Once upon a time, MMA was hardly the sport it is today.
The UFC (which was taken off of Pay-Per-View due to public outcry about the dangers to the combatants) was just purchased by The Fertitta Brothers, PRIDE FC was setting the Japanese Fight World on fire, and not many news outlets (actually, not many people in general) were blinking an eye at the sport.
It was quickly written off as 90's fad that quickly sizzled out with only maintaining a diehard fan base. To put it in better words, nobody in america gave a FUCK about Mixed Martial Arts. Except for me..and maybe 3-4 other people.
That was until one faithful night on Spike TV, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner put on the fight of a lifetime, and quickly gained the eyeballs of those who never gave the sport a chance. The Pay-Per-View to follow was Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture, which broke all UFC records at the time, showed Mixed Martial Arts could turn a profit and capture the attention of sports enthusiasts. Fighting is a universal language, and everybody was quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Even the wrong people.
You know. The guys wearing "Tap Out" shirts, the dude at the bar who says he is a black belt in UFC to impress some hefty chick, the jiu jitsu red belt who can't name his teacher however always remember his advice of "Don't fight my son, you hands are too lethal", and of course, the man who became the mascot to the wrong kind of crowd the sport could attract - Lee Hotti.
Lee Hotti landed on the radar of MMA fans on a popular forum called "Sherdog" which was established as the "go-to" place for fight news since 1997. It was the forum for diehards, the guys who stuck around the sport when nobody was watching, and just like those irritating tourists who flood your nearby beach community during the summer months, sherdog was about to get a influx of new members from this new found love for the sport.
On January 9, 2006 - Lee Hotti made the horrible error in judgement in posting a thread on this forum entitled "Pic of me and mah boys up in Jersey".
At first look, you may think it was a troll posting in attempts to mock the folks in the picture, but telling by the comments firing back at his "haters", all signs point to that this was a real guy, committed to making the worst mistake of his young adult life. (Link to the thread here: https://forums.sherdog.com/threads/pic-of-me-and-mah-boys-up-in-jersey.323157/ )
The Sherdoggers wasted no time in jumping on to this forum, and launched an assault that nearly crashed the sherdog server.
(Yes, EHSWrestler is me, i too joined in the fun.)
Nearly 47 pages of comments later, it started spreading to other forums, other web chats, and was the beginning of a ocean of videos, websites, and pictures to insult the spiky haired gents who were "up in jersey". The internet went fucking nuts, and Lee Hotti went viral.
Here were some of the other pictures found on Mr.Hotti:
Obviously, sherdoggers had alot to work with when it came to photoshop.
Rumor has it and speaking to a source that worked with Viacom at the time, the hilarious nature of the "Growing up Gotti" rejects ACTUALLY did catch the eye of MTV exec's, who wanted to make an entire TV show with the stereotypical Guido's from New Jersey. Which in turn, pulled the same killer viewership that Lee Hotti received from one post on a mma forum. The Jersey Shore gang became apart of pop culture, so I guess you could say the final laugh was on us.
The MMA Community is larger than it's ever been, but we cannot forgot some of the profound figures of it, and in some strange way, Lee Hotti will always be apart of that community.