured off to his homeland of England where he would face off against Canadian BJJ specialist Denis Kang at UFC 105 in Manchester.

The fight would win Fight of the Night honors, and featured a much different Bisping. Contrary to Bisping’s prior fight, his opponent gained complete control of the first round, mounting Bisping twice in the early-going.

Bisping followed with a statement kick to the head, which grazed Kang, and then followed up with two of his own takedowns. After a few jabs and another takedown, Bisping mounted Kang and finished him off with punches and knees. The referee stopped the fight at 4:24 of the second round, declaring Bisping the winner by TKO.

So, will Silva’s quick and aggressive Muay Thai and BJJ style, paired with the extra eight years of professional experience, bode well for the 18-2 Bisping? Bisping certainly thinks so, especially after tweaking his defensive posture, according to an interview on Bisping’s website.

Bisping vs Silva (mmafight.com)

“I’ve been working a lot of my defense, obviously since the Dan Henderson fight,” he commented. “I had no choice. I got knocked out there, and I’m not in a rush for that to happen again. I’ve been working on my defense, and I’ve got no qualms standing with Wanderlei.”

UFC 110 will air on February 21, 2010, and we will find out if Bisping has what it takes to handle a veteran and rank among the top middleweights in the world.

Another title shot for Nogueira reigns possible

As Ultimate Fighting Championship hits Australia for the first time viagra cheap at UFC 110 on Feb. 20, 2010, heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looks to add his 33rd win in MMA competition.

Nogueira vs Velasquez will occur at UFC 110

Nogueira (32-5-1, 1 NC), 33, represents Brazil as he takes a trip to Sydney to highlight the main card at UFC 110 against undefeated heavyweight United States figher Cain Velasquez (7-0-0).

Despite Velasquez’ winning record and fierce wrestling style, Nogueira, also known as Minotauro, brings experience to the table with a black belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo.

Although Nogueira only has five losses, one of those losses came in one of his last two bouts, and was not pretty for the Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil native. UFC 92 (12-27-2008) in Las Vegas, Nev. marked the end of a reign for Minotauro. When 3-1 underdog Frank Mir took the octagon, he immediately took control of the fight, knocking down Nogueria twice with boxing moves. In the second round, Nogueria tried to establish his jabs, but Mir continued to land the big shots, finishing off with back-to-back left hands and the referee stopping the fight. With 1:54 in the second round, Nogueria lost the bout and the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship.

Nogueira would fare better in his next fight, which occurred Aug. 29, 2009 at UFC 102. The event would have taken place about one year earlier had Randy Couture not retired in Oct. 2007. In the meantime, Nogueira would win the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship and become the first fighter to ever hold both PRIDE and UFC belts.

Couture and Nogueira squared off in what would be known as the “loser’s bracket” of the UFC’s mini heavyweight tournament. However, the fight also highlighted the event, being named “Fight of the Night” when all was said and done.

Couture opened the fight strong with some great avoidance and defensive tactics to remain in the stand up game. Eventually, Nogueira’s fists took advantage, taking Couture to the ground and allowing him to get a tight brabo choke on Couture. The second round saw Couture in one of his weaker states, the half guard, for most of the round. Finally, things slow down as Nogueira slowed down his offensive attacks in round three. Despite Couture’s late round efforts with some ground blows, it was not enough. Nogueira took the fight with a unanimous decision: 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.

Looking towards UFC 110, Nogueira sees that a win will likely earn him the right for a future title bout – an honor that his undefeated opponent, Velasquez, will not let go easily. Velasquez has built a reputation to be one of the most talked about heavyweights in the mixed martial arts world, today.

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If Velasquez has any chance of winning this fight, it is with a technical and sound game. Nogueira on the other hand would be best suited to stick to his normal routine, where he has proven that he can win over 80-percent of the time.

Fighters, Trainers at Black House, 'All Part of The Family,' says Ed Soares

Black House MMA is home to some of the most accomplished and promising fighters in all of MMA. Tough Media’s Ed Soares and viagra super active Jorge Guimaraes founded the private facility, based out of Los Angeles, CA, in order to provide a place for the fighters they represent to train when in the area.

Tough Media is a management company headed by Soares and Guimaraes, co-owners and operators of Black House MMA.

Guimaraes and Soares are extremely influential and successful figures in the MMA world.  Guimaraes came to America with the Gracie family and quickly became an ambassador for the sport of MMA.   Guimaraes has worked with Pride and the UFC and in 1997 launched “Passing The Guard,” a show focused on MMA news and coverage: the first of its kind.  Soares, owner of Sinister Brand Clothing, joined Guimares to produce the show on American television in April of 2004.

