The holiday season is officially upon us and today, we here in the US celebrate Thanksgiving — a wonderful holiday filled with belt-busting meals, NFL football and deranged Black Friday shopping preparations.

You have to love how we have taken a holiday about being thankful for all that we have and have morphed it into this hedonistic eating and shopping bonanza; man, I love America. While I will be watching football and eating myself into a coma today, I did want to at least take a moment and share why I am thankful for MMA this year.

1 – Conor McGregor’s Bravado

It’s been a good year for McGregor, who has racked up two first-round TKO victories and two “Performance of the Night” bonuses in 2014. McGregor has gone from prospect to legit contender in a matter of months, thanks in large part to overwhelming bravado and charisma. While I don’t think he will beat Jose Aldo, McGregor has made the UFC featherweight division one of the most intriguing divisions in all of MMA.

2 – Bellator and the future of MMA

This past summer, Bellator made a bold move by parting ways with founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney and bringing in former Strikeforce founder Scott Coker. The first order of business for Coker was to eliminate the tournament format and while I will be sad to see it go, Bellator is going to be better for it.

The real reason I am thankful for Bellator this year is because they went out and signed the best prospect this sport has ever seen, Aaron Pico. At just 18, Pico has yet to even compete in MMA and his current focus is on capturing Olympic gold in freestyle wrestling in 2016, but mark my words, this kid is going to be a champion. Bellator isn’t just focused on competing with the UFC today they are looking towards how they will compete with them in the future and Pico is a great asset to have.

3 – Miesha Tate

Tate isn’t the best female fighter in the world and as long as Ronda Rousey is in the UFC, she will never wear bantamweight gold. But that really doesn’t matter because Tate is simply awesome; she is a tremendous fighter, she is alluring and she is engaging. I’ve been lucky enough to speak to Tate several times over the past few years and she is always amazing to talk to. MMA is great because of fighters like Tate; fighters who truly care about the fans and who want to put on a show.

4 – The RFA

The Resurrection Fighting Alliance has become the first class of developmental MMA promotions, and they consistently send talent to the UFC. MMA needs feeder leagues to the major promotions and the RFA has become the best place for talented prospects to cut their teeth and catch the eyes of Bellator and the UFC. There are some other great organizations out there, but at the end of the day if you win an RFA title, you will find yourself fighting for a major promotion.

5 – Mark Hunt

Hunt may have helped to save the UFC heavyweight division this year by delivering a vicious knockout and by receiving a vicious knockout. The heavyweight division is thin to begin with, and with champion Cain Velasquez continually sidelined with injuries and top draw Junior dos Santos recuperating as well, fans needed a reason to care and Hunt became that reason.

He isn’t the best fighter…hell, he had a losing record when he came to the UFC from Pride. But then he starting dropping opponents left and right and earned a bout with dos Santos. Dos Santos did KO Hunt, with a spinning heel kick of all things, but Hunt rebounded with a “Fight of the Night” draw against Antonio Silva to end 2013.

Hunt got back into the win column in September when he knocked out iron jawed Roy Nelson with a brutal uppercut. Then when Velasquez had to pull out of his title bout against Fabricio Werdum Hunt was there to save the day. Hunt didn’t win, but he gave fans a reason to care about the heavyweight division again.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.