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Thursday, April 5, 2007
I want my UFC

By Mary Buckheit
Page 2

I hate to disagree with boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter, but I've got a bone to pick with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Last week, during a press conference to publicize his upcoming bout with Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd took a shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship -- which has been near and dear to my heart since I caught my first whiff of The Octagon.

Chuck Liddell
Think Mayweather would get in the ring with Chuck Liddell, the UFC light heavyweight champ?
"UFC ain't s---," Mayweather said. "It ain't but a fad. … These are guys who couldn't make it in boxing. So they do [mixed martial arts]. Boxing is the best sport in the world and it's here to stay."

Mayweather is 30 years old. The Pretty Boy should know better.

He should know that boxing is a dinosaur, and that the pet pit bull of us 20-somethings is the UFC. That's an unarguable fact. Check the ratings, and the pay-per-view receipts.

We of the age of MTV want our UFC. Sure, if us kids know what's good for us, we come to MMA with inherent respect for Ali, and Marciano, and Tunney, and Dempsey, and Frazier, and the other idols of our fathers. But the generation that is up all night making cheese sandwiches on George Foreman grills is hooked on board shorts and bare hands -- not the big red-gloved traveling circus.

Look no further than the present if you're still playing the b.s. "UFC isn't mainstream" card.

First, just last week, the majority owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship agreed to buy their biggest mixed-martial-arts rival -- the Japan-based PRIDE Fighting Championships.

PRIDE is to Japan what the UFC is to the U.S. Yes, PRIDE had some financial problems in the past, and there were even rumors of bankruptcy. But with UFC's acquisition of PRIDE, the future of MMA looks as bright as the Las Vegas strip.

"When somebody buys a company for 65 million dollars, that tells you it's pretty mainstream," said Mike Goldberg, the play-by-play announcer for the UFC. "You're bringing together the two main entities of the sport. This obviously opens a lot of doors for huge fight opportunities all over the world. … It's huge. It's just huge."

Said Lorenzo Fertitta, majority owner of the UFC: "This is really going to change the face of MMA. Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer. I liken it somewhat to when the [old NFL] and [old AFL] came together to create the NFL."

Mirko Cro Cop
Looks pretty exciting, doesn't it?
While the UFC might not be on par with the NFL in the United States, it is riding its biggest wave to date. Besides the acquisition of PRIDE, consider what else is on tap. This Thursday night, "UFC Fight Night" will be broadcast on Spike TV live from The Pearl (the new arena at The Palms in Vegas). And after "Fight Night," the fifth season of the acclaimed reality series "The Ultimate Fighter" will debut. This season the show will feature 16 lightweights -- the new class of the UFC.

Then on Saturday the UFC will head to Texas for the first time ever, for UFC 69: The Shootout (live on pay-per-view). The main event will feature one of the classiest athletes going, current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. The Canadian will face off against Matt Serra -- the sparkplug from Long Island, N.Y. who earned his shot at the title by taking "The Ultimate Fighter 4" title. How's that matchup for all you East Coast UFC naysayers? Still think it's just a flash in the pan?

In two weeks, the UFC goes to the UK for the first time since July 2002 (UFC 38: The Brawl at the Hall, in London). Rumor has it the UFC is also securing a date in Ireland and another in England later this year. And on top of all that, there is chatter of a hot new UFC video game in the works.

So, let's recap: a pure product, a reality series, international esteem, and a video game … sorry Floyd, this is no fad.

"We're definitely there. If Floyd Mayweather is being asked about UFC and he is commenting about UFC, no matter what he's saying, we've arrived," said Goldberg. "The fact that it's coming up in a boxing press conference speaks for itself."

So Pretty Boy, as you prepare for your big bout, don't take the UFC's success personally. You've got bigger fish to fry. None of us in Camp UFC are trying to take anything away from the tradition and historical significance of boxing. We're just not interested in it. We're smarter than Don King. (Plus we think UFC prez Dana White could take him down.)

We know what we want.

And if I may reference "Fight Club" one more time, "If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't."

We want our UFC.

Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist. She can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.