Being a fan of MMA and the UFC for the last 6 years or so, going to a fight live was something I have always wanted to do, and especially recently, has become a priority of mine. The other night I was able to make that a reality as I attended UFC 111 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The card was seemingly stacked with potential along with two main events that definitely had me extra excited about the possibilities of a classic fight. The UFC was out to showcase its product for the tri-state area. With New York City across the Hudson and the bill to legalize MMA in the state still looming, this was a great way to drive a point home to the legislators who are still on the fence and are living in the 90’s.
I arrived at the venue at 8pm, in time for the 2nd fight of the preliminary undercard. To my surprise, the venue was essentially packed at this point, which was great to see since in Vegas, the undercard fights always look deserted. I was told to expect a raucous crowd, but couldn’t have been more surprised when I was walking to my seats in eerie quiet as they were watching the intricacies of the fight with the occasional ooh and ahh. This type of viewership lasted all night, with the exception of a few people that should have just went to a boxing fight, because they couldn’t bare to watch the fight go to the ground, ever. I became a little fed up with these people for the constant booing, especially when the fighters were working and advancing their positions.
The undercard fights left a little to be desired and everyone in the crowd was now looking to the main events to inject some life into the building. The first main event was Shane Carwin against former Heavyweight Champion, Frank Mir, for the interim heavyweight championship. Since Brock Lesnar had been sidelined for so long with his intestinal issues, these men were competing to determine who would face Brock when he returns in July. At this point, the building got electric. The fans saw Brock take his seat ringside and anticipation built for what was about to happen. The fight was quick but it was exciting. Carwin defeated Mir after only about 3 minutes with heavy strikes that not even Lesnar could withstand. The crowd was going nuts and then we witnessed the next main event, Welterweight Champion, Georges St. Pierre against fast rising star, Dan Hardy.
The entrances for the fighters were almost as exciting as the fights themselves as, aside from the occasional video package hyping the fight, there wasn’t much else to engage you. Everyone was on their feet for the main event. St. Pierre essentially man-handled Hardy throughout the fight, but Hardy displayed the kind of toughness and resolve that will win fans over and gain him respect. The fight went the distance, all five rounds, and St. Pierre retained his belt. I found this fight to be extremely exciting, but other fans that had been in their seats for 6 hours were looking for a bit more fireworks, and once again, booed. All I have to say to them is I am glad they’re not around me when I watch on TV, because man are they annoying.
All in all, the experience was great. I did feel that the UFC could make more of a show of the night, but I still haven’t come up with the solid ideas necessary on how to improve their live product. I would describe going to the fight in person like going to a concert with a lot of opening bands you haven’t heard of but you finally get your pay off in the headlining act. Or for you sports guys, it’s like going to a backwards pre-season NFL game with the starters coming in for the 4th quarter. I would recommend this experience if you ever have the chance, but the price wasn’t cheap and I could see how someone who was more of a casual fan could have been disappointed. I hope this event helps get MMA legalized in New York. The night was sold out and I didn’t notice anything negative or out of the ordinary happen with the crowd at any point, so I don’t really see what’s holding them back, especially in such a big market. I will keep an ear to the situation and update you guys accordingly.
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