As we've noted multiple times now, the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos fight on UFC On Fox 1: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos is one of major significance. It's significant to us because Velasquez, the champion, was born in Salinas, CA and fights out of San Jose, CA - he's been honored by the city for his accomplishments in MMA. More champions based in California will likely mean more fight cards in California - likely headlined by said champions.
But it holds so much more significance. The words "network debut" continue to appear in this pieces and it can't be stressed enough how big this card and this fight is for the UFC. It's such a big deal that Bloody Elbow recently asked the question - is this fight more important to the UFC than the fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar on the Ultimate FIghter 1 Finale. They asked the question in a recent round table discussion, and it's certainly an interesting one.
That fight was so important because it signified the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, a hugely successful reality TV show that served as a gateway into a full UFC contract for a house of hopeful fighters. It occurred at a point where the UFC was really struggling and it was a huge leap of faith - despite how good the season itself was, it really all depended on that one fight on the finale and the hype behind it.
What followed was a bloody slugest in which Griffin eventually won and the UFC was propelled to new heights. Here's some excerpts, the first one being from folks who don't think it's as significant:
Leland Roling - No. Without the significance of Griffin-Bonnar, we probably aren't where we are at today in terms of opportunity.
Tim Burke - I agree with Leland. Griffin/Bonnar was the culmination of a 10 million dollar experiment that very nearly bankrupted the company. If that fight wasn't what it was, the UFC likely wouldn't be owned by the Fertittas anymore.
Though there is some sentiment that it could possibly be as important:
Matt Roth - I think this is possibly more important just because of what's at stake. The UFC has been trying to "legitimize" the sport for years. They finally have the chance to pull in an audience that doesn't know anything about the sport, who most likely still call it cage fighting. If the fight is a complete bust, this could force the UFC and Fox to reevaluate their plan. They're planning to interview the fighters much in the same way they do with the Superbowl. Even the format could negatively affect the fight.
They're both definitely good points. The biggest thing to note here is the fact that in this fight, Velasquez and dos Santos are representing the future of not just an organization, but a sport in general. If it doesn't go well, that doesn't mean the UFC will suddenly be in debt and the sport is doomed, but if it does go well, it can mean so many huge things for the sport.
While it's hard to argue that one fight is more significant than the other, this certainly seems like the point that Griffin-Bonnar was setting up. One fight could only push it so far, and maybe that served its purpose, to bring on the second phase of the UFC's growth - through Velasquez vs. dos Santos.