[Opinion] UFC on FOX: A Heavy Standard
“Cigano” is gypsy in Portuguese and Junior dos Santos (13-1), who carries that moniker into battle, has finally found his home as the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
He snatched the title from the hands of Cain Velasquez (9-1) in 64 seconds at UFC on FOX from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday night—18-years-after the octagon doors first opened. The 27-year-old’s highly touted boxing was on display in the form of an overhand right that floored “the baddest man on the planet.” That title too carries over to dos Santos, who jokingly proclaimed at the post-fight press conference, “I’m famous!”
UFC President Dana White explained the Brazilian’s mass appeal in his refusal to give into the traps of poverty by selling drugs, instead opting to begin his fight for upward mobility legitimately by selling newspapers and ice cream, and like the world witnessed, achieve his dreams to inspire others through prizefighting. Velasquez, the son of a Mexican immigrant suffering countless deportations from the land of opportunity, seized the most of his 13 months ago by capturing the crown from Brock Lesnar, only to drop it in the same building to dos Santos.
Each fight tells a pre-fight story, in-fight and post-fight story. The UFC for the first time in its history pit American made stars on the stage against each while playing up their international appeal in a historic main event. That formula elevates mixed martial arts to the standards of the “Sweet Science,” a notoriously nationalistic promoter. This was done to speak a familiar prizefighting language to an entirely new audience.
It paid off for this youthful form of prizefighting as Velasquez-dos Santos became the most viewed fight in UFC history with 5.7 million viewers and the most viewed contest since 7 million tuned into Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko eight years ago. The champion versus a clear No. 1 contender, two combatants undefeated in the Octagon in combat sports’ historically attractive division, was over in the blink of an eye. Dos Santos lived on less than $2 a day in his home country, then earned $65,000 for Knockout of the Night for less than two minutes of work to capture the title, fulfilling the promise he made with an emphatic first-round KO of Fabricio Werdum in an his Octagon debut in 2008.
Mixed martial arts’ expectation has always been the finish. Conversely, boxing enjoys the extended display of dominance as its golden standard. The UFC’s free championship bout may not have unveiled a slow burning, high-drama; however, it set the precedent for viewers: MMA is a sprint-at-all-times contest. The UFC’s successful debut was an anomaly one-fight event. Introducing it its natural multiple-fight main card form will round out the experience for television viewers like the in-arena audience experienced this weekend. It’s simply a matter if the heavyweight standard set by the UFC-FOX teaser bout can be replicated four-times-a-year.
For dos Santos, emerging victorious with the heavyweight crown introduces him as the first face for first-time UFC fans—a unique pressure he’s sure to handle with a smile like he did Velasquez.
Listen to Danny Acosta (@AcostaisLegend) every Thursday on Sirius Fight Club (Sirius 94, XM 208). Special thanks to ESPN 1450a.m. Reno with Greg Delong (@GregisOldSchool).