Welcome to Between the Ropes, a blog that will focus on the latest WWE and MMA news. My name is Brian Fritz, and I have been chronicling pro wrestling and mixed martial arts for 16 years via a variety of blogs and radio shows, including here with the Orlando Sentinel leading up to WrestleMania 24, which took place right here in the City Beautiful back in 2008.

I got introduced to wrestling as a teen-ager back in 1986 when the National Wrestling Alliance was hot and heavy here in the south.  The first match I can remember watching was Tully Blanchard — one of the famed members of the legendary Four Horsemen — defending the television championship against Brad Armstrong as the two battled to a time-limit draw of 10 minutes.  It may not have seemed like much, but it was to a wide-eyed 13 year-old and I was hooked.  Following that, it wasn't tough to find me on Saturday nights as I would race home by 6:05 p.m. to watch World Championship Wrestling on the Superstation WTBS, enthralled by the likes of Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors and, of course, the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. 

Nearly twenty years later, I'm still a fan.  Sure, some people will use that nasty "F" word when talking about wrestling — fake.  But that doesn't take away from the great theater that can be displayed in the squared circle with the over-the-top characters, the stories they tell and the incredible matches that hopefully ensue.  Some people like watching a great performance by Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen.  Watching a classic match and the story leading up to it is the same to me. 

Sometimes the stories behind the scenes are just as interesting if not more that the ones taking place in front of the camera.  The wrestling — or sports entertainment — business can be very tough for those involved and a very intriguing one for those of us that follow along.

Around 2000, I started hearing about the Ultimate Fighting Championship and was able to watch tapes of early shows.  No holds barred fighting that looked more like wild bar fights in most cases with some disciplines mixed in that most viewers, including the broadcast team, had little to zero knowledge of.  It was wild, it piqued my interest, too. 

I became more interested in 2002 following the huge grudge match between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock at UFC 40.  These two men hated each other and let it show, flipping furniture and growling at one another more and more in the days leading up to the fight as it reached its boiling point.  Since then, UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole has blossomed into a worldwide sport that continues to grow.  Along with that, the fighters have improved, utilizing so many different skills from boxing to wrestling to Jiu-Jitsu and others to become well-rounded and more dangerous than ever before.

If you have any questions, you can email me at fritz@betweentheropes.com or follow me on Twitter @BrianFritz. To listen to my podcasts, go to BetweenTheRopes.com.