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The stakes for UFC on Fox couldn’t be higher

Dana White is counting on his heavyweights to plow the UFC into the mainstream on Fox. (Photo courtesy of Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

(Courtesy of BostonHerald.com)

Tonight’s UFC on Fox, which features UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos, is a show so monumental it could forever change the landscape of mixed martial arts.

If everything goes right from Anaheim, Calif. at 9 p.m., the UFC will be one step closer to establishing themselves as major players in the sport industry. UFC president Dana White has never hid the fact that he wants his brand to be on par with the NFL, a lofty goal but getting the sport on network television is a step in the right direction.

Tonight, of course, has to go off without a hitch. It’s easier said than done when you’re only showing one fight. Granted, the fight between Velasquez and Dos Santos is perfect for this because quite frankly, everyone loves heavyweights. And tonight, fans from all over will be able to watch the top two best heavyweights in the world fight and fight for free.

“This is without a doubt the biggest fight in UFC history. This thing started as a small fringe sport and has grown to what it is today,” White said. “(Tonight) as we step out onto Fox, millions of people will see UFC who’ve never watched before. As we take this step forward into what we call ‘mainstream,’ we were much more fortunate in that we were able to hand pick a fight that we wanted to put on Fox. If I had to do it all over again, this is still the fight I’d pick to put on network television.”

White has already said that even if tonight’s fight gets over early, no other fights will be shown. There are multiple things that could go wrong – a quick knockout, a disqualification, a boring five round affair or even a fight being stopped due to a cut. But it’s a risk White and Fox executives are willing to make.

Though this is a first for the UFC, to be on a major network, it’s not a first for MMA. Elite XC had three shows shown on CBS in 2008 and the results were interesting to say the least. Though viewers peaked at 6,510,000 making it the most watched MMA event in history, the main event was subpar. Elite XC’s grand idea to try and build around Youtube sensation Kimbo Slice, in hindsight, was poor planning.

Now the UFC will do it right. Not with a gimmick fight, but with one of the most intriguing MMA match-ups in the world. And though White has his sights set on the NFL, it’s still boxing who they’re going head-to-head with. And tonight couldn’t be a better test as one of boxing’s biggest draws, Manny Pacquiao, takes center stage.

“We’re obviously stoked (to have this event on FOX),” said Fox Sports Chief Executive David Hill. “We’re all huge boxing fans and I think with the death of Joe Frazier, it made people realize that everyone remembers what a great boxer and competitor he was, and the will to win Joe Frazier had. Everyone started talking about the golden days of boxing and what happened to it. To be coming back on primetime with a fight like this, it’s kind of like the dawn of a new era. It’s like a phoenix coming from the ashes.

“What boxing was to my generation, UFC is to my son’s. By the end of these seven years, UFC will be mainstream.”

Tonight’s prelims can be seen on Facebook or Foxsports.com, starting at 4:45. The UFC on Fox: Pre-Fight Show  starts at 7 p.m. on Fuel TV, which will also host the post-fight show at 10 p.m.

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