LAS VEGAS — The UFC is done celebrating UFC 100. The mixed martial arts juggernaut is looking forward to dates in Philadelphia and Portland later this summer. Dallas, Los Angeles and Manchester, England, are on deck.
Pencil in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day and Vancouver in June. Australia and the United Arab Emirates are in the works. And a record North American audience for MMA is expected in Toronto next year when the government paperwork is done.
“It’s been a crazy ride, but like I’ve been saying all week, I’m not being very nostalgic about UFC 100,” an exhausted UFC president Dana White said late Saturday night after the fights. “Because for me we’re not even close as far as I’m concerned. There’s so much work to do.
“It’s been a crazy week,” he added. “I believe that this event, all the publicity and buzz that was around this event, has helped take us to another level. I really believe that.”
Saturday’s landmark show, billed as “Making History July 11,” was broadcast in 75 countries — 51 live and 24 on tape delay — from Mexico to Mongolia in 17 languages.
The sellout crowd of some 11,000 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center drew a live gate of US$5.1 million, more than twice what the current UFC ownership paid for the company in January 2001. UFC 100 was expected to bring in more than one million pay-per-view buys for an additional C$50 million-plus on the night.
“This sport, anybody who gets near it, it’s like a virus,” said White. “It infects you and you become very passionate about it. And people love it. And the more and more people we touch, the more and more people we’re going to infect.
“This thing’s only getting bigger. It’s not getting smaller.”
The milestone card did not disappoint as far as entertainment value, although newcomers might wonder about MMA’s sportsmanship judging from the finales to Brock Lesnar’s and Dan Henderson’s fights. And squeamish spectators will not have enjoyed the blood pumping out of Mac Danzig as if his head had sprung a leak in his loss to Jim Miller.
Canadian Georges St. Pierre(19-2) was dominant in defending his welterweight title against bruising Brazilian Thiago Alves via five-round decision while Lesnar (4-1) retained his heavyweight title by stopping Frank Mir in the second round.
St. Pierre was cheered for his performance, which was all the more impressive in that he injured his groin in the third round and still managed to pitch a shutout.
“I came back to the corner and I told my trainer ‘I pulled my abductor,”’ he explained. “And my trainer Greg Jackson, he said ‘I don’t care. Hit him with it.”’
The 28-year-old from Montreal relied on his superb wrestling, movement and cardio to stay out of Alves’ Muay Thai wheelhouse while roughing him up on the ground. Alves (22-5), who had won his last seven outings, was dumped again and again during the fight, scored 50-45, 50-44, 50-45 in St. Pierre’s favour.
The UFC now has to figure out what to do with St. Pierre, who has pretty much cleaned out the 170-pound division. They will have time to figure it out while he heals.
Lesnar, meanwhile, bullied and beat Mir (12-4) up on the ground in an effective but not very pretty performance.
“I love it. Keep going,” he said of the jeers that followed.
Lesnar, a former WWE champion in the pro wrestling scene, committed two UFC cardinal sins in the cage after his win. When the crowd booed Lesnar’s victory lap, the six-foot-three 275-pounder gave them both fingers. And then inexplicably he promised to celebrate with a beer that isn’t the organization’s marquee sponsor.
He cheerfully apologized at the post-fight news conference for being unprofessional, with a Bud Light in front of him. White was less inclined to laugh it off. He made no secret that he took Lesnar to the woodshed right after — a discussion that took place in the champion’s dressing room washroom.
Lesnar has brought the heel persona from pro wrestling to MMA, causing White to shake his head.
“You don’t have to act like somebody that you’re not. This isn’t the WWE. You’re an amazing athlete. What you’ve accomplished is phenomenal. Let that speak for itself,” a bemused White said.
“It’s not who we are,” White added. “And to be honest with you, it’s not who he is.”
Lesnar can expect a barrage of boos from now on.
Earlier, Henderson knocked out English middleweight Michael Bisping with a thundering right in the second round.
The former Pride champion stalked Bisping, flicked a low kick and then floored him with a huge overhand right, hammering him on the ground with one more punch to the jaw for good measure before the referee stepped in at 3:20. Bisping seemed out when he hit the canvas and did not get up quickly.
“I think that one was just to shut him up a little bit,” Henderson said of the coup de grace on his rival coach from Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Henderson (25-7) said later he was joking, adding mischievously that the second punch “did feel good though.” Bisping (18-2), who looked tentative from the get-go, was taken to hospital for a precautionary CAT scan.
Henderson, who had made no secret he was sick of the brash Brit, won an extra US$100,000 for knockout of the night.
Lesnar’s purse was $400,000 according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Mir got $45,000.
St. Pierre collected $400,000, including a $200,000 win bonus, while Alves made $60,000. Those figures do not reflect other bonuses and payments from the UFC.
The Canadian limped out of the news conference.
Canadian welterweight T.J. Grant (14-3) lost a unanimous decision to South Korean Dong Hyun (Stun Gun) Kim (12-0-1 with one no contest).
The 25-year-old jiu-jitsu brown belt from Cole Harbour, N.S., was game but could not solve the fourth-degree judo black belt from Busan who won 30-26 on all three judges’ cards. Grant had a point deducted for an illegal upkick to the head.