I've written about this boxing/UFC before. Click on the label in the comment/reaction section below for more.
In mid December of 2012, I got a call from a friend who was going to a boxing match. We had watched a PPV fight before - Pacquiao v Clottey (boring fight) - and talked about the sport occasionally so he knew I would be interested. I grew up on boxing. It was in my blood, though I didn't actually box. My earliest sporting memory was watching a VHS tape of Tyson v Spinks. "And he's down again, and in serious trouble!" That phrase is burned into my brain. I watched a lot of fights at my grandfathers house: Tyson v Holyfield, Mosely v De La Hoya, Holyfield v Lewis.. you get the idea. So when he invited me, I jumped at it!
We go to this massive convention center at night. There was some kind of fitness expo at the convention center. It must have been coming to a close, as people were taking booths down. I remember entering the "arena", which was just the back corner of a massive warehouse (bc that is what convention centers really are), through a large curtain of sorts hung from the rafters. It was awkward to say the least. We watched a few lack luster fights - everyone praying for a killshot, which never happened. Finally, Chris "Kid Kayo" Fernandez was up.
This was a historic night. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but this would be the first time that a native from Utah would successful defend his championship belt in over 20 years. You can read about the fight here. Fernandez was decent fighter in his prime. He was on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, so it wasn't as if he was a total bum. He knew what he was doing.
I don't remember much of the fight. I do remember him coming into the ring wearing an Indian headdress. I also remember that Chris was obviously better at boxing. However, I got the feeling that everyone was frustrated that he didn't knock his opponent out. People were screaming for it. While it was a sparse crowd sitting on hard seats, they were heard. They were blood thirsty.
I got a picture with Chris afterwards. He was soft spoken and didn't have a single mark on him to prove he fought that night.
For my brother's 40th birthday we went to watch UFC 198, which was Jon Jones' return to the ring. If you don't know who Jon Jones is here is a briefer:
The UFC's past is not pretty. It was full of thugs and not many rules. No weight classes, kicking people in the head when they were down, ugly stuff... Over the years was cleaned up which helped it become more marketable, attracting more fans, thus making it more profitable. Better athletes took note of this (MONEY to be made) and started to join the UFC ranks. Jon Jones was one of these better athletes to join - a former college wrestler who has two brothers that start in the NFL. Jones rose quickly through the ranks and became the youngest UFC champ ever. He was ranked, and still is for many, the #1 pound-for-pound fighter. He fell from grace - a traffic incident involving a crash and cocaine - and was suspended for a year.
Back to my brother's birthday.
So here was my second time going to a fight and this time the fight was in the MGM Grand. The same venue for some of the most legendary fights in boxing. I didn't really know what to expect. I have been to professional sporting events, but not a fighting event that was on a real stage - sorry Kid Kayo.
We got there late and we weren't able to get to our seats immediately as filming was taking place. I had bought the cheapest tickets I could find. We were literally against the back wall. When we got to our seats and I surveyed the ring I was shocked that I could see as clearly as I could. This wasn't that big of a space. The other thing that surprised me was how quiet it was. It was like being in a movie theatre.. a massive movie theatre... with people occasionally shouting. It was unlike every sporting event I had ever been to. Everyone was watching every move. There was a moment where one of my brothers and I were yelling loud enough that I am sure Bones heard us.
There were flashes of brilliance, but overall it was a safe fight from Bones who easily won.
Different sides to the same coin
I've always had respect for fighters, from the stand point that they are willingly wanting to get punched in the face and understand the potential for bodily injury. It's crazy, really. They fight for the same goal, but yet are at such different stages in their career and life.... its as if they are on another planet.
- You've probably have heard or have seen Jon Jones. Until you read this you probably didn't realize there was a boxer nicknamed "Kid Kayo".
- Can you imagine fighting in front of hundreds of people and knowing that thousands, potential millions, are watching ever move you make? Talk about pee your pants pressure.
- The highest mark Chris reached was getting a silly belt...