Image Credit: Kyle Terada | USA TODAY Sports
There really isn’t a lot of buzz around tonight’s UFC 178.
Sure, some hardcore fans, including MMA media, are excited — but in a sad way.
178 is an awesome card, I'm very excited for it but don't expect much for PPV buys. Main events sell the PPV
— Brent Brookhouse (@brentbrookhouse) September 26, 2014
Mr. Brookhouse is probably right — on both counts. Most fans want to see big ticket bouts like the Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson rematch — one year in the making! — which was originally scheduled for tonight’s main event. Or, the Jones/Daniel Cormier bout which was supposed to replace it. (Injuries nixed both.)
The main event of Demetrious Johnson vs. Chris Caraiso just isn’t that one big, glamorous fight to sell to the public. The champion has failed to gather interest; he headlined UFC 174, which garnered only 115,000 buys, the lowest since 2005. The challenger, Chris Caraiso, hasn’t even fought in a PPV main card.
So yes, UFC 178, despite solid, top-ten ranked fighters throughout the show, is missing that big fight.
Here’s the thing — I’ve seen that before. You might be surprised when and where.
When the lineup for PRIDE 10 was announced almost 15 years ago, I was frequenting a mostly pro-wrestling message board — which featured an odd green background and a bright yellow font.
I vaguely remember posting about how good it looked. (The card, not that weird green-on-yellow message board.)
But, first response? “This is gonna tank.” I still remember that — nothing vague about it, or the message sent. (I actually remember who wrote it, too, but eh, I’ll keep that to myself.)
You wouldn’t believe it today, but some fans actually expressed disappointment at the Renzo Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba main event. Sakuraba had beaten Royler Gracie and Royce Gracie already, and these folks only wanted to see Rickson Gracie as a Saku opponent. Renzo was coming off a loss to Kiyoshi Tamura, they said. What’s the point?
The rest of the event? Guys like Wanderlei Silva were matched interestingly on the undercard, but come on — they weren’t exactly headliners (no, really!). Why get excited?
So went the logic.
So, what happened? I won’t lie, I’m not sure how business went that night, maybe it did tank — although it’s listed a sellout. PRIDE attendance and TV numbers probably aren’t any more reliable than their drug testing anyway.
But I know that August 27, 2000, an MMA classic happened at PRIDE 10.
Kazushi Sakuraba and Renzo Gracie combined for a spectacular fight, probably the best remembered of the “Gracie Hunter” saga. How respected was it? Eddie Goldman essentially offered a move-by-move recap in Grappling Magazine that year. (Look at the excitement about the two’s “rematch” in an upcoming grappling-only affair at Metamoris this year.)
Sakuraba recorded possibly his best career victory that night; and in defeat, Renzo Gracie added to his own legend. He asked for no special rules, lost with dignity, and, despite what some predicted, he offered no excuses.
That night, Enson Inoue added to his legend — also in defeat. He absorbed perhaps the worst sustained beating in MMA history, refusing to fold through it all.
Wanderlei Silva and Gilbert Yvel also scored viscous knockout victories that night. Names like Vitor Belfort and Ricco Rodriguez dot the undercard.
Looking at PRIDE 10 today, you see legends in unforgettable moments.
That’s partly because it happened at a time when we had few shows and every event was a happening. Sure. It was a very different time. A flyweight world champion? We barely had weight classes in 2000, outside of Shooto.
But it’s partly because they made their legends that night.
We can’t re-create the days of scarcity. We won’t see legend after legend filling a card. But this is what we can have: top ten fighters at every turn — and maybe, just maybe, the chance for a legend to be made.