I don't know how you heave a huge sigh of relief virtually, but let's pretend I just did it.
After spending the last several days deep in the catacombs of California law, I've emerged in time to hop a flight to Las Vegas, pick up my badge of courage (aka a press credential), and elbow my way into the Ultimate Fighting Championship fray.
That's right, armed with said credential, I'll be in attendance Saturday night covering UFC 108 for Bleacher Report. Needless to say, I'm excited and extremely grateful for the opportunity.
With the preliminary preliminaries out of the way—let's get to the action.
After testing the extents of the new Transportation Security Administration's limitation on tarmac waiting times, my Virgin America flight went wheels up with about a nanosecond to spare for my sanity's sake. Luckily, I have an uncanny ability to sleep on any airplane at any time, so I closed my eyes as San Francisco was slipping away under the fuselage and was asleep before we cleared the Bay Area.
When next my eyes opened, the gaudy mirage of Sin City sprawled underneath the plane and frustration was a thing of the past as my thoughts turned to getting to the 4:00 weigh-ins toot sweet.
I'll skip ahead to the scales because nothing of too much note happened in between my airport arrival and Joe Rogan's first dulcet strains.
Unless you count waiting 30 minutes as ONE COUPLE checked-in ahead of me. Honestly, entire cycles of lines got their keys while Mr. and Mrs. Jackass did Lord knows what to that poor girl behind the counter. She was a shell of herself when I finally sauntered up and took all of five minutes to register.
For future reference, the VIP line (since it was my first stay at the MGM) ain't all it's cracked up to be.
The weigh-ins, though, delivered more than I expected.
Perhaps it's because I'd never seen professional fighters take the scales in person. Perhaps it's because I'd never been to an athletic event in Las Vegas. For whatever reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.
Here's what I pulled away:
—Bruce Buffer is large. I don't mean necessarily fat; I mean he was the biggest dude on the stage unless heavyweights were sharing it at the time. He's substantially larger than Dana White, Joe Rogan, Joe Silva, and any other non-fighter. This surprised me and I can't tell you why.
—I've drastically erred in my estimation of the UFC fanbase. I couldn't believe how many young kids and, specifically, young girls were there for the weigh-in. And I mean kids so young they were there with their parents. Considering the adult packaging of the UFC and mixed martial arts, it took me a little while to orient myself—it was a bit like a Hedonism Resort had opened in the middle of Disneyland.
—Speaking of adult packaging, you can no longer pick strippers and hookers out of the crowd in Las Vegas. Either EVERY chick here is a professional or the working girl's uniform has been adopted by the masses. I'm not saying this is absolutely a bad thing (for men without sisters or children), but whoa mama...
—Staying on theme, the ring girls are ridiculous. They're hot on television and almost painful in real-life. I'm not sure there's anything in the attic, but what a staircase.
—One more point about the females. If you went by the crowd's reaction, the most popular fighters in attendance were Rashad Evans and...Sam Stout? The pitch of the ovation was noticeably higher for the Canadian and I'm not sure it had anything to do with his fighting acumen.
—It's pretty obvious some of the fighters relish the public pseudo-nudity more than others. Paul Daley essentially crawled to the scale—of course, he failed to make weight so maybe it was reluctance born of the hangman's noose rather than basking in the attention. Cole Miller also played to the crowd; rocking some truly obscene little briefs before stirring up a little s*** with Dan Lauzon—still wearing only the putrid panties. Meanwhile, a guy like Joe Lauzon (Dan's brother) zipped in and out like he was ripping off a band-aid.
—Dustin Hazelett is hilarious. He's the only legitimate fighter I've seen dodge all the pre-fight hooplah consistently. The dude simply refuses to engage all the nonsense before he steps in the cage. The UFC had to bring in Dorian Price to reply on McLovin's behalf to the barbs thrown by Daly.
—Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Roy "Big Country" Nelson, James McSweeney, and a couple other fighters were hanging out in the crowd after the event ended. I'm never that impressed with celebrities when I see them in person because most need the technology of editing teams to measure up to the expectations they've created.
Although they all look shorter in flesh and blood—I'm 6'3" and I felt like I towered over everyone except Junior dos Santos—the bulk on these guys is nothing short of incredible. Gilbert Yvel's neck was about as thick as my thigh, Johnson looks he'd stop a bullet, and Big Country might very well have his own gravitational pull (yet he doesn't look exceptionally overweight in street clothes).
—A little inside info in case you missed the weigh-in: Gilbert Yvel and Junior dos Santos like to go for the knockout...
Think I'll close with that bit of earth-shattering news.
Tune in tomorrow for the undercard and main event.