Knocked Out By My First UFC Night
Having been to several major boxing events, I figured a trip
to my first UFC was long overdue. So when the big show
came to Anaheim for a card featuring heavyweight champion
and future Minnesota governor Brock Lesnar, I was in.
I had always rated NASCAR as the top sport
you have to see live to truly appreciate. But while
I had seen and enjoyed UFC bouts on TV before,
one in-person event and I knew: You need at
least that one live showing to fully get it.
A wild and at times surreal night began with
dinner in the pressroom, where I was joined at
my table by former wrestling star Rowdy Roddy
Piper and Lou (The Incredible Hulk) Ferrigno. I
have to admit, the 12-year-old boy somewhere
inside me probably peed his pants just a little.
Before sitting down, I took a stroll around the
concourse with the fans to drink in the atmosphere.
There was a good mix of people, but definitely plenty of Gorilla Juice Heads, as that great
American thinker Nicole Polizzi would opine.
Also in the concourse stood a punching bag that
measured how hard you could hit, and a pull-up
bar with Marines yelling at you to keep going. In
other words, if you wanted to have a few cocktails
and get in a fight later, UFC provided plenty
of opportunity to warm yourself up.
For journalistic purposes only, I also couldn’t
help but notice several girls wearing not a lot of
clothes, accompanied by men just waiting for
you to stare a little too long. Needless to say, the
night won the award for most time I have ever spent looking down (non-funeral division).
Once the show began, it was fantastic:
action-packed, adrenaline-filled and loud as
hell. My loudest live event in recent years was
last January’s NFC title game in New Orleans,
and this took me back there.
Spoiled by the UFC’s high-energy product, it
took exactly 26 seconds into the first fight for the
crowd to start booing the lack of action, like a
joint anger management and ADHD convention.
But the night did not disappoint. One of
the main bouts featured a deaf guy versus Tito
Ortiz, a former Apprentice contestant and boyfriend
of porn star Jenna Jameson. Somewhere
Vince McMahon was watching and wondering,
“Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” Now,
I’m not going to say Ortiz got pummeled, but
he spent as much time on his back in one
work night as his... nah, better not.
The main event was fantastic. Lesnar entered
to piercing decibel levels, fans rocking to Metallica’s
“Enter Sandman” as lights turned the arena
red. Unfortunately for my fellow Minnesotan,
that was the color of his bloodied face minutes
later as he got knocked out in the first round.
Even the post-fight backstage scene was incredible.
First off, how about this motley crew of celebs hanging around: Sugar Ray Leonard,
Hugh Grant, The Undertaker, Jenna Jameson
and MC Hammer. E! and VH1 would have
been beating each other bloody in the octagon
to film that reality show.
Also of note, bombastic UFC president
Dana White hosts the post-fight press conferences.
The media loves him, and for good reason:
he is a fan’s commissioner. And he doesn’t
care what people think of what he says. When
White and I talked alone later that night and
he started talking trash about ESPN and HBO,
I asked him if that was off the record. “F--- no,
I don’t care,” he said with a laugh.
But it’s all working, and White has big plans to
expand UFC’s TV footprint. As a live event, boxing
just can’t compete with this, and believe me,
I’m the world’s biggest boxing fan. White said
Sugar Ray told him, “This is what boxing used
to be.” Even UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer is
absolutely heads and tails better than his “Let’s-get-ready-to-rumble” half-brother, Michael.
I know many people think of mixed martial
arts as overly violent, and I am not going to argue
with that. But if you have the stomach to see
two people battling in a ring, the UFC product
is simply unmatched right now. And seeing it
live will take your appreciation to a new level.