by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
A sure indication that mainstream acceptance is en route for mixed martial arts, ESPN today announced that UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson have been nominated for its ESPY awards. The ESPYs will be televised Sunday, July 15, on ESPN.

The category in which Couture and Jackson are nominated is Best Fighter. Besides their actual nominations, of significant interest is that this category was formerly Best Boxer. Not only does the category compare individual accomplishments, but ESPN is also touting it as a competition between sports as MMA fighters and boxers are included in the new category.

“For the first time, the nominations for Best Fighter (formerly Best Boxer) have boxing and mixed martial arts competitors going head-to-head,” read a statement released by ESPN.

Aside from Couture and Jackson, boxers nominated for Best Fighter include Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquaio. None of the five nominees has ever won an ESPY.

After a year-long layoff, Couture defied Father Time, dismantling former champion Tim Sylvia over the course of their five-round bout in Columbus, Ohio earlier this year.

At UFC 71, Jackson revived his splintering career by doing the unthinkable, knocking out Chuck Liddell in less than two minutes, which built upon a knockout of Marvin Eastman at the beginning of the year in Jackson’s UFC debut.

Unless you spent recent weeks under a rock, and maybe even then, you know that Mayweather was part of the most successful boxing pay-per-view event in history, an event in which he won a 12-round decision over Oscar De La Hoya.

Pacquaio knocked out Jorge Solis earlier this year to maintain his status as the WBC International Super Featherweight Champion.

Current WBA Welterweight Champion Cotto won the belt by TKO in December then defended it twice this year. He TKO’d Oktay Urkl in March. Two weeks ago, he thrashed Zab Judah before a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Fans determine the winners of the ESPYs by voting online at espys.tv, now through July 7. According to ESPN, more than 12 million votes were tabulated last year.