UFC's debut in Philadelphia included a 3.55 million gate, a stacked card, and an arena loaded with delirious fans demanding the promotion return to their city before the first bout started.
Two years later, Philly is set for a sequel.
In a city once home to the Broad Street Bullies, a new breed of brawlers were an instant smash at the Wells Fargo Center. Not even the arena's normal tenants, the 76ers and Flyers, have rocked 20,000 fans in recent years like UFC shook them in Pennsylvania's first major mixed martial arts card.
Why not try it again?
Almost out of a job two months ago, Tito Ortiz's convincing victory on the last pay-per-view card not only proved he wasn't finished, it landed him in the main event of UFC 133 on Aug. 6 at the Wells Fargo Center. Ortiz fights Rashad Evans, and Vitor Belfort takes on Yoshihiro Akiyama in the other showcase bout. Philadelphia last hosted a card on Aug. 8, 2009.
It won't be the last time -- and the wait might not stretch two years -- that UFC marks Philadelphia on its calendar.
"Philly's going to be one of our regular stops," UFC president Dana White said recently.
White called Philadelphia a destination city where fans want to visit and has the deep fighting roots that makes it appealing to its stars.
"The venues obviously love us and want to get us back," White said. "We had a great experience in Philly. It made all the sense in the world."
Like one of their heavyweights, UFC keeps getting bigger, badder, bolder.
Like 1.5 million. That's the number of Twitter followers for White that recently landed him on Sports Illustrated's, "The Twitter 100" list of essential sports figures.
Like 155 and 22. White boasted those are the number of countries UFC calls home and languages the sport is broadcast in. Toronto, Brazil, England, and Japan were all outside-U.S. locales where UFC has recently staged an event or plans to run one in the future.
White, and brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, have clearly transformed UFC into a multi-billion dollar industry. Long gone are the formative years when spin doctors were needed to defend a sport that had no weight classes, gloves or rounds.
"We believe this thing can be a global sport, meaning everybody's playing by the same rules over the world," White said. "There's still a lot of work to do to get things done."
Even with UFC sanctioned in every state with an athletic commission except New York, White wants more. UFC's TV rights are up for grabs and a new deal with Spike -- or maybe HBO? -- could surely keep the coffers filled for years. White said negotiations have been "rough" and he's putting out feelers to any interested station. UFC started airing preliminary fights on Facebook -- just one example of how far ahead of the curve the promotion has been with social media.
He'll go any place to find new ideas, even recently making his first stop to WWE headquarters to chat with the sports entertainment empire's chairman, Vince McMahon. White looks up to McMahon, emulates his business model and called him "the guy that basically created the pay-per-view market."
Just don't expect White, who looks like he could go toe-to-toe in the Octagon on short notice, to shed tears like McMahon did this week on "Raw."
White has no plans to submit to the grueling pace of working as the face of UFC. Always on the go, White feasted on cheesesteaks and energy drinks to fuel him through a two-day tour stuffed with interviews with almost every major local radio station and newspaper.
"I'll keep going until I can't go any more," White said. "I've been running at this pace for 10 years."
White touched on a wide range of subjects during a 60-minute interview with The Associated Press:
-- On former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar's digestive disorder: "He's doing well. We hope for him to be back in January."
-- On the future of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter:" "TUF is not going anywhere." He said the first episode of the new season is a two-hour special.
-- On Strikeforce, White plans to keep it running as its own promotion. Asked what can be done to make it profitable and successful, White bit his lip and said he couldn't say without insults. "I've been very good at what I've done the last 10 years and nobody else has been able to do it. I don't know, man. We'll see what happens with that thing."
-- On Brock Lesnar: WWE champ to UFC champ to Olympic gold medalist? White thinks the Octagon will join the Olympic stage. "It's eventually going to be an Olympic sport," he said. "There will be a solid amateur program eventually."
His only beef with Philly might be his lunch. When he comes back to Philadelphia this weekend, he might have to mix up his mid-afternoon break after he ordered a cheesesteak (with Cheez Whiz) at the landmark stop, Geno's Steaks.
"They didn't put enough beef on it," said White, laughing. "Geno, quit being so cheap. Put some beef in your cheesesteaks. It was like a big piece of bread of with Steak-Ummms in the middle. But it was good. I liked it."
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