The UFC will honour one of its first broadcasters and one of it’s all-time matches at UFC International fight week this July.
Jeff Blatnick, an Olympic gold medallist in wrestling before moving to the UFC broadcast booth, is being inducted in the contributor category.
Many fans will remember the rematch between Frank Trigg and former UFC welterweight champ Matt Hughes. Hughes survived a low blow and a compromising choke position to defend his crown with a spirited comeback.
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The official inductions will take place Saturday July 11th at the UFC Fan Expo, during fight week.
“Jeff Blatnick is a name that newer fans may not be familiar with, but this guy was a huge part on the UFC’s development in the 1990s,” UFC president Dana White said. “He pushed for greater regulation, unified rules and – because he was an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling – he had credibility with everyone in the sport. It is our honor to recognize his huge contributions to the UFC by inducting him into the UFC Hall of Fame.”
Blatnick was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. Two years later at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, he won the gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Recognizing the potential of the UFC, he joined the company as the lead colour commentator, starting at UFC 4 (December 1994) through UFC 34 (November 2001).
He also served as commissioner (1998 – 2001) and even a judge at UFC 152 in Toronto before passing way in October of 2012.
Lori Blatnick will accept the award on her late husband’s behalf.
“Jeff would have been so honored to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. It’s awesome, and it is right that he is recognized,” she said. “He worked so hard to improve the sport and keep it alive in the 1990s. People in the industry, or have been around the UFC for years, they know what Jeff did behind the scenes but the viewers who watch the fights today probably haven’t heard of him.
“That’s probably because of Jeff’s character, he was very humble and didn’t like to talk about himself. But it is great he will now be recognized in such a huge way.”
Hughes – Trigg II will be inducted in the new Fight wing category.
The fight was the main event of UFC 52 in April of 2005. The preamble is almost as memorable, with Trigg trying to goad the champion at every turn.
You can watch the fight on UFC Fight Pass here if you have a subscription.
“I’ve said it a million times over the last 10 years, Hughes vs Trigg II is one of my favorite fights ever,” White said. “In four minutes five seconds, it showed everything that is great about the UFC.”
Hughes is already a main UFC Hall-of-Fame inductee.
“When I got my hand raised, I thought I’d just come through a tough fight,” Hughes recalled. “It was only afterwards, when my team were congratulating me on this great win, that I started to realize this wasn’t just another fight. Then Dana called me a few days later telling me it was the best fight he’d ever seen and, in the years since, I get asked about that one rematch with Trigg about as much as I do any big fight I’ve ever been in.
“I occasionally get invited to speak to servicemen, and I try and speak to them about never giving up when they are in bad situations. The fight I use as an example is the second Trigg fight; I was in a very bad situation, I’d been hit low, I was hurt, rocked, Trigg had my back and he had me in a choke. But I didn’t panic and as long as you don’t panic, you don’t quit on yourself and you have a little time, you can get out of even the worst of situations.”
While the disappointment of losing still remains with Trigg, the consolidation of being in a memorable match is not lost on him.
“This is a great honor,” he said. “Every great fight has a winner and a loser, but I am very proud that, 10 years on, people still ask me about this fight. I may not have won the UFC title that night, but this goes some way to make up for that.”
More inductees are expected to be announced.
The announcements are part of a recent initiative to improve the UFC Hall-of-Fame, a section of the company that many – including MMA Crossfire – have been advocating for improvement.
While it is not at the level of attention that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) devotes to its Hall-of-Famers, these announcements do indicate that the problem is slowly being addressed.