Race is, in MMA as well as life in general, obviously a very touchy topic. Unfortunately it seems that when we are talking about race in our sport it is usually in a very negative or controversial light, such as earlier this month when dealing with accusations that Yoshida was booed against Koscheck in part because he was Asian or some of the uncomfortable undertones to the Kimbo Slice run in EXC.
However for once we may be able to speak about it in a positive light. Coming off of Quinton Jackson's devastating knockout of Wanderlei Silva and Rashad Evans capturing the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship with a knockout of his own over Forrest Griffin we are on the verge of history. If the logical bout between the two is made it will be the first time that two African-American fighters have met for a major world title in MMA.
This is important for the simple reason of exposure and appeal for an underappreciated segment of the potential fanbase. It is the same reason that Iron Ring, while a product I didn't enjoy personally, was important in its intentions. There is a significant portion of the American audience that has not fully been tapped into by the UFC and MMA in general and it can't be minimized that having more successful African-American fighters in the world's biggest organization will help increase the appeal of the sport for that audience.
Boxing thrives in the African-American community when there are dominant African-American fighters on top, same with the Latino community. It isn't a matter of creating forced opportunities to exploit such a situation but rather of coming by them through more legitimate means. There is no denying that Jackson is deserving of a shot to win his title back nor is there any denying that Evans is the true champion, so this is a very legitimate fight should it be made and that it creates an appeal through legitimacy much more so than if they were just to throw two black guys in a cage and said "Come watch our main event! It's significant!"
I'm not saying either of these guys are Jack Johnson and it will obviously take more than a single high profile match-up to help the sport fully catch fire with any single segment of the population but there is no understating the significance of a possible fight between Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship as a historic moment in this great sport.