The Weekly Wrap: July 4 - July 10 - Top Story

By: Jack Encarnacao
Jul 11, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

Top Story

UFC 100, set for Saturday in Las Vegas, has the potential to be the most lucrative show in UFC history and the most-bought non-boxing event in the history of pay-per-view. The UFC’s marketing machine did all it could to ensure that milestone was achieved in the final week leading up to the show.

UFC programming and coverage saturated the airwaves and Internet, highlighted by a memorable “Countdown to UFC 100” special on Spike TV that drew by far the highest rating in the history of the series. An average of 1.1 million people viewed the hype show, according to WrestlingObserver.com. No other Countdown show has exceeded 900,000 viewers, including the premiere airings of the three UFC “Primetime” specials that promoted the Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn rematch at UFC 94 -- a fight that produced 925,000 pay-per-view buys, according to the Wrestling Observer. There were several reports that the UFC expects 1.5 million buys for the show, which would top the 1.23 million buys record set by Wrestlemania 23 for the most-bought non-boxing pay-per-view of all time. UFC 100 sold out shortly after tickets became available, and some prime seats are fetching as much as $40,000 on ticket re-sale Web sites.

The “Countdown” show did a remarkable job of heightening the tension between headliners Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir. In addition to training footage and interviews, the special featured scenes built around both heavyweights viewing a tape of their first fight in February 2008, which Mir won by kneebar in the first round. Mir sarcastically psychoanalyzed Lesnar and mocked his defense of the fight-ending submission. Lesnar, who referred to the kneebar as “the Christmas present,” got heated watching himself tap out multiple times before referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped the fight. Mazzagatti had earlier called a questionable stand-up when Lesnar struck the back of Mir’s head. Recalling this on “Countdown,” Lesnar stormed out of the room and punched a wall, dislodging a door. Herb Dean will referee the Lesnar vs. Mir rematch.

In addition to the heavyweight clash, the one-hour special mostly focused on the Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson battle of “The Ultimate Fighter 9” coaches. There was a shorter glimpse at the welterweight title fight between St. Pierre and Thiago Alves, perhaps the most anticipated UFC 100 matchup among hardcore fans. St. Pierre’s manager, Shari Spencer, told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show that filming for the 170-pound title fight simply did not produce the histrionics Mir vs. Lesnar did. UFC President Dana White decried the lack of buzz about the welterweight title during a Thursday press conference.

In addition to “Countdown,” the UFC also aired a five-part series on Spike TV counting down the 100 greatest fights in company history -- the final episode will air an hour before UFC 100 goes live. The UFC claimed two million fans voted from a list of 181 fights to create the ranking. For unknown reasons, bouts won by UFC personae non grata like Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich -- including classics like Frank Shamrock vs. Ortiz and Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin -- were not eligible for voting. The shows seemed more geared toward pairing personality profiles of the UFC’s current top stars with their signature fights. It was expected that the seminal Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight from the first “The Ultimate Fighter” Finale in 2005 would be deemed number one. That match took the top spot in a similar list featured in a commemorative magazine the UFC released for UFC 100.

UFC 100 has received heightened attention from the sports media. ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” discussed the event, and the network’s “MMA Live” will be doing several days of coverage from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, with Randy Couture as a guest analyst. The UFC on Friday kicked off its first fan expo, which was expected to draw 30,000 to 50,000 fans and feature a grappling tournament and meet-and-greets with UFC fighters. As part of the festivities, the company inducted Chuck Liddell and the late Tapout impresario Charles “Mask” Lewis into the UFC Hall of Fame. In another UFC 100 public relations coup, the promotion announced that former Playboy model and E! Television reality television star Holly Madison will serve as a special guest ring card girl for the event.

Additionally, the UFC made two significant announcements about television clearances for UFC 100. The event will air live in the United Kingdom on Sky 433, a subscription channel that was once known as Racing World and featured horse races. The show will air at 3 a.m. local time after six hours of UFC hype programming. The UFC suddenly found itself without a UK television outlet when debt-ridden Setanta Sports folded last month. Sky 433 has limited availability, so the company will offer a free stream of UFC 100 for UK residents at uk.ufc.com. Stateside fans who order UFC 100 on the Internet will also get free videos of the preliminary fights.

The landmark event, being billed as the biggest in company history, will be much easier to find in Mexico and on DVD. The promotion announced UFC 100 will air free on the Televisa Channel 9 network across Mexico. The channel is part of Televisa, the largest media company in the Spanish-speaking world. The broadcast will serve as a precursor to the extensive UFC presence on the Televisia Deportes Network, a new sports station that will launch in Mexico this summer. The UFC also announced it has signed a new DVD distribution deal with Anchor Bay Entertainment, which promises more timely releases of events, starting with UFC 100. Turnaround time was an issue with prior DVD distributors. UFC 96 from March, for instance, was not expected to hit shelves until August.

All 22 fighters booked to compete at UFC 100 made weight without incident at the official weigh-in on Friday.

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