This weekend, besides celebrating the 4th of July in Vegas with two of my favorite people–Jenni and Lindsay–I saw my first UFC heavyweight fight at the MGM Grand. Like many folks, I’ve been fascinated by the makeover Dana White gave to this sport. Somehow, a brutal fighting league has become family entertainment. He turned a violent, unorganized sport with few to no rules into the high-brow hybrid sport of Mixed Martial Arts. And he did it by selling characters, story lines and drama. UFC hearkens back to the WWF days of Big John Studd, The Killer Bees and Hulk Hogan. Except this is very, very real. Which makes the fighting tougher (for me) to watch. And made me more than apprehensive about attending the fight. I’ve been to smaller MMA fights, which rarely last more than a three-minute round-and-a-half, and I am a huge boxing fan. But I was still wary of watching UFC brutality for three five-minute rounds.
That said, seeing the event firsthand, I understood what all the fuss is about. The events are entertaining as hell. They’re loud, colorful, fun and full of personality. I’m still not sure I liked seeing so many kids in the audience, and I had a hard time watching guys take bare-fisted punches to the head, knowing what the impact of those blows was doing to their gray matter. But if you accept that these are grown men who have taken responsibility for the repercussions of their sport, then there’s a whole lot of upside to the ugly. And a wealth of stories to tell.
(Stay tuned for Lindsay’s story on Brock Lesnar, who made a comeback Saturday night and won the heavyweight belt.)
CLOSE ENOUGH FOR A GREAT VIEW OF THE ACTION; FAR ENOUGH AWAY TO AVOID THE BLOOD-SPLATTER …