2011 was a huge year of change in mixed martial arts. What does that mean for 2012? Where the previous year was one of transition (and consolidation), this next year will be one of building on new alliances and platforms. Here are four game-changing stories you should expect to see in 2012:
1. Volume of MMA will be outrageous - if you thought there was a lot of (or even too much of) MMA in 2011, you haven't seen anything yet. Among Bellator moving to Friday, shows on HDNet, 'The Ultimate Fighter' being live on Friday nights for 26 weeks, UFC on FX shows, UFC on Fuel TV, UFC on Fox, UFC on pay-per-view and Strikeforce on Showtime, MMA fans are going to have all the mixed martial arts they can handle and them some. How much of this will crossover into non-MMA, more casual audiences? It's anyone's guess. But no one will accuse the MMA industry in 2012 for a lack of effort. Ready or not, here it comes.
2. Growth of MMA in overseas markets - we already know the UFC is heading to Brazil and Japan in the first quarter of 2012, not to mention the launch of the first 'The Ultimate Fighter: Brasil' television series. But all that is just a start. Not only will the UFC continue to trot the globe, but local markets will begin developing their own regional shows, groom local fighters and create fight fans from the ground up.
3. UFC on Fox platform -this isn't just about the UFC being on the large over-the-air Fox, although that's important. In fact, if fights line themselves up the right away and the UFC catches a few lucky breaks, it's absolutely possible to see ratings hit 15 million for a fight on the 'big' Fox. Besides that, however, is the growth of the sports portfolio on FX and the general growth of Fuel TV into larger and more popular channels. UFC's audience is incredibly loyal and will help to grow not only the general size of both of those channels, but boost the viewership in the very demographics that matter the msot.
4. The first superfight of the modern era - I alluded to this somewhat yesterday, but in truth we don't really know which fighters will be part of any superfight in 2012 (although I'll get to my guess in a moment). What we do know, however, is that MMA fans are dying for one. There've been great fights of great size with great consequence this past year and those before. But there hasn't been a huge fight that defines an era of the sport. That much is lacking. With pressure from fans, the UFC will be more inclined than ever to make a superfight happen. The most likely candidate? Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones seems probable, but there are others to consider. All we know for certain is there is intense fan demand and there's no time like the present.
For your money, what are you game-changing stories of 2012?