MMA: The 15 Most Spectacular Ring Entrances in History
Movie stars know it. Ditto the debutantes. It's one of maybe three things that make famous-for-nothing socialites famous. Yep. There's nothing else like a great entrance.
Scoff all you want, but it means something in MMA, too. You can write it off as meaningless histrionics that have nothing to do with THE FIGHT, MAN, but doing so disregards the marketing (read: business) end of the game.
Throughout history, fighters and promotions have sought any means of distinguishing themselves from the faceless hoard. And yeah, of course in-cage success is the quickest and most effective means to that end. But it's not the only one.
The great ring entrance is a bit of a dying art. And that's a shame, because a great entrance not only helps a fighter market himself, it amps up the crowd in his favor.
Pride was the absolute master in this area. Yes, I am aware that promotion is defunct. But that happened in spite of the rabid fanbase it developed in large part through its unapologetic, and undeniably fun, sense of theater. Not to belabor the point, but if you're one of those who think the UFC has nothing to learn from the promotion it "beat," then I have some light reading assignments in the areas of history and business that I'd like to recommend to you.
All right. Diatribe complete. Here are the 15 fighters who, for various reasons, did it best when it came to ring entrances. One final caveat: This is about the total package; not just the songs. Songs are a separate list if you care to delve further.
Thanks for reading.
15. Wanderlei Silva
The "Sandstorm" theme, the ring shoes custom-made for stomping, plus the expectant, “I get to fight now!” look on Silva’s face all make for an energizing walkout.
14. Kimo Leopoldo
A devout Christian in the Mel Gibson mold, Leopoldo carried a cross on his back to the Octagon back at UFC 3.
Sadly, or perhaps thankfully, all video evidence of this seems to have been expunged from existence.
13. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza
As he heads out to face Jason “Mayhem” Miller at DREAM 4, Jacare shows what a difference a little fan participation can make.
No posse. No wardrobe. No choreography. No problem. Souza's infectious gator chomp and Bob Marley theme song are enough to get the faithful on their feet. It's so infectious, in fact, that even Mayhem sings along as he awaits his opponent's arrival.
12. Clay Guida
The term "walkout" doesn't really fit here. It's more of a bounce-out.
With the high-octane music, flailing hair and high-fives all the way down the aisle, it doesn’t get much more high energy than a Clay Guida entrance.
11. Diego Sanchez
Many people believe this footage was taken during Hurricane Irene. Not so. It came in the wake of Sanchez's walkout at UFC 95. Or, as I like to call it, Hurricane Diego.
10. Anderson Silva
Look at these moves. Is there anything Anderson Silva can't do? I think I saw him inventing cold fusion the other day.
Either way, someone get this guy a slot on Dancing With the Stars.
9. Royce Gracie
The UFC's original champion was also its original showman.
In his earliest fights, Gracie bounded to the ring behind a Gracie family train, each resting his hands on the shoulders of the man in front of him as a sign of solidarity.
Perhaps the most spectacular of his later-day entrances happened to the tune of the climactic theme song from The Last of the Mohicans. At PRIDE Shockwave 2003, Gracie was sloooowly lowered to the catwalk like he was about to battle for the future on mankind.
8. Kazushi Sakuraba
He has come out in Lucha Libre masks and spiked shoulder pads, among other getups. But perhaps the crowning moment came in his 2003 Pride fight with Kevin Randleman, when he came out dressed as…Mario?
7. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
This needs little introduction or explanation. It is one of the most distinctive walkouts in combat sports.
What gets lost in the shuffle sometimes is just how uncanny Jackson’s ululation really is. That is one hell of a good howl.
6. Yoshihiro Akiyama
The soaring notes of "Time to Say Good-Bye" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, combined with the mid-walk prayers and the full karate regalia, invoke a certain respect, even fear, for what is about to take place in the cage.
It lends an air of grace, beauty and sobriety to the proceedings. It makes you feel that, by watching him fight, you’re part of something that transcends fighting. And in the case of Sexyama, I suppose, for better or worse, that's true.
5. Jason "Mayhem" Miller
The first-ballot walkout hall of famer outdoes himself at DREAM 9 in 2009, when he dances to the ring on the arms of about 10 Japanese school girls.
If someone could ever get Mayhem to come out of his shell a little bit, he could make a fairly engaging media personality.
4. Fedor Emelianenko
This walkout, from his fight at YARENNOKA 31 against Hong Man Choi, is a great embodiment of the Emelianenko mystique.
Despite the considerable pomp and circumstance that surrounds him, what's most notable is just how nonplussed Fedor is about the whole thing. It's like someone woke him up 10 minutes before the fight and told him that another successful killing time would reunite him with his beloved sweaters and ice cream.
It's a little like the Alabama football team who gave the ball to Gump, yelled out "Run, Forrest!" and watched him take it to the house. Or, in the real world, it's like Barry Sanders spending 78 yards making 11 professional athletes look like disoriented nursery school workers before asking which ref he should flip the ball to, returning to the bench and his copy of Field and Stream and waiting for the next time the offensive coordinator should tap him on the shoulder.
I'm not sure what my point is here. I guess it's that brilliance doesn't always recognize itself, and when it continues to refuse to do so in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, well, that nonchalance just makes it all the more spectacular.
3. Tom "The Filthy Mauler" Lawlor
Sometimes, it’s hard to pick just one clip. Especially when you’re talking about Lawlor, or, as I like to call him, the Jon Jones of MMA. Entrances.
Whether he’s channeling Hulk Hogan or walking Seth Petruzelli to the ring on a leash to the dulcet tones of "Who Let the Dogs Out," Lawlor works in walkouts the way another great artist might work in metals or watercolor.
2. Akihiro Gono
I have come to the conclusion that the sport of mixed martial arts means something different to Akihiro than it does to pretty much everyone else.
His entrances are very funny, but they’re also clever and self-aware. The whole thing is a wink; “don’t forget this is supposed to be fun.”
The coup d’etat comes at UFC 94, when Akihiro and crew skitter to the Octagon in drag costumes straight out of the Motown wax museum. The spectacle illustrated two things: One, that constantly having to outdo yourself can be dangerous. Two, that those who lament the passage of Pride because it hurt theatrics may want to turn their ire in part toward the fighters.
There’s no crime against showmanship, and this walkout—at which Akihiro fought his galactic polar opposite in Jon Fitch—just proves it.
1. Genki Sudo
If all the ring’s a stage, Genki Sudo is its greatest player.
In this compliation, you see him as a baseball player, a Native American tribal chief and Buckethead (yes, the guitarist).
At one point, he is carried to the ring on a litter.
Another walkout seems to feature airport runway technicians.
He is representing all sorts of people and cultures and does so with literally dozens of dancers crammed behind him on the catwalk. It’s like one big Michael Jackson video.
Where Akihiro was going at least in part for laughs, Genki is going for pure awe. Think a one-man Beijing opening ceremony.
What else can you say? Bow down to the master.