BURBANK – As the Ultimate Fighting Championship seemingly gets bigger and bigger with network television, pay-per-views once a month if not more and a fan base growing across the globe, it cannot get any bigger than UFC 146 — literally.
The May 26 event at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden — for the first time in company history — will feature an all-heavyweight lineup across the pay-per-view main card, headlined by UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos defending his title against Alistair Overeem in a bout that will feature roughly 500 pounds of knockout power.
As part of a whirlwind day filled with Southern California media engagements, the combatants stopped by Morton’s The Steakhouse in Burbank on Wednesday for a media luncheon.
“It’s probably never been bigger than this,” said UFC Director of Communications Dave Sholler.
After the 6-foot-4, 239-pound Dos Santos (14-1), 6-5, 256-pound Overeem (36-11) and the assorted print and television media were done with their respective choice cuts, the fighters got to the meat of the issue regarding the Brazilian Dos Santos making his first title defense against the Dutch striker.
“I’m a guy who brings it,” said Overeem, who owns 15 knockouts and 19 submissions in his mixed-martial-arts career. "[Dos Santos] is a fighter who brings it.”
To which Dos Santos added, “We are strikers. So for sure, it’s gonna be a good fight for the fans. Two heavyweights hitting each other.”
It was hardly the case Wednesday afternoon, though, as both fighters were highly complementary of each other and soft-spoken. Dos Santos, whose stint as a coach on a season of the reality series “The Ultimate Fighter” represented him as one of the friendliest fighters around, is widely regarded as one of the genuine, nice guys of the sport, but Overeem came off much the same way when engaged by the media.
“I think we both have a dark side,” Overeem said. “The dark side comes in the ring or the octagon or in practice and I think we need to have that … so outside we can be gentlemen.”
Added Dos Santos: “Same thing for me. He answered that very well. … I have nothing against him, he’s a nice guy.”
As the UFC swells in notoriety, so too do its stars.
In his last bout, Dos Santos knocked out Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds on Nov. 12, 2011 as the UFC debuted on FOX to claim the championship.
“People recognize me more on the streets,” said Dos Santos, who owns 10 knockouts in his career, of how his life has changed since winning the belt. “I’m really enjoying everything that’s happening for me.”
Overeem was a mainstay in Japan’s now-defunct PRIDE organization, a former K-1 Kickboxing champion and held both the Strikeforce and Dream heavyweight crowns before venturing into the UFC. He’s fought just once, but knocked out former champion Brock Lesnar — the company’s previous biggest draw — and his stock has risen drastically.
“Since I came to the UFC, since I fought Brock, definitely I’ve been more recognized on the streets,” said Overeem, who’s won eight straight bouts. “You get recognized basically everywhere you are.”
And with all the best heavyweights in the world quickly migrating from sibling company Strikeforce into the UFC, things will continue to get bigger and better on May 26 and beyond.
"[Now] you can say the best heavyweights in the world are in the UFC,” Overeem said, “and that’s true.”
And on Wednesday, Dos Santos, who’s won nine consecutive fights, walked away from Burbank as the UFC champion preparing to face his first challenge and hoping to walk away from his Las Vegas title showdown with his burgeoning reign intact.
“It motivates me,” Dos Santos said. “I want to be the best for a long, long time. I’m living a dream.”
Tickets for the event go on sale Friday and more information is available at ufc.com.