During the past decade, ultimate fighting has leaped from being a late-night, underground event to one of the more popular sports in the world, generating audiences and TV ratings on par with boxing, the NHL and NBA.
On May 15, The Ultimate Fighting Championship is presenting a night of matches at the Patriot Center, featuring a featherweight main event of Dustin Poirier battling “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. The winner should be in line for a title bout against current champion, Brazilian star Jose Aldo.
The night’s undercard also includes a fight between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jeremy Stephens in the lightweight division.
“This really is a great sport. You have so many different athletes with so many different backgrounds in the mixed-martial arts coming together to see who is the best,” Cerrone said. “People like to see this and an explosion happened where we have just become as popular as any other sport.”
A former professional bull rider, Cerrone started in UFC in 2011, and tallied an impressive 17-4 record in his rookie season. Cerrone started kickboxing a decade ago and, during the past few years, has mixed other disciplines into his arsenal. He trains every day from eight to 10 hours and, as the match gets closer, that will intensify.
“You have to constantly work at every discipline, plus conditioning and swimming and also work the mental game,” Cerrone said. “Getting your mind right may be the most important part.”
Jon Jones is the current titleholder and Cerrone hopes after a few more fights under his belt, he will get the chance to go for the championship.
“After Jeremy, I’ll take on another of the top guys and I’ll keep pushing,” he said. “Getting that shot is based on who the fans want to see and whether you deserve it by your record. I know my chance will come.”
Also on the card is Yves Jabouin against Mike “The Hulk” Easton, with the winner expected to get a crack at current bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz.
Hailing from Washington, D.C., Easton joined UFC last year and is 11-1. He scored his first knockout against Bryon Bloodworth in front of his hometown fans at the Verizon Center.
“Washington, D.C., is a rough area and guys do not play around,” Easton said. “I’ve seen friends being killed with my own eyes, I’ve got friends in prison and I have to do certain things so I can prove to these guys out here that you don’t have to do anything negative to make it out here.”
Easton is known for his torturous guillotine choke-holds and his ground skills, which include a mastery of jiu-jitsu. His plan for the fight is to keep a “super high pressure” on him and set “a super high pace.”
“I have to push him, I have to take him to a place that his mind and body has never ever gone before and I’m the guy to do that,” he said. “I’m non-stop action, I keep going and I keep the pressure going and I’m the hardest hitter in the division and everyone knows it.”
Also on the card is a middleweight fight between Jason MacDonald and Tom Lawlor and a light heavyweight match between Igor Pokrajac and Thiago Silva.
The event marks the second time UFC has come to the Patriot Center; with a sellout crowd jamming the arena back on Jan. 11, 2010.
“We’re excited to head back to the Patriot Center again with another great night of fights ... From top to bottom, I will deliver for the fans in Virginia,” UFC President Dana White said.
UFC’s event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 15. Tickets cost from $44 to $229 and are available at the Patriot Center box office, online at Ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800-745-3000.