Before Saturday night's sold-out debut in Calgary, reporter Dave Deibert highlights the most important battles in UFC history, plus what UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta had to say about each one.
10. FRANK SHAMROCK VS. TITO ORTIZ, UFC 22 (9/24/1999)
The beginning of highly conditioned, multi-discipline MMA fighters.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "Anybody who watched that fight I think saw the transformation of the sport being from athletes that maybe had one discipline and were very one dimensional to full-fledged mixed martial artists."
9. QUINTON JACKSON VS. CHUCK LIDDELL, UFC 71 (5/26/2007)
MMA breaks through to mainstream notice.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "That fight was a culmination really of the buildup of PRIDE and UFC. You had many years of fans, the hardcore fans, arguing which promotion was better, which fighters were better."
8. CHRIS LEBEN VS. JOSH KOSCHECK FEUD, TUF 1 (2005)
Record breaking fight was preceeded by a season of Kos being such a heel, that Leben turned into the babyface.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "Once again, there's a common theme here. Things that generate interest, fights that generate interest, are typically ones that come with some sort of rivalry."
7. CHUCK LIDDELL VS. RANDY COUTURE TRILOGY, UFC 43 (6/6/2003), UFC 52 (4/16/2005), and UFC 57 (2/4/2006)
Mohawked and tattooed striker vs. clean cut wrestler, with Liddell taking two of three.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "Definitely the one that will go down in history as our version of Ali-Frazier."
6. Brock Lesnar VS. Frank Mir, UFC 100 (7/11/2009)
UFC reaches a level only achieved by Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, with 1,600,000 PPV buys.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "It really was our first what I'll call 'mega event' that shot way past over a million buys, which is really the benchmark for whether or not a fight is a mega event."
5. CHUCK LIDDELL VS. TITO ORTIZ, UFC 66 (12/30/2006)
PPV breaks 1,000,000 buys, and UFC outgrosses boxing and pro wrestling for the year.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "Tito was the champion. Chuck was a guy that was a faithful friend but at the same time Tito had what he wanted, which was the belt. He made no bones about it. Tito took it very personally. And a rivalry was born."
4. JOHN MCCAIN VS. UFC
Mixed Martial Arts was admittedly more spectacle than sport when John McCain discovered his inner male grandmother, and drove the then-SEG owned UFC off PPV, and out of dozens of States.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "That's really what drove UFC to becoming the sport that it is today. Guys like John McCain and other politicians holding the previous owners' feet to the fire. You had to have to structure around it. That was an obvious tipover point with UFC. We're glad John McCain won that one."
3. TITO ORTIZ VS. KEN SHAMROCK TRILOGY, UFC 40 (11/22/2002), UFC 61 (7/8/2006), THE FINAL CHAPTER (10/10/2006)
Tito Ortiz saves the UFC, with PPV buy rates of 150,000 (best since 1996), 775,000 (then a record), and finally the then most viewed MMA fight in North American history.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "A lot of it had to do with their personalities - Tito was young, he was brash, he was irreverent. Ken Shamrock was a guy who was well-respected, had accomplished a lot in this sport."
2. Royce Gracie VS. THE WORLD, UFC 1 (11/12/1993), UFC 2 (3/11/1994) UFC 3 (9/9/994), UFC 4 (12/16/1994), UFC 5 (4/7/1995)
In the beginning, there was Royce, and he was good.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "Probably did more for martial arts in those series of fights than had been done for martial arts in the previous 500 years."
1. FORREST GRIFFIN VS. STEPHAN BONNAR, THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER 1 (4/9/2005)
Fertittas bought the UFC and went tens of millions of dollars in the hole. With one amazingly great fight on free tv, fortunes turned.
Lorenzo Fertitta: "It's one of those perfect storms."