by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Ultimate Fighting Championship put on twenty events in 2008, three in England,
one in Canada and opened new markets in the U.S. with shows in Minneapolis,
Atlanta, Omaha, Chicago, Fayetteville, and returned to where it all began back
in 1993, Denver.
In 2008 we witnessed a changing of the guard with The Ultimate Fighter alums
rising to the top of their divisions with The Ultimate Fighter season 1 winner
Forrest Griffin defeating Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to gain the light
heavyweight crown only to have it taken away by season 2 winner
Rashad Evans. Season 1 finalist Kenny Florian solidified himself as the No. 1
contender to BJ Penn’s lightweight title.
We witnessed the return of Randy "That Natural" Couture, the untimely
death of former middleweight titleholder Evan Tanner, the emergence of Brock
Lesnar and the resurrection of Frank Mir’s fighting career. Familiar faces and
long-time contenders were toppled as Chuck Liddell was viciously knocked out by
Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva was put to sleep by a counter left-hook from
Quinton Jackson, Randy Couture got TKO’d by Brock Lesnar, and "The
Huntington Beach Bad Boy," Tito Ortiz, disappeared.
While other promotions would falter in 2008, the Ultimate Fighting Championship
continued to grow and solidify its dominance as the premier mixed martial arts
promotion in the world. While they put on several events, big fights and a
reality television series, 2008 for the UFC was the "Let’s Make a
part two of the UFC 2008 Year in Review…
THE RETURN OF COUTURE
On Oct. 11, 2007, UFC heavyweight champion Randy "The
Natural" Couture announced his resignation from the organization. Couture
had fights remaining on his existing UFC contract, but maintained that the
contract was time-stamped and would eventually expire. The UFC disagreed and insisted the
popular fighter owed them two more fights, and the court filings began.
In February, lawyers for Mark Cuban’s HDNet Fights filed
suit against the UFC asking for a declaratory ruling on Couture’s UFC contract,
but Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, succeeded in
obtaining a stay on the Texas ruling.
On Aug. 1, Zuffa was awarded a permanent stay until arbitration
proceedings in Nevada were complete.
While Couture was away from the company, the UFC decided to
crown an interim champion. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeated Tim Sylvia to
obtain the interim heavyweight title.
He would later lose the belt to former heavyweight titleholder Frank Mir
at UFC 92 on Dec. 27.
On Sept. 2, the UFC called for a media teleconference to
announce a deal had been reached with Couture and he would be returning to the Octagon
to face Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 in November. The teleconference was delayed for an hour as last-minute
details were worked out between Couture and Zuffa, but the announcement was
made and Couture was back in the UFC.
Lesnar, who only had three professional mixed martial arts
bouts on his record and was 1-1 in the UFC, defeated Couture by TKO in the
second round on Nov. 15 to capture UFC gold. The former NCAA national champion wrestler and former WWE professional
wrestling superstar is slated to rematch Frank Mir to unify the titles later
this year. Mir defeated Lesnar in Lesnar’s UFC debut at UFC 81 on Feb. 2 by
THE DEATH OF EVAN TANNER
On Sept. 8, shock, disbelief and sadness tore through the
MMA community with the confirmation that former UFC middleweight titleholder
Evan Tanner was dead at age 37.
On Aug. 10, Tanner wrote a blog on Spike TV’s website, “I’m not just going out into the
desert, I’m going out into the desert to hunt for lost treasure. I’m going on a
pilgrimage of sorts, a journey to solitude, to do some thinking, and to pay my
respects to the great mysteries.”
Six days later, on Aug. 16, Tanner wrote this cryptic blog: “I plan on going so deep into the
desert, that any failure of my equipment, could cost me my life. I’ve been
doing a great deal of research and study. I want to know all I can about where
I’m going, and I want to make sure I have the best equipment.”
He added on Aug. 27, “This isn’t a version of ‘Into the Wild.’
I’m not going out into the desert with a pair of shorts and a bowie knife, to
try to live off the land. I’m going fully geared up, and I’m planning on having
Lt. George Moreno of the Imperial County Sheriff’s
Department reported that Tanner set out treasure hunting on Wednesday, Sept. 3,
asking friends to call for help if he didn’t return right away. Lt. Moreno says
friends called the Sheriff’s Office on Friday, Sept. 5, and search and rescue
teams looked for him throughout the weekend in temperatures reaching 114
That Monday, Sept. 8, U.S. Marines used a helicopter to
search by air, spotting a body two miles from the campground where Tanner’s
belongings were previously found.
The body was later identified as that of Evan Tanner.
Tanner rose to the top of the mixed martial arts world by
winning the UFC middleweight title over David Terrell at UFC 51: "Super
Saturday" Feb. 5, 2005. Tanner last competed in the UFC on June 21 losing
to Kendall Grove by split decision.