The Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as UFC, is bringing mixed martial arts back to Los Angeles once again this Saturday for a live event that will be broadcast on Fox. It's the fourth such event to air on the network.
"It's going to be tough against the Olympics," says Dave Meltzer of Yahoo Sports and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Ticket sales aren't great, but Meltzer says it's what should have been expected. "It's Los Angeles and Los Angeles isn't going to turn out in great numbers unless you've got the biggest names."
Still, Meltzer expects a respectable crowd, predicting around 8,000 fans paying for tickets and more receiving free tickets from giveaways and comps. He says that's a decent attendance given a middle of the road lineup.
"UFC is running a lot of shows and battling a lot of injuries," Meltzer says, "which makes putting together a killer card problematic." As the sport has entered the mainstream through exposure on both cable and network television, UFC has tried to take advantage of that with more product, but it means each individual show might not have the big fight.
Of course, that TV product is also going to be up against the Olympics, so sports fans who are also fight fans may see their loyalties divided. How's the card look?
The main event of the show is Mauricio "Shogun" Rua versus Brandon Vera. Both men were once rising stars, but have been disappointing in recent memory. They've also both previously lost fights to the current light heavyweight champion.
"If you buy into the story of talented underachiever Brandon Vera getting his shot at redemption, then there's a main event hook," Meltzer says. "If you see Vera as a mediocre fighter who has no business in the main event on Fox or being in consideration for a title shot, you could view it differently."
The winner of the fight was initially scheduled to get a shot at the light heavyweight title, but UFC impresario Dana White fudged on that after fans reacted in protest that neither man deserved a title shot.
"When the fans speak, we listen," White told the Associated Press. The UFC matchmakers are also going to consider the winner of Ryan Bader versus Lyoto Machida, and whichever winner pulls off the most impressive victory Saturday night is going to get the title shot.
Who do you think will win? The card also offers another treat for L.A. fans: Hollywood's own Manny Gamburyan, who made a name for himself on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series, will be competing live. It's not for Fox, though — he's going to have to leave an impression via the untelevised preliminary fights.
The show kicks off (punches off?) Saturday at 2 p.m., with the main card beginning at 5 p.m. Pacific, 8 p.m. Eastern.