What to Be Thankful for in MMA: 2023 Edition

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Every year around this time, people all over America pause to take stock of all of the positive events that have happened in their lives throughout the year. During that time, families gather around the dinner table for a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings in commemoration of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day happens this Thursday inside the United States. While you wait for your family to come into town for the holiday, take a few minutes, put that bird in your oven (if you happen to be reading this on or near the holiday itself), get back to your screen and read what MMA fans have to be thankful for.

If, by chance, you happen to be reading this after the holiday or later in the extended weekend, now is the time for you to go to the fridge and make a turkey sandwich for yourself. Go ahead, we’ll be here when you come back.

Give Thanks To Bellator MMA for 15 Great Years

In 2009, the MMA landscape got a little bit more crowded with the launch of Bellator. Eventually growing into the UFC‘s premiere rival, Bellator MMA began its life with a series of events on MTV2. The promotion stayed with the Paramount Global family for the next 15 years.

For the past three years, Bellator cards have been aired on the Showtime premium cable network, save for the Feb. 4 Bellator 290. That night’s card was seen over-the-air on CBS in a Saturday evening timeslot.

The CBS special presentation secured just a little bit over a million viewers in the Nielsen Ratings. Under usual circumstances, this effort might have been decent enough for CBS to try again with Bellator, but 2023 has been a topsy-turvy year for the promotion.

Bellator Sale to PFL Taking Effect Next Year

Much has been made over the future of Bellator after this year. “Will it fold? Will it remain in existence? Will it be sold to another promotion?” These were the questions on the minds of MMA fans all over the world.

As of Monday morning, we finally have an answer. After months of conjecture and hearsay, including a report that Bellator MMA would cease to exist at the end of this year, the PFL has officially taken over Bellator.

The fact that Bellator will remain in existence after months of uncertainty is something to be thankful for this year.

Thank You, Showtime

When you think of combat sports inside the United States, one network comes to mind right away: Showtime. Since 1986, the network known for airing quality motion pictures and scripted television series has broadcast a long-running series of pugilism, Showtime Championship Boxing.

Earlier this fall, it was announced that Showtime would leave combat sports and sports television proper at the end of 2023. There’s no word just yet as far as a new outlet for Premier Boxing Champions, whose cards have been televised on Showtime over the past several years.

There’s an old adage that we’ve got to keep in mind here:

Don’t Cry Because It’s Over, Smile Because It Happened

While Showtime ending its boxing coverage after close to 40 years is a blow to fans of The Sweet Science, it’s been a great run. So many notable contests have been part of the network’s history.

In the 1990s, Showtime was home to some of Mike Tyson‘s biggest fights, including the infamous 1997 rematch against Evander Holyfield where Tyson spit out part of Holyfield’s ear. Recently, Canelo Alvarez has fought on Showtime pay-per-view, including a victory against Jermell Charlo back in October.

As you sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table, be sure to raise a glass for Showtime. Toast them for 37 years of service to the sport.

Be Grateful That the UFC’s Back in Toronto

While Canada had its version of Thanksgiving Day last month, the country’s MMA fans have something to be thankful for in their own right. Last week, it was announced that the UFC’s second live event of 2024 would be held inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

The home court of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors will play host to UFC 297 on Jan. 20. That night’s pay-per-view event will see two championship bouts at the top of the card.

Your co-main event of the evening is the contest for the Vacant UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship between No. 2 contender Raquel Pennington and unranked Mayra Bueno Silva, while the headlining bout has the UFC Middleweight Championship up for grabs. Incumbent champion Sean Strickland is currently slated to meet No. 2 contender Dricus du Plessis for the belt.

It’s Been A Long Time Coming

The UFC’s return to Toronto will be a night that’s been over five years in the making. You’d have to go back to December of 2018 for the last time that the promotion was in the Ontario city.

That late-autumn night, UFC 231 was held at the selfsame Scotiabank Arena. Max Holloway defended the UFC Featherweight Championship by way of 4th-round TKO over Brian Ortega after the fight doctor advised that the contest should not continue.

Toronto has some dedicated MMA fans. A word to the wise if you’re in or around the city: Tickets for UFC 297 just went on sale last Friday morning.

Don’t wait to buy your seats. They’ll go fast!

Final Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a great time of year. While fans of combat sports have much to be grateful for as the holiday approaches on Thursday, all of us have something to be thankful for this year.

Someone’s wife may have had a baby, while someone else might have survived a cancer scare. Some of us are lucky just to see another day.

Whatever it is that you’re grateful for this year, please do yourself a favor and give thanks. Give thanks for everything, not just on Thursday, but all year long.

Have a happy holiday, everybody.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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