During the early '90s, my friend's mother worked at a video store near my home. She overlooked my youth and allowed me to rent tapes of something called the Ultimate Fighting Championship (my parents still don't know). I've been hooked ever since.

The UFC is now a multibillion-dollar organization that's managed to overcome criticism -- Sen. John McCain once called it "human cockfighting" -- with stiff regulations, a 24/7 marketing machine in the form of President Dana White and a roster that features the world's greatest fighters.

Last week, the UFC announced a new partnership with Fox, which will bring live fights to the network starting in November. Finally, the world will have an opportunity to appreciate -- or hate-- what I've come to enjoy. The same hub that carries the Super Bowl and the World Series will add another layer of legitimacy to the UFC and the world of mixed martial arts by broadcasting live events.

Yes, it's fighting, folks. But it's not the back-alley brawling that nearly tanked the organization during its past life as a free-for-all bloodsport that was blocked from the airwaves. Today, the UFC's combatants make a living by stepping into the cage and utilizing a set of skills that demand years of practice to master. They're trained professionals.

And they're protected.

No one has died in the UFC's cages because referees are quick to stop bouts whenever a fighter is seriously hurt.

In boxing, fighters can get knocked down, rise to their feet and take more punishment over the course of 12 rounds. In football, a quarterback with a concussion can tell a coach that he's OK and step back onto the field to take more hits.

In MMA, participants aren't given those chances to incur more damage.

Yes, it's intense ... like football and NASCAR and boxing and other popular sports that draw less criticism for their violent elements. Plus, most states regulate mixed martial arts. And the UFC is MMA at the highest level.

Before the Fox deal, however, the sport's top brand lacked the mainstream vehicle that network TV will provide.

There are risks. The UFC will face more scrutiny. More people could protest the sport. And the decision-makers might pressure the UFC to make TV-friendly changes.

Regardless of the possible drawbacks, the UFC's journey from a spectacle that was banned from pay-per-view TV a decade ago to one of the fastest-growing sports in the world will continue.

And yes, its revolution will be televised.

MYRON P. MEDCALF