The Ultimate Fighting Champioships (UFC) have recently announced a global media event that will stream live through www.ufc.com entitled “The Time Is Now”.
The event will be hosted by UFC President Dana White and is set to launch an incredible slate of upcoming events including most if not all of the key dates in the 2015 schedule. Irish Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans will tune in to see if their incredible support for last July’s UFC Dublin event will be rewarded with a return fixture next year. UFC Dublin was one of the fastest selling events in the promotions 21 year history.
The UFC have also said there will be a very special announcement on the night. We can only speculate as to what this might be. The UFC have been trying to sign the star of Steven Soderbergh’s action movie ‘Haywire’ and former Women’s MMA poster-girl Gina Carano for some time, maybe they finally got pen to paper. With event Pay-Per-View numbers in having hit a tough spot in 2014 maybe former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre and/or the WWE’s Brock Lesnar are on the way back from hiatus, both having consistently brought in good PPV audiences.
Part of the UFC’s success in expanding globally has been their reality show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). In addition to the show being a source of talent it also helps introduce the athletes and the sport to new TV audiences. Having run TUF series in Australia, China, Canada, Latin America and Brazil there could be a series dedicated to Europe in the offing.
While expanding the fan base of MMA the UFC has also increased its number of fighters and weight classes over the last few years. Having traded with the staple divisions of Heavyweight, Light-Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight and Lightweight the UFC added Featherweight and Bantamweight in 2010. They went on to add Flyweight in 2011 and a Women’s Bantamweight division was added in 2012. This year TUF 20 is currently being televised to launch the new Women’s Straw-weight division and crown its inaugural champion. Will we get even more divisions in 2015? A Straw-weight division would round out their male offering and a Women’s Atom weight and Flyweight would seem like the next step for the ladies divisions.
“The Time Is Now” event will also feature the largest compilation of champions, contenders and main event headliners on the same stage for a Q&A session. The event, which is open for public viewing, will take place at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas on Monday, November 17th, and will be streamed live on www.ufc.com.
Sitting front and centre will the UFC’s most prized possession, Dublin’s own Conor McGregor. After successfully defeating Dustin Poirier in September, taking his UFC record to 4-0, McGregor is favourite to have the next crack at current UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo some time in 2015.
Rubbing shoulders with Conor on The Smith Center stage will be
• Jon Jones – current and longest serving UFC light-heavyweight title holder, the UFC’s youngest ever title holder and many peoples #1 ranked ‘pound for pound’ fighter in the world
• Ronda Rousey – undefeated ladies UFC bantamweight champion and the person who practically forced the UFC to embrace Women’s Mixed Martial Arts.
• Chris Weidman – undefeated UFC middleweight champion having beaten one of the greatest fighters of all time, Anderson Silva, twice to win and retain the belt.
• Anderson Silva - Silva is for many people the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in MMA. He holds the record for the longest title defence streak in UFC history, which ended in 2013 with 10 title defences. He went unbeaten in 16 fights across the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions.
• Lyoto Machida – A former UFC light-heavyweight champion, Machida is famous for his karate style. He currently fights in the middleweight division and is in line for a title shot.
• Nick Diaz – one of MMA’s characters, Diaz has been a champion in other organisations but fell short in his title bid in the UFC. He will return after a 2 year hiatus to fight Anderson Silva at the end of January 2015.
The official press release stated “The Time Is Now” event will announce the entire 2015 schedule. If true, this is an unprecedented move. Normally, events dates have been drip fed throughout the year with new dates being announced 3-6 months in advance of the event date. To release an entire calendar of events for 2015 will have taken some planning but I’ve no doubt will be subject to change through the year as fighter injuries and other considerations have typically influenced UFC schedules in recent years.
With so much expansion in the last few years its hard to imagine what the UFC could have up its sleeve to announce on November 17th. Since teetering on the brink of extinction back in 2005 the UFC grown to become the premier MMA organization in the world. In doing so it has pushed MMA into new territories and media. Their events are broadcast in 129 countries and territories to nearly 1 billion TV households worldwide in 28 different languages. In 2014, UFC launched UFC Fight Pass, a digital subscription service with exclusive live events, thousands of fights on-demand and original content. At the time of writing the UFC event in Dublin last July was the most watched event broadcast on Fight Pass.
Suffice to say Dana White and the UFC don’t usually do ‘small’ when they’ve gone to the effort of getting people together for an event. Exactly what they have to announce is anyone’s guess. We’ll just have to tune in and find out.