I had a pretty good back and forth with one of our MMA For Real readers(can't remember who since we have so many :) about the importance of the Rampage/Evans main event and it's importance. Our very own Robert Downey Sr. touched on it earlier today:
What was so special about these two fighters was the potential they carried for inroads with the black community. They were two sides of the same coin: Rampage was rap and Evans was R&B; one came from the streets of Memphis and wore a chain around his neck, the other from Detroit with smooth style (I know he’s really from Niagara Falls, but he reps MSU and perception is everything). And they are still perhaps the only currency the UFC has to cash in with the black community.
Anderson Silva is an outsider and not African-American. Jon Jones is too clean-cut. Anthony Johnson has potential, but George St. Pierre and a litany of elite welterweight fighters stand atop the mountain he must climb. So for now, Rampage and Rashad hold a monopoly on "Urban-sense" in the UFC. Coupled with their talent and charisma, they might just be the two most valuable assets on the UFC roster. And their collision this weekend represents the high-water mark for African-Americans in Mixed Martial Arts’ brief history. No matter the victor, both men should be proud of how far they’ve come.
It just hit me. This is the first UFC main event with two African-American fighters, and the hype surrounding this card is absolutely unreal. The unreal part is that there is no title on the line anywhere on this card. When is the last time we had a UFC event with NO title on the line, and the event had a lot of hype around it? The last event I can think of was UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie. No title was on the line, but Hughes was the welterweight champion, so I don't even know if I would count that with Gracie coming out of hiatus to challenge him. If you watched Dana White's video blog that was posted earlier this morning, you can see what type of attention this event is getting. Dana White listed ESPN, ESPN News, ESPN First Take, ESPN MMA Live, Dan Patrick show, and a host of others that were scheduled.
Just think that was just for the first day of promoting the event.
I know that Rampage and Rashad generated a lot of buzz with their post fight stare-down at UFC 96, and they fueled things even more with their appearance on TUF. Not to mention the wait we've had to endure to see this fight, but I think it's pretty amazing that this fight has generated this much buzz with no title on the line and a pretty average lineup card(since Griffin/Nogueira is off).
In my back and forth with our reader, I was advocating that the UFC was simply targeting the African-American demographic more with some of their promotional efforts recently. If getting on ESPN and all these other outlets for a fight with no title on the line doesn't tell you what's up, I don't know what will.