In 2005, I was not at all into MMA but had been hearing a lot of UFC coverage listening to Wrestling Observer Live and reading it being an on-and-off subscriber to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I very clearly recall an episode of the radio show where Dave Meltzer said something to the effect of “if you’re not a UFC fan now, you will be when this season is over” in referring to The Ultimate Fighter show with coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock.
I was intrigued as I was familiar with Shamrock from the WWF but I had never seen Ortiz. I’d heard the name. I had caught a few of the early UFCs and was not a fan at all. So I heard about the controversy around the early stoppage on their PPV fight and decided to watch the rematch that aired for free on Spike TV. When watching that show, I was not familiar with any of the fighters but was much more impressed with the presentation and the fights than what I’d seen previously of UFC.
While watching the show, I made the decision that I was going to become a UFC fan and decided to pick a fighter who I would follow. I settled on Jason “The Athlete” McDonald. His pre-match promo entertained me and I liked his nickname and the fact that he was from Canada. He was a pretty big underdog and I like to root for underdogs. I really didn’t know how much of an upset it was when he submitted Ed Herman in what earned a submission-of-the-night bonus. I decided that I would watch any show he was on from that point forward.
His next fight was at UFC 66 in December 2006, which set a record for PPV buys at the time and I’m sure the whole world was buying the show, like I did, to see “The Athlete” submit Chris Leben in another upset. I don’t recall the main event of that show because I didn’t really care. I may not have even watched it but looking up it was that guy Ortiz against another dude I didn’t know named Chuck something or other.
That led him into a fight against former champion Rich Franklin at UFC 68, which was stopped by his corner after the 2nd round. I didn’t give up on my guy, though, and he won 2 of his next 3 fights, including a win over a guy from my hometown Joe Doerksen, at UFC 83. That also happened to be my first time seeing Georges St-Pierre fight. By this point, I was a much bigger fan of MMA, watching all the free shows and some of the PPVs. He lost 3 of his next 4 fights, including getting knocked out in the first round by Nate Quarry, which bounced him from UFC. He made a comeback in 2010. He only won one of his four UFC fights during that run but I watched every one of them.