Mixed Martial Arts is the fastest growing sport in America, and this Saturday night MMA will breakthrough to a place few thought it would ever get to, network television. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC to most fans, will usher in a new era in MMA when it debutes on FOX this Saturday night (9:00 p.m ET / 6:00 p.m PT).
Although only one fight will be featured on the broadcast, it is well worth the watch. The UFC heavyweight championship will be on the line as the reigning champion, Cain Velasquez, takes on the rising challenger, Junior Dos Santos. The two men enter the Octagon with a combined record of 22-2 with 16 knockouts between them.
Arizona has been well represented in the ever expanding sport of MMA. Recently, Arizona has seen a rise in the number of UFC fighters that are originally from Arizona, or fighters that train at local gyms in Arizona. Arizona Combat Sports, located in Tempe, has seen trained a number of UFC fighters including: Ryan Bader, C.B. Dolloway and Aaron Simpson. Other major MMA gyms in Arizona include The Lions Den in Scottsdale and The Lab in Glendale.
Cain Velasquez , the UFC Heavyweight Champion, is just one MMA fighter from Arizona to achieve success in the sport. Velasquez grew up in Yuma and graduated from Kofa High School. His MMA training began as a wrestler in high school, where he went 110-10 over his four year career. While at Kofa, Velasquez won two state titles (2000, 2001) and was a four time 5A Conference champion (1998-2001).
After wrestling one year at a junior college, Velasquez attended Arizona State University, one of the premiere wrestling schools in the country, from 2003-2005. Velasquez became one of the programs most dominant wrestlers in that time, placing 5th at the 2005 NCAA National Wrestling Championships. That year Velasquez was named Pac-10 Conference Wrestler of the year and an All-American.
The co-main event for the UFC on FOX is a lightweight bout between Clay Guida and Ben Henderson with possible title implications. Henderson, the former WEC Lightweight Champion, is fighting out of Glendale. Henderson walks into the Octagon with a 14-2 record, and is a perfect 2-0 since joining the UFC in 2011. If he beats Guida on Saturday night, Henderson's next fight could be for the UFC lightweight title against current champion, Frankie Edgar.
Henderson is a black belt in Taekwando and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The last two years, he has dominated the Arizona Brazilian Jui-Jitsu scene. Henderson won four medals at the 2010 Arizona State BJJ Championships, and four medals at the 2011 Arizona State BJJ Championships.
As MMA takes its biggest stage Saturday night, there is little doubt that Arizona will be well represented. From Yuma to Glendale, MMA is taking over the state as two premier fighters with local ties will go to war Saturday night in the biggest fight of their lives.