Sunday, June 21, 2009
Scouring the Interwebs as I do every morning, I've come across more than a few people expressing surprise at the number of references to non-UFC fighters that came up during last night's Ultimate Fighter Finale show.
After years of pretending on camera that the UFC operates in a vacuum where all Mixed Martial Arts outside of the UFC fails to exist, last night's name-dropping is a sign that the UFC just might be getting their collective heads out of their asses and starting to give credit where credit is due, and that includes a little love to the fans.
Honestly, there was no real need for Joe Rogan to mention Shinya Aoki when discussing Diego Sanchez' need for more flexibility when he has someone on his guard; the UFC Lightweight champion is BJ Penn, a human Gumby in his own right. But those in the know (read: you, me and the rest of us MMA addicts) know that Aoki is not only the Japanese Stretch Armstrong, but he scores crazy submission wins with that flexibility, while Penn mainly uses it defensively.
Shouting out the Bas Rutten - Kevin Randleman fight from back in the day was unexpected and very cool too. Too many current fight fans only know Bas Rutten as the excitable guy from Inside MMA on HDNet or as Kimbo Slice's trainer and neither are even close to fully encompassing who Bas Rutten is.
The one that really caught me off guard was Dana White's full out admission that he's trying to sign -slash - willing to go after Vitor Belfort during his stale interview with Amir Sadollah. By the way, is that guy every going to fight? Anyway...
Normally, Dana gets all cryptic and tells you he's working on things or something big might be coming, but not last night. Asked, White flat out answered that he's targeting Vitor Belfort and even gave a quick bio on the guy.
Maybe I'm over-analyzing things, but to me, this is progress. After years of listen to Dana put down everyone and anyone not fighting in the UFC and almost failing to recognize that there might be some talent in other organizations, he's on camera as a booster of Vitor Belfort as a challenger to one of his top draws.
Couple that with the Rogan references and it looks to me like the UFC is starting to realize that while there are people out there who remain UFC-centric, there is a growing population of followers who have branched out and experienced other organizations and it's time to acknowledge what they know as well.
Or, Rogan was just wasted and Aoki was the first name that came to mind, UFC or not.