Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Fight Fan's Fulfillment

I've been a fan of mixed martial arts for over 20 years.  Ever since my friend and then-roommate Giovanni and I discovered the early Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) videos at a VHS rental store.  Whenever we noticed a new release we would rent it and gorge on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (2 at a time) while watching.

Since those days I've had trusty UFC viewing partners in every place that I lived.  After Giovanni moved away it was Rob Hughes and/or Andrew Hass.  In Sacramento it was Mike O'Brien.  Now, here in Cincinnati it's Chris Waklatsi.  But through all this time of being a fan and enjoying the events I've never actually attended a live UFC production, until now.

When I learned that the UFC was coming to Cincinnati for a "Fight Night", I marked the date on my calendar that the tickets would be available.  The first day I could purchase them I reserved pretty decent seats, along with Chris and another co-worker.
When the night finally arrive, the other co-worker (not Chris) had a stomach bug of some sort and had to cancel his attendance.  Chris and I both tried to find someone to fill his seat, but had no luck with it being so last minute.

Chris and I were originally supposed to meet at a bar called The Yard House at 7pm, but parking downtown was scarce due to (according to one of the parking lot attendants) four events going on at the same time that night.  I don't know what the other two were, but in addition to the UFC there were plenty of fans walking around headed to Reds' baseball game.  So after 20 frustrating minutes of driving around the city in circles I finally found parking and texted Chris to let him know I'd be late.  I was equally relieved and annoyed when he responded that he was just then leaving his house, especially since my cell phone battery was rapidly depleting (the display was yellow).

So with a sigh I walked to The Yard House and sat down to have a beer.  The bartender mentioned a local IPA called PsycHOPathy, so I gave it a try.  It was an excellent tasting brew.  So there I sat, at the corner of the bar, in my "Jesus Didn't Tap" t-shirt.  After finishing my beer I walked outside and stood by the door waiting for Chris.  While it was kind of a bummer that I had to wait an hour and a half for my friend to arrive, it was also kind of nice to just hang out, people watch, and to unexpectedly be a human billboard for Jesus.
After Chris arrived we made it to the U.S. Bank Arena sometime after 9pm, but the preliminary bouts were proceeding until 10pm, so I didn't mind getting there a little later than originally planned.  As we made our way to the seats I realized that our view was pretty freaking good.  We were right on the aisle seats, just one section away from being directly in front of the octagon and in the first section up from the floor.  the picture above was taken right from my seat.

This event was a "UFC Fight Night", so the caliber and name recognition of the fighters wasn't as high as a pay-per-view event.  The arena was far from full too, with the entire upper section being empty and a surprising number of seats in the lower section still vacant too.  I had to wonder if the attendance was smaller because it was only a "Fight Night", or if the UFC didn't make this a pay-per-view event because Cincinnati doesn't typically have the high attendance that would make it worth using their higher quality fighters.

Either way, I was still giddy to be there.  It was interesting to see the production aspect of the event - the fighters walking out through the crowd, the camera men standing around the cage, the press sitting ringside, and familiar faces walking around like Bruce Buffer, Herb Dean, and Dana White.  It was exciting to hear the booming walkout music, Bruce Buffer's voice, and the smacking of leather gloves on skin.  The main event was a phenomenal fight too, with Matt Brown (who fights right here out of Cincinnati) decisively winning it.

This was only the 2nd time that the UFC has been to Cincinnati, with the first time being back in 2007 for UFC 77.  If/when they come back for a 3rd event though, then I will definitely plan on attending it live again.  As a long-time MMA and UFC fan, to me it's money and time well spent.

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