When I asked the “Voice of the Octagon,” Bruce Buffer, what he was getting at with the catchphrase that has become synonymous with the UFC, he didn’t hesitate to explain it.
“I thought, ‘You know, we’ve been here in this arena for five hours, these fighters have spent six to eight weeks or more training for this one moment. It truly is time.’ And those two words can be put in front or behind any sentence and it will fit. ‘It’s time’ works and it’s what it’s about. It’s a call to arms. It’s the clarion call of the pure integrity of the competitive spirit. That’s why I roar it out in the main event.”
On July 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, expect to hear Buffer in full battle mode when Daniel Cormier meets Jon Jones for the second time in the main event of UFC 200.
MORE ON UFC 200: Tickets On Sale Now | Complete fight card | Live in Las Vegas on July 9 from brand new T-Mobile Arena | Cormier vs Jones to headline UFC 200 | Brock Lesnar returns to fight Mark Hunt | Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar 2 meet for interim title | Aldo vows aggression | Cain Velasquez faces Travis Browne in critical heavyweight clash of top contenders | Dillashaw-Assuncao II set | Johny Hendricks meets Kelvin Gastelum | The home of UFC 200
And when Brock Lesnar returns to face Mark Hunt…when Miesha Tate defends her title against Amanda Nunes…when Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar fight for the interim featherweight belt…and, well, you get the picture.
For a promotion that has delivered the goods consistently in terms of presenting the fights that fans want to see, UFC 200 does more than live up to its billing. Want numbers?
• Three title fights (Cormier-Jones II, Tate-Nunes, Aldo-Edgar II)
• Nine current or former UFC champions (Cormier, Jones, Lesnar, Tate, Aldo, Edgar, Cain Velasquez, Johny Hendricks, TJ Dillashaw)
• Three Ultimate Fighter winners (Julianna Pena, Kelvin Gastelum, Diego Sanchez)
• One K-1 Grand Prix champion (Hunt)
• One PRIDE champion (Takanori Gomi)
• Two Strikeforce champions (Tate, Gegard Mousasi)
• One WEC champion (Aldo)
And just for fun, when Lesnar fights Hunt, there will be 530 combined pounds in the Octagon, compared to 270 when Tate-Nunes and Pena-Zingano take place. Give or take a pound or two.
In other words, it’s big, and not just for the fans.
“It’s definitely a pretty cool milestone,” Jones, who is one of three fighters (along with Lesnar and Jim Miller) to fight on both UFC 100 and 200, told me recently. Ironically, “Bones” wasn’t even scheduled for the card originally, but an injury to Cormier forced their UFC 197 bout in April to be scrapped. Jones still fought on the card against Ovince Saint Preux, emerged unscathed, and now he’s back to be a part of history.
“It’s not something I take lightly and I realize how big of a thing it ism” he said. “To headline an event like this, I’m so grateful and it definitely adds extra motivation to train my hardest and to win again. It feels like destiny. The timing worked out in my favor here. DC gets hurt and I get to fight Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197, get that ring rust I didn’t realize that I had off of me, and then turn around and get my belt back on the biggest card ever.”
Jones’ appearance on the card shows just how much things have changed, not just for him, but for the sport, since UFC 100 in July of 2009. Jones, the future light heavyweight champion and someone widely considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, fighters of all-time, was fighting for just the third time in the UFC against Jake O’Brien, and the New Yorker wasn’t even the main prelim bout. That honor went to Hall of Famers Mark Coleman and Stephan Bonnar. Jones was still the hot prospect, and he felt the weight of expectations.
“I remember feeling a lot of pressure,” Jones recalled. “I fought against Stephan Bonnar right before and it was a really impressive fight. That fight put me on the map at a young age, and I felt the expectations were through the roof. People were starting to pick me to win the belt and I just caught the MMA world’s attention. So going into UFC 100, there was a lot of pressure to have a similar, if not better, performance.”
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He delivered. Eight days away from his 22nd birthday, Jones submitted O’Brien in the second round. Less than two years later, he was a world champion.
From that group at UFC 100, Michael Bisping now holds championship gold after defeating Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, Lesnar is back, Coleman and Bonnar are retired, Georges St-Pierre is on hiatus from the sport, and Dan Henderson showed he’s got some gas left in the tank at 45 after knocking out Hector Lombard earlier this month.
But think about this. Lightweight phenom Sage Northcutt, who fights Enrique Marin at UFC 200, was 13 years old when Lesnar defeated Frank Mir in the main event of UFC 100.
Cormier, Dillashaw, Stipe Miocic, Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzejczyk had not even debuted professionally in MMA. In fact, there were no women fighting in the Octagon, and on the men’s side of things, there were no featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight divisions.
It’s almost as if it was a different world in the UFC back in 2009, which makes the celebration around UFC 200 even more notable. Because the sport is different than it was. It’s better.
Sure, some things remain the same when you look at the UFC 200 card. Jones is still one of the best fighters ever, Brock is still a beast, Gomi is “The Fireball Kid,” and Sanchez and Joe Lauzon are action heroes ready to steal the show on July 9. But so much has changed that this is a card worthy of the world’s attention.
MMA isn’t the outlaw spectacle that was in the early years of reaching the mainstream like it was in 2009, just four years after the TUF explosion. It’s here now. It’s not going anywhere. And while I don’t like to mess with greatness, I’ll alter Mr. Buffer’s line for a moment to simply say:
“It’s about time.”