Ryan Bennett was a significant figure in the growth of mixed martial arts in that he established one of the sport’s major media outlets, then became a “face of the action” to millions of fans on television.
Born August 20, 1970 in Utah, Bennett was a standout all-around athlete as a youth. He attended Weber State University, where he got an early start in the world of broadcasting, hosting a music program as well as a sports talk show, and served as a a commentator for many live sporting events at the school. Moving into televisions after that, he found work as a producer and later went in front of the camera, cutting his teeth in secondary markets.
In one of the markets, San Luis Obispo, CA, Bennett, who had always been a fan of the mixed martial arts, founded MMA Weekly, which evolved into perhaps the most popular independent website ever to cover the sport. MMA Weekly did a number of innovative things, including a daily radio show Bennett hosted that brought together many of the leading names from the MMA industry. MMA Weekly was known to “scoop” most all other outlets when it came to the latest news from all mixed martial arts organizations.
Bennett was known as “The Hitman,” which ironically did not come from any involvement with mixed martial arts, but from his days hosting a music show at the campus radio station. But it fit with his new field of endeavor anyway.
After the Ultimate Fighting Championship changed hands, and Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta took over, they hired Bennett to be part of their broadcast team. Ryan’s debut with UFC was with the UFC XXXIII event, held in Las Vegas in 2001. It was the first full-fledged event under the new UFC ownership, and marked its return to widespread pay-per-view audiences after the adjusted rules made it more broadcast-friendly.
In May of 2006, MMA Weekly was acquired by the Canadian-based Fight Network, and Bennett set out on taking his career to a new dimension. But tragedy struck on May 31, 2006. Traveling with his wife and four children on Interstate 15 near Filmore, Utah, Bennett’s sport utility vehicle swerved off the road, over medians and crashed. Ryan’s family survived, but he was killed instantly.
Randy Harris and MMAWeekly have raised over 160,000 via the Ryan Bennett Memorial Auctions, The Fight Network established a Ryan Bennett Memorial Fund, and there is a Ryan Bennett Memorial Golf Tournament held at the Chalk Mountain Golf Course in Atascadero, CA. Also, “Ryan Bennett Lane” has been dedicated in his memory in West Valley City, Utah.