(Yep, that’s BJ Penn before his head figuratively and literally grew several sizes)
It’s easy to forget how far this sport has come in the past 15 years. Check out how things looked back at UFC 32 in 2001, just after Zuffa had taken over the UFC:
Penn, in his second pro fight, was given a big contract for that time, a $20,000 guarantee, just because of the legend he had established in training at the American Kickboxing Association Gym under Javier Mendez and Frank Shamrock, where they talked him up as the most talented person to enter the sport.
Penn’s fight was originally scheduled to be a prelim match, but due to Internet clamor, it was moved to the main card, rendering local heavyweight Ricco Rodriguez’s win over unknown Russian sambo fighter Andrei Arlovski to the prelims.
The show drew the largest crowd ever to attend a UFC event up to that point, with 11,492 in the building. But it wasn’t as successful as it seemed, with barely 6,000 paid, even as they priced upper deck seats at $5 during fight week.
Nowadays you have to pay more than $50 just to get the OPPORTUNITY to buy UFC tickets for thousands of dollars. When you hear about how bad things were for the sport back in the day, it’s no wonder Dana White protects his sport and organization like an ex-con with his back against the wall. He ain’t going back, motherfucker. He’d rather DIE than go back.