Nearly nine years after bringing mixed martial arts legends Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie to Los Angeles in 2006, the UFC has returned to the City of Angels, and while the main attraction this week is tonight’s UFC 184 card at STAPLES Center headlined by the women’s bantamweight title fight between Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, a press conference held at L.A. LIVE Saturday morning showed just how far the promotion has come.
Fresh off the UFC’s “The Time is Now” campaign, today’s media event featured UFC President Dana White, six current UFC champions, four former titleholders, and seven of the sport’s top 15 pound-for-pound fighters among the 20 standouts on the dais, a remarkable assemblage of talent, all of whom will be in action in nine events packaged together as a group entitled “Welcome to the Show” from March 14 to May 23.
Much of the media attention was directed toward the men who were scheduled to compete in tonight’s original main event, Chris Weidman (who was forced out of UFC 184 due to injury) and Vitor Belfort, as well as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but the remaining fighters in attendance all touched on subjects ranging from Kyoji Horiguchi and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s readiness for their upcoming title shots against Demetrious Johnson and Carla Esparza, respectively, (they’re ready), to Demian Maia’s recent health issues (he’s fine now) and the maximum height to become a member of the Team Alpha Male squad (founder Urijah Faber says 5-9 would be pushing it).
All the future rivals seemed to be in good spirits with each other with the exception of two that had faced each other before in TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao, with Dillashaw keeping a smile on his face before their April rematch, but Barao stone-faced as he spoke of the man who beat him for the crown last May, saying that the new champ “talks too much.”
White also announced that on the tenth anniversary of The Ultimate Fighter, the new season of the reality series will premiere on FOX Sports 1 on April 22 with a new format pitting American Top Team vs. The Blackzilians for a prize of $500,000. The new season will feature eight welterweights from each South Florida squad.
But the real story of the day was the continuing idea of presenting a set of fight events as a season. It’s an innovative idea in the fight game, and not a marketing gimmick.
“Sports fans are used to experiencing their favorite sports in seasons,” Dave Sholler, the UFC’s Vice President of Public Relations and Athlete Marketing, said. “With ‘The Time is Now’ and then ‘Welcome to the Show,’ we wanted to give our fans a look at the incredible stretches of live events by tying them together in ways we've never done before. It allows our teams to pitch these great events together and find common themes for fans and media alike to gravitate towards. From the creative and production elements to the stories and themes conveyed, we think developing a sense of seasonality really helps amplify the excitement and energy leading into these cards.”
Welcome to the Show.
March 14 – American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX (PPV)
UFC 185 – Pettis vs. dos Anjos / Esparza vs. Jedrzejczyk
March 21 – Ginasio do Maracanzinho – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (FS1)
UFC Fight Night – Maia vs. LaFlare
April 4 – Patriot Center – Fairfax, VA (FS1)
UFC Fight Night – Mendes vs. Lamas
April 11 – Krakow Arena – Krakow, Poland (FS1)
UFC Fight Night – Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop 2
April 18 – Prudential Center – Newark, NJ (FOX)
UFC Fight Night – Machida vs. Rockhold
April 25 – Bell Centre – Montreal, Quebec, Canada (PPV)
UFC 186 – Dillashaw vs. Barao 2 / Johnson vs. Horiguchi
May 10 – Adelaide Entertainment Centre – Adelaide, Australia (FS1)
UFC Fight Night – Miocic vs. Hunt
May 16 – Mall of Asia Arena – Manila, Philippines (FS1) – Breakfast with the UFC
UFC Fight Night – Edgar vs. Faber
May 23 – MGM Grand Garden Arena – Las Vegas, NV (PPV)
UFC 187 – Jones vs. Johnson / Weidman vs. Belfort