UFC on Fox 6 is now in the books and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t think the event delivered on all counts. Both TJ Grant and Ryan Bader shone on the undercard; Ricardo Lamas and Anthony Pettis made their case for title shots in their respective weight classes, and the Demetrious Johnson-John Dodson fight may have quelled any complaints about the flyweight division.
But perhaps the man who received the biggest boost on the night was Glover Teixeira, who sent former light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson out of the promotion on a losing note. Teixeira battered Jackson for fifteen straight minutes, earning a one-sided decision victory and putting the product of John Hackleman and Chuck Liddell’s famous “Pit” into the upper echelon of the UFC’s marquee division.
A win over Jackson instantly legitimizes Teixeira as a divisional player and improves his UFC record to 3-0. The UFC has been high on Teixeira since his debut in the promotion, but fighters with established resumes (namely Mauricio “Shogun” Rua) had demurred when the UFC offered him up on the docket. Teixeira was a combination of too tough and too unknown for the top stars at light heavyweight, a situation that was far too high-risk and low-reward from a business perspective.
Jackson presented a perfect storm of opportunity for Teixeira. Disenchanted with the UFC and eager to cease their business relationship, Jackson was still contractually obligated for one more fight. The offer from UFC was simple: fight the man that no one wants any part of and then feel free to seek other opportunities. The fight also gave Teixeira an opportunity to earn a measure of revenge for his friend and mentor Liddell, who lost to Jackson in both UFC and Pride.
As important for Teixeira as the fight against Jackson was the platform on which it took place. Having the fight on the Fox network exposed Teixeira to the greatest audience possible and sent the message that he is one of UFC’s up and coming stars. The preliminary numbers have an estimated 3.78 million viewers tuning into the event, making it the third-highest watched UFC on Fox event.
The Fox cards have become what Spike TV was to the UFC back when they debuted on the basic cable channel in 2005. A place to give their up-and-coming stars maximum audience exposure and a chance to shine by beating the established stars of the previous “era”.
Both Teixeira and Rory MacDonald have been the latest beneficiaries of this promoting style. Their opponents, Jackson and BJ Penn respectively, men who were big stars for the UFC as they began their explosion in popularity in the latter half of the 2000’s. Jackson and Penn were also both seen as being past their prime and ripe to be picked off by younger, hungrier contenders.
The UFC’s debut fight card on Spike TV followed the same formula. Although it was ultimately upstaged by the classic Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar fight, the main event of that card pitted Rich Franklin against UFC Hall of Famer “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock. Shamrock was one of the biggest stars in the company in the 90’s and set a Zuffa-era record for PPV numbers in his first fight against Tito Ortiz. Franklin was 3-0 in the UFC, had just signed a long-term contract extension with the company and was being counted on to become one of their top new stars. The ensuing win over Shamrock instantly legitimized Franklin to the UFC fanbase and vaulted him into a title shot in his next fight and a subsequent stint as a coach on TUF’s second season.
The Spike cards also served to advance the careers of the upcoming stars who came out of the early seasons of TUF. Chris Leben was matched against pre-Spike era holdovers like Edwin Dewees and Jorge Rivera as he moved up the ranks. Josh Koscheck was given veterans Pete Spratt and Dave Menne to help legitimize him. Diego Sanchez and Michael Bisping also benefited from getting “the rub” from UFC veterans on Spike cards. Shamrock himself was brought back for his final fight in the UFC on Spike TV, where he was sent packing at the hands of Tito Ortiz.
The stakes may have been raised by the move from Spike to Fox, but the philosophy is still the same. Now that the Spike era has concluded, UFC is looking to take the reputations of the stars from that era and build new stars off of their backs. If the last two Fox cards are any indication, both Teixeira and MacDonald may wind up being two of the larger stars of the “Fox era”.