Ed Soares and Anderson Silva

“Black House is not so much a team, but a facility for all the fighters,” said Ed Soares in a recent interview via telephone.  ”Each fighter has a different set of trainers, depending upon who they’re fighting next and their strategy.  Each fighter has a camp tailored to his needs.”

Black House hosts an impressive list of MMA superstars including, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Junior Dos Santos, Pedro Rizzo, Paulo Filho, Wagney Fabiano, Thales Leites, Diego Nunes, Chase Gormley, Andre Galvao, Fabricio Camoes, Glover Teixeira, Mario Miranda and Rafael Cavalcante.

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Black House fighter and UFC heavyweight contender, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, has an upcoming match-up against Cain Velasquez on Feb. 21 in the main event of UFC 110. Nogueira left Brazilian Top Team to train with Black House in 2007 and has gone 3-1 in the UFC since.

Rodrigo Nogueria with trainer Luiz Alves

Nogueira is currently training in San Diego with training partners Mark Munoz and Junior Dos Santos, according to Soares. Nogueira is working with his boxing coach Luiz Dorea and his new muay tai coach Billy Schiebe in preparation for the fight.

Nogueira’s regular muay tai coach since 2000, Luiz Alves, suffered a stroke and crashed his car into a post in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on Jan. 26. Alves, president of the Brazilian Muay Thai Federation, remains hospitalized. The accident marks a huge blow to Nogueira’s camp.

Dominant UFC middleweight champion and arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Anderson Silva, is in preparation for his main event title defense against Vitor Belfort on Apr. 10 at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. Silva is currently training with coach Josuel Distak, a former trainer of Belfort, for his upcoming fight, according to Soares.

Anderson Silva's Training Crew

Silva is working with his muay thai coach Daniel Woirin, stregnth and conditioning coach Rogerio Camoes and boxing coach Cesario in preparation for the fight. He often works on his boxing with legendary trainer Freddie Roach as well.

Silva is working with his training partners, Andre Galvao, Rafael Cavalcante and Ronaldo Souza. Silva and Nogueira often train together as well.

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“It’s not so much the coaches. It’s the group of people he trains with. Anderson is different. He puts on a good camp,” said Soares.

Coleman attempts to put Team Hammer House back on center stage

Mark “The Hammer” Coleman’s Team Hammer House has fallen on hard times as of late.  However, Coleman hopes to turn the trend around as he meets another MMA great and fellow UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture this weekend at UFC 109 Relentless.

Team Hammer House is a MMA team operating out of Columbus, Ohio, focused on amateur wrestling, and made up of mostly former NCAA wrestlers.  The team has cross training deals with notable fighters and camps such as Matt Serra, Pat Miletich, and Xtreme Couture MMA.

The main strengths of Team Hammer House are its wrestling and ground-and-pound.  Coleman is credited with being one of the first American MMA fighters to successfully use the strategy of ground-and-pound, which has earned him the nickname of the “Godfather of Ground-and-Pound.”

Coleman, the founder of Team Hammer House, holds numerous accomplishments in the world of professional MMA.  He is a UFC Hall of Famer, the first ever UFC heavyweight champion, and the winner of the UFC 10 tournament, UFC 11 tournament, and 2000 Pride openweight GP tournament.  Coleman, like many of his teammates at Hammer House, is a former NCAA collegiate wrestler.

Team Hammer House holds a roster with several prominent fighters, including four UFC veterans: two of whom are former UFC champions. The team’s notable fighters include: Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Wes Sims and Branden Lee Hinkle.  Phil Baroni, a UFC, Pride and Strikeforce veteran, is a former member of Team Hammer House.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman is a senior member of  Team Hammer House. Randleman, a former collegiate wrestler and two time Division I NCAA champion, was defeated by Mike Whitehead via unanimous decision in June of 2009 during his Strikeforce debut at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields.  The fight marked his first fight in over a year due to a shoulder injury, as well as his first fight in America in nearly seven years.  In his most recent fight Randleman was defeated by Stanislav Nedkov via split decision at World Victory Road Presents: Sengoku 11.

Wes Sims, three-fight UFC veteran  and The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights cast member, recently fought Bobby Lashley on the main card of Strikeforce: Miami. Sims was stopped in the first round via technical knock out (2:06).

Branden Lee Hinkle, three-fight UFC veteran and NCAA Division II national wrestling champion, was stopped by Chris Tuchscherer in round 4 (4:43) of his most recent fight at SNMMA: Beatdown at Four Bears. Hinkle has lost four of his last five fights after going undefeated in his previous nine matches.

