I remember having this conversation with UFC president Dana White at the end of 2005. We were at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas leading up to "The Ultimate Fighter 2" season finale. Media coverage was a hot topic because a month earlier the UFC had surprisingly denied access for virtually all of the sport's niche media to a pay-per-view card at the Mohegan Sun.
During our chat at the Hard Rock, White described the future.
Mainstream media coverage was on its way, he said. Just you watch. I argued that I didn't think it would ever happen. The thought of a UFC fighter gracing the front page of the Los Angeles Times or being featured on "SportsCenter" was too much for me to imagine. Let's just say I freely admit to not being a visionary.
White absolutely won that argument, and UFC 157 is testament to that.
While mainstream media started coming around on the UFC after TUF 1, this weekend's fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche appeared to push UFC and MMA into a different dimension in terms of the way it's covered by the press and treated in pop culture circles.
The first female fight in UFC history prompted newly interested media outlets to devote resources they would not have before, White said.
And ones that had covered UFC in the past were suddenly providing tremendous placement in their publications. The L.A. Times and USA Today featured front-page stories. CNN played up the angle multiple times. HBO "Real Sports" picked up Rousey's incredible story.
"It was awesome," said White, who wasn't aware of one article that played up the event as a "freak show."
"It was a really cool moment for me to see how the media handled the fight," he said. "I always felt Ronda, because of where she came from and who she is, it really was cool. And the media agrees and they covered it. I just loved it. I can't tell you how much I really respected the way the media covered this fight."
All the coverage surely helped what White classified as the "most successful fighter ever in the history of women's fighting." UFC 157 produced a $1.4 million gate and trended toward a significant pay-per- view tally, leaving behind names such as Christy Martin and Laila Ali.
"This was a big night for the history of women," White said.