Recently, I wrote about the 10 defining moments of my 10 favorite fighters. I know lists like these are nothing new, so my attempt to break away from the norm involved some personal stories of my out-and-out “fangasms” as a Mixed Martial Arts fan.
And while some (most) of my reactions to my favorite fighters winning could (should) be considered embarrassing, I had a lot of fun writing that article and I really enjoyed the response it got. So I’ll offer a bit of a follow-up: here are some more stories featuring the moments I’ll always remember as an MMA fan.
A quick note: since my memory is terrible even on a good day, this list primarily consists of general MMA-related stories that aren’t necessarily fighter or fight-specific but did leave a resounding impact on me as a fan.
As a promotion, Elite XC was plagued with problems. Their spectacular rise and fall was one of the most interesting stories of the last few years, and to be honest, they did more things wrong than right.
But the one big thing they got right was Women’s Mixed Martial Arts. Maybe it was wrong to focus so heavily on Gina Carano, but the resounding impact that Elite XC left on me is that it turned me into a Women’s MMA fan.
The first time I saw a WMMA fight on Elite XC, I wasn’t too eager or involved. But here’s the thing: it was a good fight, and I’m a fan of good fights.
When Elite XC started putting on WMMA fights regularly, those fights regularly beat out the other fights on the card in terms of pure entertainment. By the time Elite XC self-imploded, their WMMA fights were honestly one of the things I looked forward to most.
Even today, Women’s MMA struggles to gain (and maintain) a place of relevance in the MMA world at large. But to me, WMMA will always be an underrated, under-appreciated aspect of the sport that more often than not can be counted on to deliver very entertaining “sleeper hit” kinds of fights.
I still see the potential in WMMA, and I’m still a huge fan of WMMA. But neither of that was true before Elite XC came along, and for that, Elite XC will always have a place of respect in my pantheon of past MMA promotions… despite all the ridiculousness surrounding the promotion.
I don’t mean to hate on Tito Ortiz as a person or as a fighter, despite the fact that I used to despise him. In fact, I’ve slowly grown more appreciative of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” as he nears the end of his career, and I can even admit that he deserves a place in the UFC Hall of Fame.
That being said, this is one of the funniest things I have ever seen in MMA.
This isn’t “so bad it’s good,” it’s “so bad it’s amazing.” I still remember how it felt to see Tito Ortiz completely botch this interview: I almost couldn’t believe what I had just heard.
This interview was that archetypal kind of joke that can’t get out of your head no matter how hard you try. And no matter how hard you try to contain yourself, just thinking about it causes you to burst out laughing, no matter where you are.
For days after this interview, just thinking of “Seraldo Babalu” caused me to burst out laughing at home, at work, at school, at the grocery store and just about everywhere else I went.
I’m actually laughing about it right now, as I type this. Poor Tito Ortiz.
The series didn’t last very long, but for the short time that it existed, “UFC On Versus” was my pick for the best UFC programming on television. With the gift of hindsight, I make the following bold claim: “UFC on Versus” should probably be considered the best “live fight” series the UFC has ever produced.
Just look at some of the names that were a central part of this series’ six-event run: Jon Jones, Junior dos Santos, Yushin Okami, Benson Henderson and Dominick Cruz.
All five of those men have challenged for a UFC Championship, and every single one of them aside from Yushin Okami is currently a UFC Champion.
But it’s not just about the names: it’s about the moments. This series let us witness the ascension of Jon Jones. This series gave us Pat Barry vs. Cheick Kongo, which ended in what a lot of people (including me) think was the craziest comeback KO win in MMA history.
We got to see Chris Lytle retire with his head held high after an awesome fight with Dan Hardy. We even got to see a non-PPV title fight!
It may have only lasted for six events, but “UFC On Versus” created a lot of memories and to this day it remains my benchmark that I compare all other “free TV” events to.
I may have been a little crazy when I said this, but I did utter the phrase “all is right in the world” after I got the chance to see my two favorite fighters win in dominating fashion on the same night.
This was back when the UFC tried to counter-program the first show of the short-lived Affliction promotion by putting on a “Fight Night Live” event featuring Anderson Silva moving up to Light Heavyweight for the first time in his career.
From the Affliction side of things, I got to see Fedor Emelianenko run right through former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia. When I switched to the UFC event, I saw Anderson Silva demolish James Irvin just as spectacularly and just as easily.
It doesn’t get much better than seeing two of your favorite fighters of all time both deliver incredible knockouts on the same night, so that was definitely one night I’ll always remember.
I’ve shared this story a few times amongst my friends, but I can’t remember if I ever shared it with the world at large, so here goes: “The Ultimate Fighter” turned me into an MMA fan.
I know, I know: not very original, right? Well, hear me out.
Before TUF, I was bordering the line between “fair-weather” or “casual” fan and outright fandom. I was still very absorbed with pro wrestling, having been a pro wrestling fan since I was five years old and saw “The Undertaker” squash a jobber (just using pro wrestling slang makes me feel weird now) while I was sitting glued to my TV screen in my underwear.
But two distinct things forever changed me from a pro wrestling fan into an MMA fan, and one of them was this show.
The other, for those who want to know, was the sad fact that many tragedies hit wrestling in a short amount of time. Two of my favorite wrestlers, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, both died in a relatively close period of time. Benoit, of course, would become one of pro wrestling’s darkest stories.
At the time, I was reeling as a pro wrestling fan. I needed a break from all this destruction and death and sadness. I simply couldn’t stand it.
So rather than occasionally watching an episode of “The Ultimate Fighter” after Monday Night Raw ended, I started tuning into the series regularly. What I saw immediately held my interest: not just “real” fighters, but real people. Not just “real” fights, but real struggles.
