Saturday night saw the UFC 205 pay-per-view event take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor made history of his own, defeating Eddie Alvarez to win the UFC lightweight championship. He became the first-ever fighter in UFC history to hold two divisions' title belts simultaneously.
The rest of the card -- including the preliminary bouts on UFC Fight Pass and Fox Sports 1 -- was filled with star power. It was a dream card to a UFC fan, more than UFC 200's ended up being.
But for those who aren't as big of UFC fans, you may not understand why the promotion went all out for this event. You may not understand why this was the first-ever UFC event in New York City, and the history that goes with that. And on that note, you may not understand the true evolution of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Well, fear not, Sports Media Man Tom is here.
The first UFC event was held 23 years to the date that UFC finally debuted in Madison Square Garden. Unlike MMA cards now, the event just consisted of an eight-man tournament -- no weight limit, no uniform restrictions, nothing of that sort. The only thing a fighter could not do is bite or gouge the eyes. Other than that, just score a knockout, submission, or have the other fighter's cornermen throw in the towel.
The UFC was less "sports-looking" then it is now. There were many questions of which fighting style was best (i.e. what would happen if a judoka met a boxer, or a wrestler met a jiu-jitsu expert?) Non-tournament singles bouts weren't introduced until UFC 5, and weight classes in its earliest form weren't introduced until UFC 12.
The sport in it's earliest form caught the attention of several authorities, including one particular senator named John McCain.
McCain led a campaign to get the sport banned across the nation (it did in a just about 40 states), calling it "human cockfighting".
The UFC was not always banned in the state of New York. They held UFC 7 in Buffalo on Sept. 8, 1995, and UFC 12 was originally booked for New York City. The night before the event, however, the ban went into effect in the state, forcing the UFC to relocate quickly. Imagine your professor telling you to re-organize your whole paper on 24 hours notice, or your boss telling you to travel to another location after you've already made your way to wherever (s)he wanted you to go to originally.
The UFC would not go back to the Northeast until New Jersey finally standardized a set of rules for MMA to become more sport-like, and these rules would become the unified MMA rules all fans of the sport know, and Mike Goldberg reads off during every show he does.
Over the years, more and more states would approve of the sport. After Connecticut legalized Mixed Martial Arts in October 2013, New York was left as the only state to have not made the way for MMA.
Did it follow suit after Connecticut? Nope! It would take another two-and-a-half years before it did. Every time an MMA bill would pass in the Senate, it would fall in the Assembly. Every time, New York MMA fans' hopes of seeing a card in the Garden were crushed.
SOURCE: sherdog.com (2013)
But one day this past spring, after a huge campaign with the likes of UFC fighters Chris Weidman, Frankie Edgar and Jon Jones, and of course UFC President Dana White, it finally happened.
We've gone from UFC 1, to a banning of the sport across the nation, to every state but New York legalizing MMA, and finally UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden. As someone who is a New Yorker and has followed the sport since the debut of The Ultimate Fighter, the original season that produced one of the greatest MMA bouts of all time in Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, I'm so hyped.
Honestly, if you're still looking to get into the UFC fandom, order the replay for UFC 205. It might be the best place to start. It's filled with star power, so you'd get to know quite a few of the big name fighters and what makes them so great. From Conor McGregor's trash talking to Ronda Rousey's armbars to the one-punch knockout power of all the heavyweights.
Not all the fights were perfect. Maybe you felt the women's strawweight title fight was boring, while someone else may think it was great. Maybe you disagreed with the draw result in the welterweight title match.
But mark the date down. Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, was an amazing night to be a UFC fan.