So, I went to my first real, live Mixed Martial Arts fight night this weekend. Very enjoyable, in a back-to-basics, go-hunt-meat-with-a-stick kind of way. This was not big-time Ultimate Fighting Championship Pay-Per-View with big-time fighters that you know. This is the struggle. The only way you know these fighters is if you went to school with them, or work with their dad. You see that guy who’s 18-2 and fighting on pay-per-view? Well, his first five wins came at small regional promotions like this.
The whole set-up is very tribal. I would love to unleash an anthropologist on this scene. The fighters come in to music, all tattooed up and with 0 percent body fat. They each have an entourage of least a couple, and sometimes more than 10, guys. I want to be the No. 4 guy in the entourage. The first three guys have real jobs – cut man, water and coach in some combination. But dudes No. 4 and higher just need to wear the matching T-shirt and walk in like a badass. Maybe carry the belt if your man is a champion. Every fighter had their cheering section, but size of crowd did not equal a better fighter and plenty of people went away disappointed. The whole setup is a very elaborate dance. The refs, the ring card girls, camera-folk, the corner guys come in and out the cage at their appointed times. From pre-fight inspection to post-fight photos, the entire thing is well scripted. The only bit of true chaos in all this is the fight itself. You’ve got no idea how the fight is going to turn out. Is the guy in the green trunks really intense or just really nervous? Do all the muscles on that guy mean he’s powerful, or so muscle-bound he can’t defend himself? That’s why we ring the bell, and that’s why we watch.