2014 has come and gone; now it feels like 2015 has hit us like a ton of bricks or a UFC MMA fighter. The UFC looks to get even bigger and already better in the upcoming year with a great fight that shocked everyone when Jon Jones was taken down by Daniel Cromier. This fight had the highest pay per view numbers of any fight so 2015 is already looking to take out last year.
Before we get to the new year we need to flashback to the best of 2014 in the UFC. From nasty knockouts to epic returns, 2014 was full of MMA drama to the max. That is nothing unusual for the ultimate in fighting as Dana White knows how a sport should be run. Here is what happened in the year that was 2014 in the UFC.
There were many great fights last year of course. Getting to the meat of the best fights is not hard. Matt Brown versus Robbie Lawler was a fight that could be put in the dictionary to describe a brawl. The two men put on a show that everyone wishes could happen at all UFC events. Lawler also had a classic fight with Johny Hendricks earlier in the year in which he came up short in the decision. Redemption came to Lawler at the end of 2014 as he edged Hendricks in another good fight for the welterweight title. Look for more great battles in 2015 from these three badass fighters.
Chris Weidman was involved in a top fight in 2014 as he got the best of Lyoto Machida. The middleweight champ got the decision after a rough five round fight with the former light heavyweight champ Machida. Weidman could be one of the biggest draws in the UFC if he continues to win. He is good with the media and just has that “it factor” that makes champions into icons.
There were a few out of the Octagon issues in 2014, like any other sport. We had maniac Jon Koppenhaver, better known as “War Machine”, allegedly attacking his girlfriend Christy Mack in a brutal fashion. To be fair to the UFC, the nut job was not affiliated with the UFC at the time and had not been for several years. But the UFC did have to deal with a fighter under contract who was involved in a domestic abuse case. Anthony Johnson was suspended by the UFC while his court case was sorted out, but was eventually reinstated once the charges were dropped. After the NFL mess with Ray Rice and several other woman beaters, no sports organization can afford to turn a blind eye to domestic abuse. It’s about time.
What would a year be without Dana White catching some flak? The guy does a great job running the UFC. He is perfect by no means and I am sure he can be a jerk in some instances. But I can’t envision any other leader of a pro sport working as hard as this man does. The UFC owes him a great deal in terms of how he has grown the sport. Of course everyone is not happy with the UFC or White. That is evident by the antitrust lawsuit filed by some former fighters who see the fight promotion as a monopoly that is holding down fighters. But without White, there are a stack of guys that would not be making the type of living they are through MMA. In a perfect world, MMA would not exist. Punching and choking other humans is not a healthy activity. But in this imperfect world, Dana White has done a good job with his sport.
The Ultimate Fighter wrapped up another season in 2014, crowning another TUF Champ. But interest is not where it once was for this reality show. There is just too much on TV to choose from and it is not easy to make a show stand out. It is fun to watch a group of guys or girls in a house together with all the drama. And we eventually get to see them battle each other in a ring. But it is still the same basic set up every year. The competition is what makes the show good.
There was a lot of buzz about how the pay per view numbers were down in the past year for the UFC. Dana White even acknowledged it, but there are no concrete numbers to compare from past years as the UFC plays it close to vest on those stats. The biggest reason for the falloff was lack of star power. The biggest names simply didn’t fight enough to make a dent in the PPV stats. The heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, didn’t fight at all last year due to an injury late in 2014. Anderson Silva was out all year with his awful leg break. Georges St-Pierre was one of the biggest PPV draws in UFC history, but he decided to retire at the end of 2013. His absence may have hurt the sport more than any other fighter when it came to selling a $60 fight card.
Some people started questioning whether the UFC had oversaturated the market with fights and fighters in 2014. It is kind of a ridiculous thing to say. Unless these fights are getting no live crowd and just a few eyeballs on the TV, it is nowhere near oversaturated. I am sure there are ups and downs with the casual sports fans watching UFC events. But the hardcore fan base is not going anywhere. Where would we go? To boxing? Hardly.
A few numbers from 2014 in the UFC before we call it a wrap. 229 fighters made their UFC debut last year. There were 46 UFC events with 503 fights. 431,712 fans attended those events live. Fight bonuses, one of my favorite aspects of the UFC, were totaled at nearly nine million dollars.
Some of my most memorable side notes of 2014 were seeing Ronda Rousey‘s death stare as she entered the Octagon. Also seeing Rousey, the hottest warrior alive, at any point doing anything whatsoever. The brawl between Jon Jones and Daniel Cromier in what appears to be real hatred between the two guys. Watching fighters caught using performance enhancing drugs try to explain away their failed drug tests. Seeing a guy come from nowhere to become interim heavyweight champ in Fabricio Werdum.
I look for more awesomeness from the UFC in 2015. Hopefully the biggest stars pick up the pace by fighting more regularly. But there will no doubt be newcomers that will blossom into stars of tomorrow to take up the slack if that is not the case.