by Anthony Lima

Listen to Anthony on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima, weekdays from 6 am-10 am

My bizarre infatuation with the Ultimate Fighting Championship dates back nearly 23 years to my living room in Chesterland, Ohio, where a semi-functional Zenith TV had a tuner that could unlock the magical world of illegal pay per view and combat sports.  The nascent  event was dubbed “Ultimate Fighting Championship” at the time and later re-branded human cockfighting by a US Sentator “UFC 1: The Beginning.” What it really was; the beginning of a lengthy relationship with a sport that to this day occupies more of my Saturday nights than the dance floor at Barley House.  And all these years later, the sport will make its debut at Quicken Loans Arena and be seen on a 5,550 feet LED monstrosity.  We’ve come along way from the UFC on my Zenith.

I have no idea why I fell in love with this sport.  Most of us start loving baseball because we were all forced to play little league.  We all grew up throwing a football around to cement our interest in the NFL. Everyone has a basketball hoop and ball.  But mixed martial arts? The name alone did not exist when I was a kid.  I never did karate.  My mouth did get me into about 11 fights in high school and college (unofficial record of 3-6-2).  But I had no real attachment to MMA other than watching those early PPVs for the fledgling sport.

So what brought me in?

It certainly wasn’t Jim Brown’s early MMA expertise, or his co-host whose biggest “challenge” was identifying the actual name of the first pay-per-view. I seemed to have an infatuation with the slight Brazilian Royce Gracie and his toolbox of what then seemed to be unorthodox holds and his dominance over video game characters that outweighed him by 100 pounds.  Was there really a science to this otherwise barbaric sport?  I began to marvel at the strategy and how fighters from completely different disciplines would match up against each other.  You did had your share of freak shows, like the guy with one glove, or the 500-pound sumo wrestler — but over time, the sport evolved dramatically.  Now every above-average college wrestlers has MMA as a fall-back plan, if the fake-wrestling-in-the-squared-circle thing doesn’t work out.

So here we are in 2016 with an actual UFC event in my backyard, all thanks to Stipe Miocic.  Not only is he headlining the card, but also fighting to defend his World Heavyweight Championship.  Miocic has often commented on his love for the early UFCs, and grew up about 15 minutes from where I illegally watched my first pay per view (here’s hoping the statute of limitations is up on such a crime).  23 years later he’ll be in the octagon looking to make history, and I’m talking about the sport that barely resembles the version we enjoyed as kids.  Now The UFC is all grown up and we’ve witnessed it all, from its first foot-stomps to its $4 billion dollar sale, we’ve been there from the beginning.

What’s next?

I won’t need to tune in on the Zenith. I get to be there.

How cool is that?  LET’S GET IT ON!!


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