UFC Pittsburgh – The History
UFC Pittsburgh – Just 4 weeks ago, the UFC held its third ever card here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first card, in 2011, had a main event of Anthony Johnson vs. Nate Marquardt. Johnson fell victim to injury, new main event Nate Marquardt vs. Rick Story. Nate Marquardt failed a drug test, new main event Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Berry, being bumped from co-main event. The main event delivered, but what a co-main event that would have been! It was great for everyone in the area, to finally see the UFC live and in person without having to pay an arm and a leg for travel and accommodations, so we’ll give that a pass, even though there was no hometown flavor on the card (like Bellator State College is loaded with!).
The second UFC card was in early 2016. Guess what people wanted to see? Some hometown flavor on the card. They got it this time. But Cody Garbrandt, who fought in Pittsburgh’s premier MMA promotion Pinnacle Fighting Championships and trained at one of Pittsburgh’s premier MMA gyms, Pittsburgh Fight Club (now Mark Cherico’s Martial Arts), was slated to take on a beast in John Lineker in what was sure to be an amazing fight and hopefully a coming out party for the hometown favorite, right? Not so fast. Lineker had to pull out of the fight due to serious illness and was replaced by a UFC newcomer on less than a week’s notice. Very anti-climactic. Just like its previous trip to Pittsburgh, the main event was again scrapped as Tim Means, like Nate Marquardt, failed a drug test. He was replaced on about 2 weeks’ notice by Alex Oliviera, who was easily submitted by Donald Cerrone.
UFC Pittsburgh – It Just Doesn’t Make Sense
So now visit number three. The UFC has to make up for some failed main events, some disappointment to the city. They were surely going to give this town what it wanted, right? Give some hometown flavor to the card, give Pittsburgh’s own Mark Cherico the shot that he has earned? Right? The UFC announced the card in mid-July, and stunningly, just a week later, announced that Mark Cherico will make his UFC debut! Except… it wouldn’t be on the UFC Pittsburgh card? Wait, what? He’s fighting on Dana White’s contender series show and has to travel to Las Vegas on to take the fight on a month’s notice? (Dominic Mazzotta helped Mark train) When UFC Pittsburgh is just weeks later?
So you are not going to put a guy who is an MMA icon in this city on a card in this town, but instead, make him fight on short notice across the country? Does this make ANY sense? Not only that, but there are other guys in this region that are worthy of fighting on the undercard. But there is nobody on the card with local flavor.
Add to that the co-main event of Mike Perry vs. Thiago Alves blew up because Alves stayed in Florida knowing a tremendous storm was looming, then got stuck there, and it was yet another disappointment.
I will say, amazingly for the UFC, the fight cards did deliver in all three instances. Not that Dana White would have known in the most recent case. Instead of being in Pittsburgh for the card, he was seen at the boxing PPV that he scheduled this card against. He actually had the nerve to release a promo video promoting both the UFC card AND the Canelo-GGG PPV.
Bellator State College – Strategy
Now, contrast UFC Pittsburgh to what Bellator State College is doing with their 186 card. They have five fights with Western PA MMA flavor. Yes, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 fights out of the 12 fights. That is not including Phil Davis, who was an All-American wrestler at Penn State. It also does not include fighters on this card from Philadelphia and central PA, like Davis, Ed Ruth, Mike Putnam, Scott Clymer. Throw in some Jersey boys and a New Yorker, and Bellator State College has some interest from a nice, big regional crowdbase as well as your big-time MMA fans. Bellator does an amazing job on this card of mixing what the fans want to see in the arena with what the viewers want to see on the TV. The undercard is loaded with local talent hungry to make the most out of the opportunity. The main card is loaded with intriguing fights with a mix of established veterans and up and coming stars, and two huge Penn State hometown stars.
Bellator State College is sure to draw MMA fans from all over the region with this strategic entry in the PA market. Pittsburgh’s Chris Dempsey has been to the top promotion, fighting in the UFC 4 times (Dempsey never got an opportunity to fight in a UFC Pittsburgh card) – and is now working to climb up to the top of Bellator’s Middleweight division but will have his hands full, and possibly be the villain, as he battles another Penn State All-American wrestler, Ed Ruth. Ruth is undefeated in his MMA career, with a 3-0 record.
Bellator State College – Opportunity
Another Pittsburgh stud, Dominic Mazzotta, makes his sophomore appearance at Bellator State College. He debuted in a pretty tough way, as the opportunity came knocking a weight class up from his natural weight class of 135lbs. He took a shocking loss via head kick KO from undefeated and fast-rising prospect, second generation professional mixed martial artist AJ McKee, son of Antonio McKee. He has plenty of motivation to prove that loss was a fluke and will take his 12-2 record (his other blemish on his record was to UFC Champion Cody Garbrandt) against Lancaster’s Matt Lozano, who will be eager to stop his 2 fight losing streak. I can give a prediction, and that is that Mazzotta won’t be inviting someone to breakfast at Bellator State College…
Ethan Goss, who fights out of Altoona’s Dignan/Brumbaugh MMA, will look to get a winning streak going as he make quick work out of his last opponent in April. It will be a tough task stepping into the cage with Andrew Salas, who is also looking to get a second straight victory.
Francis Healy, another Pittsburgh fighter training at The Mat Factory under the tutelage of Isaac Greeley (along with Dom Mazzotta and Chris Dempsey), looks to take full advantage of this opportunity on the big stage when he tangles with Frankie Buenafuente, who was on a five-fight winning streak before his current 2 fight skid.
Mike Wilkins, another fighter from Pittsburgh, fighting out of Stout Training, will be looking to avenge a bad run, as he’s on a 2-fight skid, most recently a tough split decision loss in August. He will have the opportunity early in the night in one of the opening bouts against Brett Martinez.
All said and told, these local fighters get a huge opportunity on the big stage. Bellator cares about this card and the fans who will put butts into seats. I can assure you, Scott Coker will not be seen at another combat sporting event that night, tweeting away and promoting it.
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Mark Cherico fans – Check out our exclusive interview with Mark Cherico and Dominic Mazzota.
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