Eventually, it got to the point where my interest in MMA expanded past the constraints of being a casual watcher, and it extended past the scope of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
To this day, I’m not fully certain which event played more of an impact on my switch from pro wrestling to MMA: the shocking deaths of the wrestlers I once admired and adored, or the raw originality and unpredictability seen in the first few seasons of TUF.
But I do know those two events mixed together and became the catalyst for why I’m currently writing for the MMA section of Bleacher Report and not the WWE section.
I also know this: I don’t regret making the switch, and I’ll always remember that TUF was a big turning point for me.
In some ways, my experience with the WEC shares some similarities with my story about Elite XC and Women’s MMA. But there’s one big difference: for Women’s MMA, it’s not that I believed that women couldn’t fight. I just wasn’t that interested in seeing them fight.
Before the WEC, however, I actively believed that “little guys” couldn’t put on entertaining fights.
Let’s call that line of thinking what it is right now: completely stupid. I admit it: I was completely stupid to believe that.
But believe it I did, which is why I approached my first WEC show with a sense of boredom and superiority. I believed that once I watched a WEC event, I could finally get past the whole “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” argument that the pro-WEC fans always made when I described my lack of caring about the WEC in particular and the “little guys” in general.
So it should come as no surprise that my experience with the WEC was the most eye-opening experience in my entire time as an MMA fan.
I think the best way to describe how the WEC changed me as an MMA fan would be to give a list of milestones throughout my time as a WEC fan. So here goes.
By the end of my first WEC event, I realized how stupid I was to believe that “little guys” couldn’t put on exciting fights just because they were little.
By my third WEC event, I started marking down the dates for WEC events on my calendar.
By my fifth WEC event, I started to realize that the WEC might just be one of the best promotions I had ever watched.
By my seventh WEC event, I had pulled a complete 180 and was now joining the WEC super-fans in their quest to promote the WEC and lighter-weight fighters in general as loudly and as often as possible.
And when the curtain closed and I saw the final event the WEC would ever run, I called it one of the greatest MMA events of all time.
My experience with the WEC was one of the few times I can ever remember being so very grateful for being proven so very wrong.
I admit that I used up almost all of my funny stories in my first piece, but I’ve saved two of my best for last. And wouldn’t you know it, my status as an Anderson Silva super-fan once again led me to do something embarrassing but fun.
What happened in the heat of the moment isn’t as funny as what happened for the few weeks after this fight, which is this: whenever I asked someone if they had seen the Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort fight, I would imitate the famous “Front Face Kick of Death” regardless of whether or not they had seen the fight.
Inevitably, when the talks turned to the kick, I would always say “Did you see that kick? ! It was like BLAAAAAH!”
BLAAH, of course, would be my cue to step back and let loose my own Front Face Kick at thin air. I definitely remember the not-uncommon occurrence of my friends looking at me like I was a crazed idiot, but I also remember how much fun it was to relive that moment every time I threw what must have looked like the most pitiful kick ever attempted.
I also remember nearly falling flat on my face half a dozen times because I have just about the worst balance ever, but I also remember that feeling of “totally worth it!” whenever I managed to complete my little reenactment without hurting myself
This story requires some back-story, but not much.
Whenever I have to go out in the world and work a “real job,” I usually end up as a security guard. It’s something I started doing in high school just to get a little extra money on the side, and that’s when this story takes place.
I was lucky enough to get what were basically “cushy” jobs as a security guard. It was easy money, and since the company I worked with mostly handled concerts and sporting events, I got to see some pretty memorable things. But because of this, I missed out on one of the most-memorable moments in MMA history.
In my hometown!
Of course, I’m speaking about “UFC 69: Shootout”, which took place in Houston, Texas and featured Georges St. Pierre defending the UFC Welterweight Championship against Matt Serra.
Thanks to my job, I could have definitely afforded to go to this show. But I had the chance to make some extra money by working a three-day stint at the Miller Outdoor Theater, from Friday night to Sunday evening.
The gig? Working security for a three-day showing of the musical/play version of “Cinderella.”
Yes, that “Cinderella”. And yes, a musical/play.
If you’re wondering why on earth security was necessary at a play whose audience was completely and totally made up of mothers and young girls, let me refer you back to a previous sentiment: it was easy money.
Just like everyone else, I laughed at the idea of Matt Serra beating Georges St. Pierre. I still wanted to see the show, but this was an “all or nothing” situation: I couldn’t take Saturday off, I had to work all three days if I wanted to get a spot on the security team that would be working that weekend.
So, in the end, I decided to make some easy money.
During an intermission, I remember walking over to my fellow security guards and sharing some free beverages with them (a common perk of working security). We all shared a quick laugh at our situation, and one guard remarked quite sadly how he really wished he would’ve gone to the UFC show instead.
When I said that I shared his sentiment but made it obvious that I didn’t understand why he seemed so beat up about it, he asked me one simple question.
“You don’t know, do you?”
Puzzled, I replied “No, what’s up?”
You see, since I was working the area farthest away from the stage, I had to make a short walk to where the other guards were. In that time, the guard that was an MMA fan had pulled out his phone and had checked the ongoing results of the UFC show.
When he told me “Serra just knocked out GSP,” I stood looking at him dumbfounded for a full five seconds before letting out a befuddled “No.”
He must have seen the look of shock on my face (he would’ve had to have been blind not to) because he then nodded with a look of pained understanding before pulling out his phone, saying “Yep, it just happened,” and giving his phone to me so I could read the headline for myself.
You can imagine for yourselves how I felt after that, but me, I always end this story abruptly for comedic effect.
So you want to know something?
It actually wasn’t that bad of a play.