Promotion for UFC 193 will go into overdrive this week with Ronda Rousey just days away from facing Holly Holm in Melbourne, Australia, but the first real push to sell the fight started in early October with the release of a groundbreaking new commercial.
The 2-minute, 44-second spot debuted courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres but the work behind the video had been going on for months as the UFC teamed up with a company called Digital Domain, who along with their in-house production company called Mothership were the same people behind the amazing advertisement for Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor ahead of their proposed fight this past summer at UFC 189.
After working together on the Aldo vs. McGregor spot, that helped set a new standard for fight promos with the UFC, Digital Domain was called back in to work on something special for a card that was expected to be the biggest show of all time.
The proposal as it originally happened was for Jose Aldo to face Conor McGregor as the main event with Ronda Rousey taking on Miesha Tate in the co-main event with the show taking place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. So director Neil Huxley, who also handled the original UFC 189 promo, started brainstorming ideas with one of his collaborators at Digital Domain and before something unique began to surface.
“The original concept — it was going to be Aldo/McGregor and Ronda/Miesha Tate, that was the original card and that’s how it was going to be stacked,” Huxley said when speaking to FOX Sports. “It was not an official announcement with that card and like everything with the UFC, it changes. Fight cards change, people get injured, so this whole thing is influx for at least a couple of weeks and then it gets decided, what date, who’s fighting who, and they were looking at Dallas Stadium, and it was going to be the biggest UFC event of all time with those two fights on the card. It was going to be huge.”
So right away the production and promotion behind the card was going to be massive and the commercial to advertise it had to follow suit.
Following the Las Vegas showdown that Huxley envisioned for Aldo and McGregor at UFC 189 that included the two fighters strolling through an abandoned Sin City before meeting in the middle of the street with thousands of fans trailing behind them, he knew right away that this promo had to be different.
Considering the kind of upbringing that all four fighters had leading into the two main fights, it occurred to Huxley and his partner Aaron Shact that creating a commercial that followed Aldo, McGregor, Rousey and Tate from an early age until now was the perfect concept.
“We started writing concepts of something that could speak to this scale. I worked with the associate creative director Aaron Shact, I usually write with him and we throw ideas around together and we’re both big UFC fans. We had this idea — what if we track these four fighters from when they were kids?” Huxley said.
“Because they’ve got such interesting stories — Conor growing up in Ireland being a bit of a rapscallion when he was a kid and then you’ve got Aldo sleeping on the floor of his Brazilian jiu-jitsu gym and eating scraps of food and then growing up to be this amazing champion and Ronda had this amazing story and Miesha we were finding some interesting stuff about her as well.”
Just as Huxley and his team were beginning to put together the ideas for the commercial, everything changed with the fight card and the UFC came back to the company and revealed the new main event — Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm at UFC 193 in Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, with more than 70,000 fans expected to attend.
While the idea for the entire promo started with four fighters and it was now being whittled down to two, Huxley was invigorated with the idea of just focusing on these two women and their arduous journey to make it in a sport that had been dominated by men from the day it was created.
So the work started to put the promo together while following Rousey as a young girl who first becomes interested in judo as a kid while learning from her mother and former world champion AnnMaria DeMars. The story continues with Rousey being admonished for fighting in school before eventually turning into a medal-winning judoka and then one day noticing a fight on a television that featured B.J. Penn submitting Matt Hughes at UFC 46.
The same video follows Holm from her earliest days in a boxing gym when she caught more than a few knowing stares from onlookers wondering what a girl was doing lacing up gloves and stepping into the ring. A few cuts and black eyes later and Holm was standing on top as one of the best women’s boxers in the world.
Reality was even better than fiction when it came to Rousey and Holm’s life stories and while neither knew it at the time growing up on the judo mats and boxing rings that their journeys would eventually lead to this point at UFC 193.
“I love stories where these two characters are growing up in different parts of the world but their lives are kind of leading to this moment where they are going to meet in the Octagon,” Huxley described.
“It’s that classic story set up where two people are on a trajectory that’s eventually going to intersect. It will change their lives forever, this fight. I love stories like this. That was kind of where it came from.”
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