Monday, February 5, 2007

UFC no longer fighting for its life

Randy Couture, a member of the Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame, recalls the moment he realized professional mixed martial arts would never again be pigeonholed as a niche sport, a curiosity or a novelty act.

It was Nov. 2, 2001, after the UFC 34 card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, when Couture sensed the UFC was poised to become an American phenomenon.

"I beat a fighter named Pedro Rizzo," Couture, a two-time UFC heavyweight champion, said. "After the postfight press conference, I was walking up Studio Walk so I could get to the elevator and back up to my room.

"There were so many fans waiting out there, it took me 3 1/2 hours just to get to the elevator. I wasn't expecting that. That was when it dawned on me - things have changed."

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