The Washington Times - February 1, 2009, 11:53AM

It may not have been the Ultimate Fighting Championship version of the Super Bowl, but Saturday night’s mixed martial arts bout between Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn may have been the second biggest sporting event of this big weekend. St. Pierre beat his rival with a dominating performance over four rounds before the fight was stopped, and may now be the best so-called “pound-for-pound” MMA fighter. I have no doubt that the pay-per-view numbers for UFC 94 will be huge, perhaps record setting.

The economy may be in a free fall, but UFC seems to have a choke hold on success. According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, two of the previous three pay-per-view shows surpassed one million buyers. UFC brought in more than $300 million in pay-per-view revenue in 2008, surpassing boxing and the WWE for the second consecutive year. And while the NFL is laying off workers, and baseball free agents are lining up for unemployment benefits, UFC is going the other way — expanding its empire. Last week the promotion announced that it would be opening up a series of “UFC gyms” across the country, training centers with the UFC brand name.

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And then came this latest UFC nugget that should be of particular interest to Orioles fans, because it resurrects an oldie but a goodie UFC is going into business with a jewelry manufacturer to create a line of UFC brand jewelry. One of the items to be sold is an “Octagon” bracelet is made from an actual surgical steel reconstruction plate used in orthopaedic surgery to secure broken bones, according to the press release. The company UFC is working with is called Skeletal Metal LLC (SKM), which says it is the creator of surgical steel jewelry, According to the release, Skeletal Metal, based in Henderson, Nevada, is owned by Dr. Mike Crovetti, Anthony Bonifazio, and — former Oriole outfielder Marty Cordova.

Cordova was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1995, and over nine seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and the Orioles from 2002 to 2003, Cordova hit .274 with 122 home runs and 540 RBI in 952 games. But his claim to fame is falling asleep in a tanning bed during his stint in Baltimore and missing a game because of it. He has a special place in Orioles history after being listed day-to-day for sunburn. Staying with the theme of MMA and business, the business of MMA continues to grow locally as well.

Another show is scheduled for the George Mason University Patriot Center, this one on Feb. 21 promoted by a group called the Ultimate Warrior Challenge/ The two main bouts will feature Mike “The Hulk” Easton vs. Chase “The Rage” Beebe in a bantamweight title fight (how can a Hulk be a bantamweight?), and a light heavyweight matchup between Antwain Britt and Jamal Patterson. There will also be two women fighting in an MMA match — Felice Herrig, against local favorite Iman Achhal.

Radio

I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM on Monday, Feb. 2, from 5 to 7 p.m.

To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com