AFTER months of speculation, injuries, taunts and mind games, UFC 194 will finally take place this weekend with the fight everyone has been waiting for at the top of the card.
The UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will defend his title against interim champion Conor McGregor at the MGM in Las Vegas, which is set to smash all previous MMA PPV records.
It is, quite simply, the most anticipated event in the UFC’s history.
In honour of the fight, we thought we would compile a list of the top five most anticipated events in all of sports.
Keep in mind, you’re going to notice a little Australian tinge to the results!
Events such as Cathy Freeman’s unforgettable run at the 2000 Olympics and Australia’s memorable World Cup qualifier against Uruguay left such an indelible mark on the Australian psyche.
Other events, such as Mike Tyson’s bout with Lennox Lewis failed to justify the hype around it, but still generated an incredible amount of anticipation prior to the fight.
Let’s take a look at the five most anticipated events in sports history and their lasting legacy.
Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather Jnr – Las Vegas, 2015
Billed as ‘The Fight of the Century’, Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao and Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather faced off at MGM Grand Garden Arena in 2015 to determine who the greatest pound-for-pound boxer in the world was.
The fight had been in the works for more than six years, but due to disputes over money, accusations of fight dodging and disagreements between the rival camps, it took until 2015 for the two combatants to face off in the ring – unfortunately when both fighters were well past their primes.
The pay per view buys alone broke the all-time PPV record, generating $410 million dollars in revenue.
In Pacquiao’s native Philippines, over half of the houses in the entire country tuned in to watch the bout.
The fight ultimately could not live up to the hype, with many critics and fans alike agreeing that the fight lacked the excitement that the preamble generated.
Mayweather’s undefeated run continued after he outlasted Pacquiao to record a unanimous decision.
The fight itself may have been lacklustre, but in terms of anticipation – few events will ever come close to the magnitude of the Pacman vs. Money fight.
Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson – Las Vegas, 2002
It loomed as a battle of the greats; Englishman Lennox ‘The Lion’ Lewis, unquestionably the best boxer in the world at the time, facing off against the baddest man on the planet, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.
Tyson was looking to reclaim the position of the best boxer on the planet after several wayward years.
After one of the most infamous press conference in sporting history – which saw Mike Tyson fined $335,000 for biting Lewis leg – anticipation for the Lewis Tyson fight hit absolute fever pitch.
Unfortunately the bout did not live up to the expectation. Lewis comprehensively dismantled Tyson on the way to a victory in the eighth round, by knockout.
It was the highest-grossing event in pay-per-view history, generating US$106.9 million from 1.95 million buys in the USA – a record that stood for five years.
Australia vs. Uruguay World Cup Qualifier – Sydney 2005
Few Australian sporting moments can compete with the Australia vs. Uruguay World Cup qualifier in Syndey, 2005.
After losing the first leg 1-0 in Montevideo, the Australians knew they had a realistic shot at qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 31 years.
But anyone that is familiar with the Socceroos story over that period knows nothing is that easy in Australian football.
The Aussies levelled the tie up at 1-1 ten minutes before half time, and after a second half and extra time of tense, hard fought football the match headed to the dreaded penalty shootout.
Expect anything different from Australian football?
After putting Australia one up in the penalty shootout through a magnificent Mark Schwarzer save, the home side had the upper hand.
However, a wayward shot by Socceroos captain Mark Viduka left the door ajar for the Uruguayans, with the horrors of the 1998 capitulation to Iran fresh in the memories of football fans everywhere.
Cometh the moment – cometh the man.
Schwarzer again produced an amazing save which gave the Aussies the chance to seal victory with the next penalty.
Up stepped John Aloisi, who coolly slotted the winning kick to ensure Australia’s place in the 2006 football World Cup.
It will forever remain as one of the fondest and most enduring moments in Australian sport.
Cathy Freeman 400m Sydney Olympics
Has any athlete carried the hopes of a nation on their shoulders quite like Cathy Freeman in 2000?
Without question Freeman was Australia’s premiere athlete heading into the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and after being bestowed the duty of lighting the Olympic torch, expectation to win her favoured event – the 400m sprint – was tantamount to having the weight of the world pushing down.
It ranks as one of Australia’s most anticipated sporting events of all-time.
Did Freeman wilt under the pressure? Of course not.
112,524 people crammed into Olympic Park that night – a record for the stadium – to see Freeman justify the hype and etch her name into Australian folklore.
Freeman became the 100th Australian athlete to win a gold medal at an Olympic games.
It is undoubtedly one of the greatest moments in Australian sporting history.
Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA – Charlotte, 1995
After dominating the sport of basketball since entering the league, Chicago’s Michael Jordan retired from the game at 31 to pursue a career in baseball.
After failing to make an impact in the MLB minor leagues, Jordan elected to scrap his baseball plans and return to the throne he vacated just a year earlier.
The Chicago Bulls, along with Jordan issued a two word press release to announce to the world that MJ was returning.
It simply read ‘I’m Back’.
Michael Jordan’s imminent return wiped the sports world into a frenzy.
Jordan scored 19 points on his return to the court, and instantly propelled the Bulls back into finals contention after a year in the wilderness.
The Bulls would go on to win three titles in a row after Jordan’s return, further cementing MJ’s legacy as the greatest NBA player of all-time.
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