Coleman scored a unanimous decision victory over Stephan Bonner in his last fight at UFC 100 after falling to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua via technical knock out in the third round (4:36) at UFC93.  He is currently training with Team Hammer House in preparation for his match with Randy Couture this Saturday Feb. 6 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV.

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Live pay-per-view coverage of UFC 109 will begin at 10 p.m. EST.

Nothing But Pride

Say you were a world-class MMA fighter, and you wanted to showcase your skills. Before 2007, there was only one organization you needed know: Pride Fighting Championships.

Pride was a Japan-based MMA organization that held more than sixty events, one of which, Shockwave/Dynamite in August of 2002, held the largest live MMA event audience record of over 70,000 people. So how did this hugely successful organization come to an end? Read on to find out!

Conceived in 1997, Pride Fighting Championships held events that searched for ‘the world’s best fighter.’ The Pride Grand Prix was one of the first events to pose the competition, with American fighter Mark Coleman winning national fame and recognition, as well as the tournament.

In August 2002, Pride teamed up with Japan’s leading kickboxing and fight promotion, K-1, and held the world’s biggest fight event, Shockwave, (known as Pride/K-1 Dynamite!! in Japan), which attracted over 70,000 fans. That’s more fans than the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns combined have attracted all season! (Probably).

Riding it’s new millennium success, Pride introduced multiple new events in 2003: Bushido (Japanese for ‘way of the warrior’), a series of events focusing on the lighter weights of lightweight and welterweight fights; Total Elimination 2003 and Final Conflict 2003, a two-event middleweight grand prix that added Critical Countdown 2004 a year later as a third event; and annual tournaments in the following years for all weight classes. Needless to say, Pride was at the top of its game.

So what happened to Pride? It became so popular that it realized it’s own success and looked to go even higher. By 2007 UFC had already established itself as the premier fighting organization. In March, Pride was sold to UFC, they merged, and Pride had realized it’s full potential. Today, the only true way you’ll get to see a Pride event is on DVD. UFC is now a dominant force, and Pride is now a member of the strongest MMA promotion family in the business.

Check out more about Pride here, as well as the video embedded below. YouTube Preview Image

MMA: Still A Niche Sport?

In 1993 Rorion Gracie and Art Davie organized an eight man single elimination tournament. The tournament, known as The Ultimate Fighting Championship, pitt masters of different martial arts against one another to determine which fighting style was most superior. When the tournament aired it was a mini hit. Unknown to him at the time, Gracie had uncovered the niche market and fan-base for the sport we now know today as MMA.

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Since then, countless sanctioning organizations have tried to organize MMA “leagues.” Among the more popular ones today are Affliction, Elite XC, and PRIDE. However, none have reached the success or popularity of the UFC, which seized the market through their popular television show, The Ultimate Fighter, now in it’s tenth season, and used popular television personalities like Joe Rogan to analyze and announce events.

In the last few years, the UFC has become synonymous with MMA.

However it was not until this summer that the UFC reached the “next level” of popularity. A level that spans across countries and is able to draw millions of viewers. With the release of their first video game UFC 2009 Undisputed, their first event in mainland Europe, and the record breaking 100th card on July 11th, the UFC’s popularity has exploded, which begs the question – is MMA still a niche sport?

Yes. I believe it still is.

I also believe that the niche is growing. The test of the UFC’s popularity hangs in question as long as The Ultimate Fighter is still airing. When that show comes off the air, it will be interesting to see what direction the UFC takes to maintain its growth. If they lose much of their exposure and on the fence fans when the show is taken off television, well then MMA as a whole is likely to take a serious blow to fan following.

Popularity lies in the young generation of fight fans. This being the case, the UFC still has to prove that it is not a generational fad; like roller blades or boy bands. As demographics begin to change, so will the popularity of the UFC, for better or worse.

I think the UFC is past the point where it could die out completely, leaving it to go in one of two directions. The UFC can level off in popularity just as professional wrestling did in the late 1990’s, or experience huge growth, and rise to the level of a second rate mainstream sport like tennis or soccer.

I think that the latter of the two situations is more likely. On the other hand, an explosion of MMA and the UFC out of it’s niche into the mainstream does not seem too farfetched. However, It is still way too early to predict what direction the sport will head in.

If the UFC can maintain their growing popularity through the next decade, they will have a cemented place in sports and entertainment. I think they can do this. The UFC has already proven it’s marketability. Now they must expand on it.

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