UFC President Dana White mused it may be the greatest fight card ever.
And it was a night whose excellence was made possible by fighters on this heavily-Latino card.
Hector Lombard, originally from Cuba, knocked out both the crowd and his opponent in about 90 seconds.
Then followed Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga, who also prevailed via a first round knockout.
Most impressive of all, however, was the fight between Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez and Diego Sanchez (both of Mexican descent), who easily won the ‘fight of the night’ bonus and had UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta asking if we all just witnessed the “best fight ever.” To say these two fighters showed heart and entertained viewers would be the understatement of 2013. (Melendez ultimately prevailed in the decision.) Topping it all off was the main event of Mexican-American Cain Velasquez and Brazilian Junior dos Santos. Velasquez, the heavyweight champion, defended his belt once again against the Brazilian who refused to give up, in a grueling match that lasted nearly all five rounds.
But it was not only the card that made UFC 166 so memorable but the Houston setting. With a crowd of over 17,000 fans, it topped the Toyota Center’s attendance record (UFC events in Houston’s Toyota Center now boast three of the top five attendance numbers, beating out even Madonna and The Rolling Stones). Why is UFC such a huge success in Houston? The Latino populace. In fact, as of 2011, the city was a hefty 44% Hispanic.
This isn’t rocket science. Latinos – whether it’s fans or fighters – and the UFC simply mix.
UPDATE: I neglected to mention Tony Ferguson in my original post! Ferguson (of Mexican descent) also prevailed with a submission win in the prelims.
UPDATE: Dana White has announced that Chael Sonnen will be hosting a TUF season with Wanderlei Silva. The UFC’s decision to constantly promote Sonnen (to a bizarre, head-scratching degree) is at odds with embracing the Latino community, considering the many remarks Sonnen has made about South Americans, including its ‘poor kids playing in the mud’ (remarks this writer has yet to hear him apologize for). So… what gives, UFC???