The Most Influential UFC Fights III (of V)

By Jake Rossen Jul 8, 2009
With UFC 100 just days away, we’re taking a look back at the bouts that made a dramatic difference in Octagon perceptions -- both in and out of the cage.

Robbie Lawler vs. Steve Berger (UFC 37.5, June 22, 2002)

It was not so long ago that the UFC’s odds for achieving public consumption were only slightly better than CBS broadcasting hardcore pornography: MMA was the sports equivalent of the dirty magazines behind the convenience store cashier. No one would touch it.

That changed in 2002, when Fox Sports agreed to build one of their “Best Damn Sports Show Period” talking-head panel episodes around a UFC event. (It would be tape-delayed, but beggars can’t be choosers.) The UFC quickly threw a card together headlined by Vitor Belfort vs. Chuck Liddell, but it was Robbie Lawler’s predicted slugfest with Steve Berger that garnered airtime -- and impressive ratings for the segment. FSN went on to do more specials and air repackaged UFC and Pride compilations; more importantly, the UFC now had precedent for getting airtime and not destroying Western civilization in the process.

The Winner: Lawler via TKO.

The Lesson: MMA was a viable piece of programming -- for a network willing to take chances.
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