(Note: SbB Senior Writer Tuffy is on the ground this weekend in Las Vegas; he provides this report on UFC 100.)
If you weren’t convinced that MMA had hit the big time when you turned on SportsCenter this morning and were baffled by the presence of two MMA fighters sitting at a remote desk with an ESPN anchor chattering about UFC 100 as if the Worldwide Leader had been covering the sport since 1979, you would be if you had stepped into the heart of the festivities Friday in Las Vegas.
(Hey! Hands off the merchandise, lady!)
It wasn’t just the sheer number of the masses or the presence of the Other Buffer Brother in the Topps booth, but the makeup of the crowd suggested new room for even further growth in the sport. (On the other hand, that might have been the presence of booth babes every twenty feet. The sport, she is not about ze subtlety.)
Follow after the jump for a look at the UFC Fan Expo and UFC 100 weigh-in. If that doesn’t appeal to you, we’re sure there’s an “Ace of Cakes” marathon on somewhere.
The UFC Fan Expo consisted of roughly one country mile of MMA paraphernalia, including energy shakes guaranteed to give you energy and/or the shakes. The second brilliant act taken by Dana White and the UFC (after convincing enough people in the US that MMA didn’t mean death by pugilism) was to monetize the hell out of the sport and the Fan Expo captured every capitalistic bit of that.
It also showed the accessibility of fighters that has been near the core of MMA’s appeal. Fighters could easily be distinguished in two ways: young guns wore workout gear and toted around backpacks while old pros dressed to the nines and knew how to put on a show.
Absolutely none of the fighters we spotted failed to stop for 15-20 minutes of autographs and pictures each time they were stopped. Sessions were available inside the Expo every 50 feet or so; none failed to draw a line of at least 20 and as much as 500.
(See, even the vendors get their audience…)
(… well, most of them, anyway. Needless to say, this is one place we will not rush back to Saturday.)
The weigh-in was just as racuous as you saw on television (assuming you weren’t watching that special episode of “Ace of Cakes” where they make a cake and something goes wrong). It was stated by at least one fighter that a thousand people were turned away at the weigh-in door; it’s entirely possible that’s true.
The line for the upsell UFC Fight Club members worked its way into the hundreds three hours before the performance began; the gathering for the unwashed masses filled the arena an hour before showtime.
(FOR I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL WHITE AND I SEE ALL)
In short, we met 5,000 people who loved Georges St. Pierre so much that they would bury a body for him. In fact, we’re pretty sure they wanted the body to be Thiago Alves’.
(Interesting that Rampage is in Bisping’s corner; maybe they’re the All-Mouth Tag Team?)
Check back later today for more on UFC 100, an all-women’s MMA match, and results tomorrow.