“Why don’t you guys let the guests talk more?”
“You have too many commercials.”
“Why do you all wear suits, do you think you’re news anchors?”
“You can’t compete with the UFC, why try?”
“When is Bas going to fight again?”
These were the typical questions and comments sent to us in the early weeks of Inside MMA that debuted in September 2007 on what was then HDNet.
We were a curiosity; a novelty; a shot in the dark for many MMA fans who were not sure what was was going on.
What Inside MMA was then was a groundbreaking, pioneering show. The first weekly national TV show devoted to mixed martial arts. Conceived by HDNet owner Mark Cuban and executed by executive producer Darrell Ewalt, Inside MMA was like nothing else in the history of the sport.
That’s what Inside MMA has been, a sports show. Without much bias, I feel a consistently very good sports show. Others came and went quickly trying to copy the format after we were established.
When Darrell called me in the summer of 2007 asking me to host because he was looking for experience on live TV, who had anchored and reported on sports, I immediately said yes for simple reasons: we had a great working relationship already; Mark had a terrific track record of not just thinking outside but reinventing the box; and I had would be working with the extraordinary Bas Rutten again. Bas and I had called the fights in the brief history of the International Fight League, and instantly clicked on the air and most important as true friends. And Ron Kruck, with whom I also had developed a strong bond of friendship, would be reporting.
At that time I was doing work for HDNet calling basketball, football, boxing, and horse racing. Ironically we would probably have still focused on those sports at the network had surveys sent to viewers had come back with more recognition for HDNet bringing this variety to your homes. Instead most responders thought if it was a sports show it had to be on another network, not HDNet.
But with Inside MMA, HDNet had a niche. If someone was searching for a show devoted to mixed martial arts, there was only one place for several years.
As with the viewers when we started, Bas, Ron, and I were not sure of the exact direction or how long the show would last. We did know in Bas we had the biggest personality in the sport with insight on par with the best analysts in any other sports shows on TV and the top reporter in Ron. Our guests early on led to needed credibility, several of the biggest names in the UFC at the time.
The show itself began as a 30 minute weekly and expanded to an hour within a month such was the positive feedback. It was a taped show that became a live show and moved from Friday to Monday, my personal favorite time period, then back to Friday. It was a 3 panel guest show that became mostly satellite interviews in the last couple of years. Through it all the goal was to offer the best and most accurate information at the time and have some fun throughout.
Mike Ricci our producer came aboard three years ago and as with Bas and Ron, there was instant friendship and professional respect which brought yet another bright spark.
As with any show running this long, several have come and gone behind the scenes, with some friendships have developed and occasionally I work with them on other sports around the country. I’ll be doing boxing or basketball or a horse race and a technician will remind me of working together at a live weigh-in show Inside MMA had done.
Inside MMA has made an indelible mark on the sport and on the people who have worked for a length of time or passing through over these ten years.
It is one I will look back on with pride. The lasting brotherhood of Bas, Ron, Darrell, and Mike, is what I take from it the most. This and the guests and viewers I’ve gotten to know over time who always bring a smile to my face when we meet again.
It was a show that prompted me to write a book, ‘Not Hit Yet’ on the seminal year 2011 was for the sport. And to begin writing this weekly column, that AJ Pacheco so diligently keeps it on deadline.
A show about fighting and fighters, one can’t get too sentimental about head kicks and chokes. TV? Not any different from MMA, in the figurative sense of hits, but occasionally there is magic, something works and works well for a decade.
Memories, well that’s another all together different view, and the view will always be spectacular.
Thanks for watching and reading this space each week. Until we meet again, God Bless.
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