A legend, an undefeated champ, and a former Olympian making the most of a second chance all made for a memorable UFC weekend. One of its best in years and the timing couldn’t have been better.
It began last Friday when Dana White graciously waited to announce on Inside MMA that one of the most popular figures in MMA history, Bas Rutten will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July. It set the tone, perhaps a good luck charm in Bas, for the entire weekend that would unfold. In Bas, the Hall adds not only a fierce and worthy champion whose commanding style captivated audiences beyond the MMA fandom, but who has gone on to success in movies and TV and can be argued there is no better ambassador for the sport. All of us at AXS TV are proud to be associated with a man of his character and distinction.
Have the applause meter ready when Bas is officially inducted, because it could register a decibel defying mark.
Then there were the fights.
Chris Weidman completed his trilogy of beating Brazilian legends with a first round TKO of Vitor Belfort. It was more than another title defense for the UFC middleweight champion, it was the opportunity to bask in the spotlight as the new male face of the organization. A Belfort victory wouldn’t have been the same for the former champ who carried the heaviest of baggage with past failed drug tests and elevated testosterone levels. Instead it was the perfect addition to the resume of the All-American guy from Long Island who previously plowed through Lyoto Machida (UD UFC 175) and a KO and TKO of the one and only Anderson Silva (UFC 162 & UFC 168).
If you saw any of the movie “Taken” the prior night on F/X there was Weidman, much more comfortable in front of the camera these days, talking about both the movie and his upcoming showdown. Now with three successful title defenses since stunning the sport with his dominance of Silva, Weidman is the Ace in the deck needed by the UFC after setbacks from Silva’s testing positive for steroids after his last fight and Jon Jones’ legal and personal debacles that forced the organization to strip him of his light heavyweight crown.
But on Saturday night all that had been negative surrounding superstars evaporated quickly, as Weidman’s hand was raised. A true champ with a spotless record in and out of the octagon. It will be the perfect storm of marketing if New York passes legislation this summer sanctioning the sport and opening the Madison Square Garden’s doors for New Yorker Chris to be the headliner in December.
With a vacated belt up for grabs former Olympian Daniel Cormier, who lost a title shot to Jones in January, seized upon a second chance with a third round rear-naked choke out of Anthony Johnson. From a PR standpoint it was the no-lose fight of the night with both men more than capable of a compelling story about making to the top of the light heavyweight ranks. In Cormier the UFC got not only another star in the making, but one of the most articulate and witty fighters to continue to showcase. Wrap Cormier and Weidman in Red, White, and Blue and let the parade of adulation from fans and media commence.
Even the added drama of pre-fight tweets and post-fight talk from Ryan Bader is only good for the UFC. Bader is a deserving candidate for the title shot who has been the staunchest of gatekeepers for those who tried to ascend in the rankings; and the premise is perfect the overdue Bader against the man he thinks had a cushy road after losing to Jones. Cormier will naturally have a retort or ten.
From Bas to Weidman to Cormier, there was the perfect storm of only positives from the most memorable weekend in the UFC so far this year.
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