With Thanksgiving upon us, each Yahoo Sports blog is taking stock of what they're thankful for while also providing menu suggestions and a sport-specific viewing guide for when you hit your couch. Share what you're thankful for on Twitter with the #YSBThanks hashtag or in the comments below. Have a safe and happy holiday!
Elias Cepeda, Cagewriter editor
The fight fan in me is especially thankful for five things this Thanksgiving. Check out our list and let us know yours in the comments section!
The UFC making it past 20 years: Long before the UFC was able to hold two events in a single week, on separate continents, as it does now, MMA fans were lucky to get a UFC card more than once every other month. In the dark days, MMA fans had to make friends with the one guy in the gym who had a satellite because UFC pay-per-views were banned from cable.
Those who wanted to check out Pride events from Japan often had to wait until Sunday mornings to wade in the legally dubious waters of sites like Daily Motion to watch bootlegged copies of fights that were uploaded by nerds for other geeks (not that I'd know anything about that). This was an especially tough pill to swallow since top boxing had essentially been phased out of the mainstream years ago in the shadow of the big but short-lived pay-per-view dollars.
Now, because of the UFC more than any other fight promotion, quality fights are readily available either live or previously recorded every day all over the world. You can keep your Detroit Lions stinking up the joint on Thanksgiving day. I’ll be watching fight tapes while stuffing my face on Thursday.
UFC matchmaking: For well over a decade now, the UFC has had the best matchmaking in all of fight sports. Part of that is due to the talent of matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby in the UFC and part of it is because the UFC is now home to most of the top talent in the MMA world.
The downside of UFC hegemony is that fighters don’t have the same options they used to when they could decide between fighting in the UFC, Strikeforce, Pride or other high-paying promotions. An upside to the UFC being the lone survivor among top MMA promotions is that UFC brass usually has the ability to make the fights that fans want to see.
How long have we been waiting to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight Manny Pacquiao? Chances are we’ll all keep waiting until either we or Mayweather and Pac are in wheelchairs.
If Manny and Floyd were MMA fighters, they’d likely be fighting in the UFC instead of for warring promotions and cable networks. There’s no way that Dana White would let that type of fight pass him by.
Inter-weight division super fights are another matter, but it is rare that the best fighters in the same division get away without fighting one another in the UFC.
UFC champions thinking for themselves: This may sound contradictory to the prior point but I’m very thankful that at least a select few UFC fighters are now beginning to have some leverage and autonomy in their careers. UFC president Dana White has lamented the loss of total and complete control over his fighters as they’ve grown richer and more famous.
Too bad for him. And, if we have to wait longer for our favorite gladiator to suit back up because he or she needs a rest, too bad for us.
When Jon Jones, one of the most active top challengers and champions in UFC history, decides that he’d rather heal up some leg injuries and not rush into another fight just because White thinks he could make money with “Bones” headlining a Super Bowl weekend card, he should have that right.
Nike, Gatorade and many other large companies sponsor Jones now. Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva also enjoy global fame and blue-chip endorsement deals.
It is no coincidence that these three have all recently drawn the ire of White.
Fighters like Jones, Silva and St. Pierre are not as desperate for their next UFC fight purse as champions of the past were so they are able to better consider what is best for their health.
Accessibility of MMA personalities: I’m often asked who my favorite fighter to interview is. That’s hard to answer but any answer would start with whoever is the most accessible and conversation-friendly. In MMA, there’s a lot of such fighters, coaches and promoters to choose from.
For the most part, those in the MMA business that fans want to hear from are easy to get ahold of, are open and honest in conversation and don’t suffer from the same inhibiting suspicion that more established celebrities in society do. That makes for insightful and inside coverage for fight fans of their favorite athletes.
Of course, as MMA grows in popularity, the tabloid idiots will continue to come out of the wood work. The more often fighters are accosted at airports and asked to comment on baby and family health rumors, the more guarded they will become.
For now, all of us covering MMA should be thankful for all that we get.
Women in UFC: The finale of the first ever Ultimate Fighter season (TUF 18) to feature women is coming up on Saturday. On TUF 18, the women on the cast were the best and most watched fighters.
Those women proved what Dana White has already admitted – that he was wrong for so many years in thinking that the interest and talent was not sufficient for the UFC to have women’s divisions. At least the UFC caught on eventually.
Now, the organization has plans to create a second division for women, at 115 pounds. This decision could help pave the way for a men’s 115 pound category and help with international expansion. The UFC has it’s sights set on Mexico and the Philippines, for example.
Try expanding your product there without having lighter weight classes. Ain’t gonna happen.
The Cagewriter Thanksgiving menu for the MMA Wannabe/Fan:
Plenty of lean turkey for protein. Plenty more not so lean gravy because, bulking
Whatever disgusting "energy" drink that was advertised ad nauseum the last time you watched The Ultimate Fighter. Nothing says healthy like jitter-inducing stimulants and artificial dyes and sweeteners. Drink what the pros get paid to pretend they drink!
TRT injections, which are totally cool because we've got a doctor we pay to say it's ok telling us it's ok and we've got a therapeutic use exemption for them. We can't be expected to stuff our faces at the Thanksgiving table at the same pace as these young guys do. We'd practically be at a disadvantage if we didn't use these drugs.
The 2013 Cagewriter Thanksgiving UFC viewing guide:
There's plenty UFC television programming to help you turn into a pumpkin on your couch while you gorge yourself on pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. All times in Eastern Standard Time.
1:00 am - Fox Sports 2 - The Ultimate Fighter - Team Rousey vs. Team Tate: Aiming for the top
2:00 am - Fox Sports 2 - UFC Tonight: Before they were champs
6:00 am - Fox Sports 2 - Best of Pride Fighting Championship: Legends of Pride
7:00 am - Fox Sports 2 - UFC presents Mark Hunt: The Art of Fighting
8:00 am - Fox Sports 2 - UFC 167 Prelims
5:00 pm - Fox Sports 1 - Fighting for a generation: 20 years of the UFC
Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda
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