UFC comes to Atlanta for the first time

Chuck Liddell-Rashad Evans fight the main event

Mixed martial arts fighting is one of the fastest-growing sports, and Atlanta is no stranger to its popularity. From traditional boxing events to cards that incorporate muay Thai (also called Thai boxing), wrestling and other grappling techniques, there seems to be a local event happening at least on a monthly basis.

But when Ultimate Fighting Championship, the televised fight league that put this sport on the map, comes to town this weekend for its "Breakthrough" pay-per-view event, it will be the first time Atlantans have had the opportunity to see a UFC event live.

While the undercard features the likes of Matt "the Hammer" Hamill vs. Rich "Ace" Franklin and Yoshiyuki Hoshida vs. Karo "the Heat" Parisyan, it's the heavy-hitting main event that has been selling tickets since June, before any other matches were even announced.

The big fight features Chuck "the Iceman" Liddell, a UFC veteran who has held the light heavyweight championship and holds victories over the likes of Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture and Kevin Randleman. He takes on Rashad Evans, an undefeated rising star who first made a name for himself by winning the heavyweight division of the second season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show.

"Breakthrough" will be the first event where these two fighters have faced each other and could be, of course, Evans' first defeat.

"I'm excited about being part of the first show in Atlanta," Evans says. "I'm not sure about that first loss thing. People say, 'You're undefeated,' but when you fight from a position of trying to hold a status or protect something ... you just don't fight right. So I just forget about my record and start each fight 0-0."

And with all the hype surrounding this event and so much on the line for each fighter, Atlanta fans could also witness a rivalry in the making.

"The big thing is I'm on a mission to get the title back and end my career on a streak of wins," says Liddell, 38. "I'm glad to be at the first fight out there. We have a lot of fans out there, so it should be a good market.

"I don't really concern myself with what's going to happen after the fight," he says. "You've just got to concentrate on the fight, have fun, enjoy the fight, then talk about what's in the future after the fight."

Evans also says he's not looking past what could be his biggest challenge yet. But if Liddell gives him his first loss, one can only imagine he might be out for redemption at some point.

"I hope I have a great performance and that's my main focus," says Evans. "But who knows what kind of fireworks are going to happen when you put two people in there with two different styles and just see who wants it more? I hope it's a great fight people will want to see again."