This Day in MMA History: July 11

By: Ben Duffy
Jul 11, 2020

On July 11, 2017, the first episode of what we now call Dana White's Contender Series aired. Originally called “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series,” the show was constructed as a legally separate entity from the Ultimate Fighting Championship—including a separate promoter’s license for White—but took place in the UFC’s Las Vegas facility, was broadcast over UFC Fight Pass and had the express purpose of seeking new talent for the flagship promotion.

For the trivia-minded, the fighters who received UFC contracts that evening were featherweight Kurt Holobaugh—even though his DWTNCS win was later overturned due to an improper IV violation—and bantamweight Boston Salmon. They were not the only winning fighters that night to end up in the UFC, however: Azunna Anyanwu did not receive a contract on the spot, but was called up as a short-notice replacement a few months later, while Charles Byrd appeared on the Contender Series again a month later and received a contract after his second win. In so doing, both men set precedents that have become commonplace since then.

While none of those four remains in the UFC today, the Contender Series has become a reliable pipeline for new talent to reach the big show. Its success has been twofold; not only does the show bring up-and-coming fighters into the promotion, those fighters have already been exposed to at least a significant portion of UFC fans by virtue of having been on Fight Pass, rather than having fought most recently in regional promotions with varying broadcast access and production values. Any fighter who comes to the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series has a ready-made hype reel for his or her first fight.
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