When the UFC announced its broadcast partnership with Fox and its family of networks a year ago, it was presented as an opportunity for the fighters to become stars. Who knew, though, that some of them would become bigger stars for their work behind the microphone than in the cage?
It is true, however. In the 10 months the UFC has aired content on Fox, FX and Fuel, it has become obvious that there is some serious broadcast talent within the ranks.
This is one man's opinion of the best of the best so far:
1. Brian Stann -- The UFC middleweight contender is poised, smooth, confident and insightful. It doesn't get much better than that for an expert analyst. Stann is so good in front of a camera, it obscures the work he does in the cage, where he is one of the sport's finest middleweights.
Stann the fighter is nowhere near as good as Stann the broadcaster. As a fighter, he's among the best in his weight class. As a broadcaster, he is easily without peer. He adds to the shows he's on without being obnoxious. He makes good points that aren't blatantly obvious, and he isn't afraid about pointing out mistakes a fighter is making.
The former Marine Corps captain and Navy quarterback has a lot going for him in his life and could choose to do one of any number of things when his fighting career is over.
But Stann is so good as a broadcaster, he's the kind of guy who could rise above just being an MMA analyst.
I could see Stann as he matures becoming a studio host in the mode of a Bob Costas, where he would work on a wide variety of sports.
2. Dominick Cruz -- The UFC bantamweight champion was brilliant as he provided analysis of Renan Barao's victory over Urijah Faber at UFC 149. He isn't as smooth or as polished as Stann, but he showed much potential.
He was comfortable in front of the camera and at ease delivering rather pointed opinions.
3. Kenny Florian -- The recently retired fighter is as versatile as they come, working as an analyst on live fights as well as in a studio. He is very good at both, though to nit pick a bit, he talks too much as a cageside analyst. A good cageside analyst should get in, make his point and get out. While Florian's points are all valid, he is a bit too verbose during fights.
In the studio, he's top notch and is perfectly suited as co-host of Fuel's "UFC Tonight." Florian is another guy who, like Stann, could develop as a broadcaster and be able to work as a host for sports other than MMA.
4. Rashad Evans -- The ex-light heavyweight champion has a good presence on television and a feel for what works on camera. He could stand to be more decisive and not hem and haw when he's giving an opinion, but Evans clearly has a future in broadcasting, if he chooses to pursue it.
I think he'd be outstanding one day as a cageside analyst given his knowledge of the game and his ability to think quickly on his feet.
5. Chael P. Sonnen -- Sonnen is good; quite good, in fact. But it's hard to live up to the standards he's set in his interviews. When he's not pulling off the pro wrestling style lines, he can come off as a little stiff.
That's not a criticism more than an acknowledgement that he's a rookie as an analyst. It's also a tribute to how good he is with his shtick on the fight side.
Sonnen, though, is very bright and with more experience, could wind up moving higher on the list.
There are other very talented potential broadcasters among UFC fighters. I think Frank Mir and Stephan Bonnar are fabulous, and I think if given a chance, so, too, would Ronda Rousey.
It's clear, though, that the Fox deal isn't just benefiting the bottom line for UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC president Dana White. It's also doing a lot to help prepare some of their fighters for their post-career careers.