The Ultimate Fighting Championship is coming to Charlotte for the first time since mixed martial arts went big time. The card is at Bojangles Arena March 31. Tickets, which range from $35 to $250, go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.
UFC is a phenomenon now. For every friend or acquaintance with which I can talk boxing, two or three want to talk mixed martial arts.
The ascent of this style of fighting, which combines all disciplines, has been legendary. It was not so legendary when it first came to Charlotte in September of 1994. Back then, some boxing commissions refused to sanction UFC cards. So promoters had to shop for an accommodating city.
They found one here. The first two UFC cards were in Denver. The third and the fifth were in Charlotte.
The late Bill Reynolds, who managed former bantamweight boxing champion Kelvin Seabrooks, promoted the first card. It was held at Grady Cole Center. Jim Brown, the former running back, sat at ringside and offered color commentary. The gym sold out. Reynolds, a longtime boxing promoter, told me it was the most lucrative show he ever was part of.
At the time, people didn't know what to make of it. Was it legalized street fighting, and if so, how could it last? Doubt such questions will be asked in 2010.
The Charlotte card next month will feature lightweights. Kenny Florian, 14-4, of Brookline, Mass., will take on Takanori Gori, 31-5 with one no contest, of Tokoyo.