By: Buju You can read a recap of Saturday's fights on virtually any MMA or sports website. The results will be there, maybe some pictures, maybe a breakdown of the fights. The one thing I wish I saw more of in sports journalism is more discussion on the experience of events. I'm certainly not a great writer, I'll never win awards for my words on this website or any other... But one thing I'd like to try to do is share my personal experiences in the sport we all love, Mixed Martial Arts.
Saturday was my third UFC event, my first being Condit vs Kampmann 2 in Indianapolis in August 2013 and my second being Dillashaw vs Barao 2 at the United Center in July of last year. Every event is unique of course, but I'd already experienced the live event feel of a UFC event before. I had a great time and I enjoyed the fights, but no matter how much I enjoyed myself I can only compare this card to the ones I attended previously. So I decided instead of looking at the event itself through the eyes of someone who is going to ANOTHER card, let's find out what a first-timer thinks of the live UFC experience.
My two partners and friends at Untitled are my nephews, Bryce and Brenden. Bryce is 18 and headed to college in less than a month, Brenden is only 16 and preparing for his Sophomore year in high school. I introduced (corrupted?) them to MMA a few years ago and, like me, they fell in love with this crazy sport instantly. We started Untitled as a way to be a small part of the sport we love, and to bond over it as much as possible. When the UFC announced they'd be coming back to Chicago, we knew this was something we had to do.
Due to poor planning and an over confidence in my stamina, I decided to go to the Cubs game in Milwaukee the night before UFC on FOX 20. I climbed in bed about 4:00 AM Saturday morning, with plans to start my day about 5 hours later. Bryce arrived at my house just before noon, and we left to get Brenden. After lunch at our favorite fast food joint (#10 on a pita, no tomato for the real dudes out there), we jumped on the highway for the less than 2 hour trek to Chicago. After a near death experience involving Brenden and a Starbucks drink, we arrived at the United Center about 90 minutes to bell time.
We killed some time in the car, inappropriate jokes, "would you rathers" and the like. About 45 minutes to bell time we emerged from my car and into the 95 degree heat towards the United Center. After a brief stop at the Michael Jordan statue we joined the line and awaited the opening of the doors to the night's venue. We walked up the stairs to our 200-level seats and seeing my nephews' reaction to seeing the UFC arena set-up for the first time was pretty fun for me.
As I mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed the card despite its lack of star power. The first two fights of the night were pretty enjoyable, with a bit of a lull until a couple of fights before the Main Card. It was cool seeing locals Darren Elkins, Eddie Wineland and Felice Herrig pick up wins so close to home. I enjoyed watching heavyweight prospect Francis Ngannou continue his emergence into the UFC world. I enjoyed watching a solid fight between two of my favorite lightweights in Edson Barboza and Gilbert Melendez, and it was fun watching two great strikers in the Bantamweight main event.
The rest of this post will be Bryce and Brenden's thoughts on the night. I hope you enjoyed this post, as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading my nonsense.
Bryce: When I found out we were going, I was really excited because I had been wanting to go to a UFC event since I started to follow MMA. I had also seen videos of the atmosphere and it looked electric, which added to my excitement.
Brenden: I was expecting something pretty ordinary. It being my first live UFC event I was for sure expecting a good time, and to enjoy myself. Yet the card wasn't very eye-popping to me. It wasn't anything great; like I am use to with PPVs at home. Saying that I just expected a fun time, but nothing spectacular.
Buju: Was it better or worse than you expected?
Bryce: It pretty much matched my expectations.
Brenden: It was by far better than I could ever imagine. As an MMA fan you could not ask for a better atmosphere and experience than we had. I was in total shock with how amazing everything was. With no over exaggeration I felt like a kid at a candy shop. It was definitely better than I could expect.
Buju: Were you more or less interested in the early prelims than you'd normally be?
Bryce: I was much more interested. Normally, I don't pay attention to the first few fights on a card. Being at the event, however, I caught myself watching intently on fights I would otherwise ignore. Whether it was the atmosphere or someone cheering on a friend, the early prelims were definitely more interesting to me.
Brenden: I was way more interested in all the prelims. Especially the early Fight Pass ones. Watching MMA live is a whole new ballgame compared to sitting in front of a television. Every move a fighter makes from a punch to a transition on the ground is way more interesting in person. Usually I'm not paying much attention, but being there I almost could not do anything else but watch.
Buju: Would you rather be there in person or watch on TV? Did you miss anything that you'd normally see on the broadcast?
Bryce: I'd much rather be at the event live. Assuming you have a decent seat, like we did, you can see almost all of the action from your seat. When there is grappling or ground game, you can always look up at the Jumbotron to get a better view. All in all, being there live is much better.
Brenden: It really depends where you are seated. If I have a good seat where I could see the fights then of course I'd rather be live than watch it on TV. Every aspect about it is better when live. TV you always get a good view of what's happening in the fight obviously, but you might not in the arena. Therefore if you are closer, then yes I'd rather be live. If not then I'd rather be in front of my TV watching.
Buju: Would you change anything about the production of the in-arena show?
Brenden: A very minor thing I would change is how loud the speakers can get on some walk out songs. It can be a bit too loud at times. Besides that I think the way it is set up is great. Best for the fans or anyone attending for the fights. There were screens in every direction if you need or want to watch the fight there.
Bryce: I wouldn't change a thing. The show was spectacular.
Buju: Where do you rank the UFC crowd among crowd of other sporting events you've been to?
Bryce: Although I have only been to a few events, the UFC crowd is only in the middle in terms of energy level. The crowd got loud at times, but couldn't put together a chant. One unique thing about the sport was the heckling. With that being said, a college football game, or even a high school basketball game, would often be more fun, strictly from a crowd standpoint.
Brenden: UFC does not have nearly as much energy and cheering as other sporting events I attended. Do not get me wrong, it certainly was not a disappointment though. UFC is a growing franchise along with MMA being a growing sport. It was good for being what it is, just not up to par with other sports.
Buju: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the entire day?
Brenden: I would give the event a solid 8.
Buju: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the entire day?
Bryce: Given the car ride to and there and the food afterwards, probably a 9.
Brenden: The entire day was a 10. I love sports, food, and family just as much as anything else. Combining those three made it an easy 10.