Once again, a year (and some change) has passed, and as MMA fans we look forward to the second half of 2015—anxious and hopeful as we always are amid so much change.
Whenever another year falls off the calendar, the fan in me cannot help but look back on the past, ever grateful that the sport is still alive. You’ve probably heard it a million times from old-time fans, but you’re about to hear it again.
While the future of MMA is a given these days, it wasn’t always so, and I am both thankful and relieved it has not only survived but grown to a level I never expected.
2014 wasn’t the greatest of years for MMA for many reasons. Be it contractual issues or the injury bug, last year seemed to be more about what didn’t happen than what did, although it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
Now, deep into 2015, Zuffa and other promotions are looking at an old problem that has grown terribly large: performance-enhancing drugs. No one knows for sure how the movers and shakers in the world of MMA are going to handle this over the long haul (or if the UFC will revise its current policy), but it isn’t going away on its own—that much is certain.
Then, of course, there are other problems that come from the UFC growing too big—perhaps for its own britches, as the saying goes. Multiple parties are suing the UFC, and the government is renewing past investigations into the legitimacy of the company’s dominance of the sport.
Additionally, more than a few of fighters are noting their unhappiness with the Reebok deal, and new prospects of note (such as Ed Ruth) are choosing to fight with rival promotions simply because sponsorship monies are greater outside the Octagon. This is a particularly salient point given that this kind of situation—more money being available elsewhere—saw the formation of Pride FC and more than a few big fighters jumping ship to sail overseas (back in October 1997) where the grass was honestly greener and of a shade that only money can be.
Still, it’s a stark contrast to the sport in 2005, when the problems of today would have seemed like dreams come true, simply because times of plenty (even if it is plenty of problems) always look better than times of uncertainty.
And that is exactly what 2005 was: a time of uncertain promise, with the UFC playing the role of demanding midwife to a desperate sport.
So, as Sin City, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Batman Begins and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith tried to pull us into the theaters, Dana White and the brass at Zuffa were still doing honest work in 2005, pushing that boulder uphill while trying to find ways to keep their checkbooks balanced, which would prove a wise move in the years to come.
Yet, they were also daring, crossing their fingers as the debut episode of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter aired on Spike on January 17. As they continued to do their best to put on successful pay-per-view events, they were watching the ratings, hoping against hope that two seasons of a reality show could help them break new ground and wrest first place in the sport from Pride FC, which was still going strong in Japan.
Once again, we stand and look back at the sport a decade later—older, wiser and hopefully every bit as excited and entertained now as we were then.
Here is a list of the events from both the UFC and Pride FC in 2005, in order of occurrence, as well as a list of the top fighters for the year and the top promotion and event. Once again, we hope it will bring about a realization and appreciation of what was and, more importantly, what is.