There's been a lot of talk this week about what the UFC on Fox event means historically. While true perspective can't be calculated until after things have concluded, Saturday will mark a pretty important day and milestone for the world's largest MMA promotion.
It may sound like a 'duh' statement, but a lot can happen in a short amount of time in MMA. Just this year alone, we've seen No. 1 buy No. 2, No. 1 sign a network deal, champions cross over, miss press conferences and then get title shots, stars get injured and more. December will be a fun month for those year-end retrospective pieces as there's a ton to discuss.
But with Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos set to go in front of potentially the biggest audience to ever watch an MMA bout, it got me to thinking about where the current crop of UFC champions were five years ago. To paraphrase the Talking Heads, how did we get here?
Be the Sherman to my Mr. Peabody and jump in the time machine with me to November 12, 2006, when the UFC was ready to close out their second year of the boom period and had just wrapped their fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Five years ago today, the TUF 4 finale was set for Las Vegas and would feature Matt Serra picking up a split decision win over Chris Lytle to win a shot at the welterweight title and Travis Lutter submitting Patrick Cote in the first round to get a shot at the middleweight gold. TUF 4 was entitled "The Comeback" and featured all former UFC fighters looking to get back to the big time. Serra would take advantage of his opportunity, while Lutter couldn't make weight and failed at his. An interesting note on this card: Martin Kampmann beat Thales Leites by unanimous decision in the night's opening fight.
One week later, then-UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes was preparing to defend against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 65 with Tim Sylvia defending his heavyweight gold against Jeff Monson. For perspective, Sylvia just headlined for ProElite while Monson is preparing for a fight in Russia against Fedor Emelianenko. A lot can happen in five years.
UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez
The man that is preparing for the first defense of his gold was a month removed from the first pro win of his career five years ago, a 1:58 TKO win over Jesse Fujarczyk on the undercard of a Strikeforce event featuring Paul Buentello vs. Tank Abbott in the main event.
UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz
The reigning 135-pound kingpin was 9-0 and coming off his featherweight debut in a decision win over Shad Smith at a regional show. He was less than five months away from getting his only career loss at the hands of Urijah Faber in his WEC debut.
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones
How quickly has Jones shot up the ranks? Five years ago, he had yet to compete professionally. That wouldn't happen until April 2008 and now he's beating up guys like Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Rampage Jackson.
UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo
Five years ago, Aldo was sitting at 8-1 in the Brazilian MMA scene but had only fought once in 2006. It would be about 18 months until he went on his path of destruction in the WEC that would eventually lead to his current reign in the UFC.
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva
"The Spider" was enjoying his first month as UFC Middleweight Champion after his destruction of Rich Franklin at UFC 64 -- the kickoff to a reign that is still going strong five years later. In that time, Silva is 12-0 in two weight classes and has defended his belt nine consecutive times.
UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar
The 4-0 Edgar was a week out from a tilt with Jim Miller for the Reality Fighting group in Atlantic City, NJ -- a fight he'd win by unanimous decision. He would get his first taste of UFC action four months later in a UFC 67 Fight Of The Night against Tyson Griffin and never looked back.
UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre
Referenced earlier, St. Pierre was one week out from his second title shot and what would become a short first title reign that ended at the hands of the aforementioned Serra. St. Pierre has done just fine in the last five years with the majority spent being recognized as one of the two best fighters in the world.
In November 2016, what will this list look like? Will we be talking about how the next UFC/Fox deal should double in rights fees? Will pay-per-view still be alive? Could any of these champions still be on the list?