Jon Anik watched UFC 1 as a high school student, and enjoyed it. But why did it take another 49 events before he became a regular follower of the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts?
“Maybe girls got in the way,” Anik said about what caused the long break from the sport. “I covered EliteXC’s first live event and that was my first live MMA show, and since that I was hooked.”
Anik is now the face of MMA news on ESPN. He is the host of the popular internet show MMA Live, which regularly features fighters and trainers.
The show has been received greatly by the hardcore MMA fans, and for that, Anik is grateful.
“They’re the best fans,” Anik said. ” It’s an honor to be associated with ESPN and MMA. I grew up a baseball, football and basketball fan, but now I can’t get enough of [MMA]. I hope that passion comes through.”
There are no immediately plans to put MMA Live on the main ESPN programming schedule, to Anik’s knowledge. The show has been placed on ESPN UK and is received in various countries across Europe.
“I can’t say if it’s an indication we’re going to land on ESPN or ESPN 2,” Anik said. “I’m hoping 2010 is a big year. Six months ago, did I think we were ready for TV? No. But right now, we’re ready, and some point we will hopefully get that opportunity.”
However, the strides the sport has made to the worldwide leader are visible. Results from UFC and Strikeforce cards are seen on the ESPN BottomLine, during its shows and ESPNNews will cut to the MMA Live crew when they are on hand for weigh-ins.
“[MMA getting prominence on ESPN is] a trend to continue,” Anik said. “Will ESPN have live fights? I don’t know. I’m not the person to answer that. … I hope people are happy and starting to give the purest sport in the world the respect it deserves.”
Anik gave his predictions for the upcoming UFC 109 card in Las Vegas.
He said it will be a big night for the middleweights, and a true No.1 contender will emerge if Nate Marquardt finishes Chael Sonnen — which Anik thinks will happen.
“Marquardt is one of the more improved fighters,” Anik said. “He’s been on a steady incline throughout his career.”
He also points to the Demian Maia-Dan Miller fight to provide some answers to whether or not Maia is a legit contender and also where Miller stands in the middleweight picture.
“There’s a lot of buzz on ESPN.com about Demaian Maia,” Anik said. “After talking to Kenny Florian, I’m smelling an upset – if Miller can get comfortable with [Maia’s] slickness and get out early of some early submissions.”
As for the main event between Mark Coleman and Randy Couture, Anik agrees that the fight would have been more interesting had it been done in 1998, but he said the appeal of Couture will help the card draw PPV buys.
“Does it hold up as a main event? I don’t necessarily think it does,” Anik said. “The legend [of Randy] continues to go. There are guys whose pay per views you always buy. When [Couture] fights, casual and hardcore fans will buy it.”
Anik is predicting Couture will win by either a decision or a finish late in the fight. He added that Couture, who has made it clear he has light heavyweight title aspirations, needs to have a spectacular fight if he wants to be in the discussion with Rashad Evans, Rampage Jackson and Shogun Rua.
“If [Couture is] ever going to make a case at this stage in his career, he’s got to beat Mark Coleman with style,” Anik said.
Anik is also choosing Paulo Thiago to beat Mike Swick and said the Frank Trigg-Matt Serra fight could go either way.
“[Thiago] has remade himself. When he came into the UFC, he was a little soft. But I was impressed when he took it to [Jacob] Volkmann,” Anik said. “Trigg will be in a better place. There might have been some nerves since he was getting back into the Octagon. … Serra needs a win. He hasn’t won since the shot heard around the world at UFC 69.”