Saturday night (Aug 28), UFC 118 was here in Boston at the TD Garden. Its was tons of fun. My wife, her brother, her sister-in-law, and I all had a great time.

I’m an unlikely UFC fan. I don’t like sports in general. Sure, I passively follow Boston teams. I’ll admit that I still feel connected to the Redskins from growing up in Washington, DC. And occasionally I do watch the post-season match ups. Yet I lack an active interest in sports and sport teams. I just can’t muster that much enthusiasm.

But I love UFC and its mixed martial arts (MMA) style of fighting. Other sports are highly contrived affairs: one doesn’t accidentally find oneself engaged in a baseball, soccer, or football game. Not even boxing, with all of its rules, occurs on accident. But anyone can end up in a fight, and everyone understands whats at stake when you win or lose.

UFC events have great production values, and whether you go to see them live or watch them on pay-per-view you’ll see very high quality and well put-together sporting event. My observances, in no particular order of interest or significance, are as follows:

  1. If you’ve got tickets to a UFC event, then you should arrive there on time (or even early). I was a bit confused about this. The live event begins several hours before the preliminary fights air on Spike or Versus and before the main fights air on pay-per-view. So why do you want to arrive hours before that? Because the fights start several hours early before any live fights are broadcast. The live fights that are scheduled as live preliminaries or live pay-per-view fights may not take up their allotted time — knock outs and submissions end matches early. Broadcasts of the earlier fights take up any time that’s left over. If you’ve seen UFC preliminaries or pay-per-view fights, then you know that some of these fights from earlier in the night are very exciting.
  2. If you’re attending a live UFC event, plan on spending the entire evening. You’ll be there for 5 or 6 hours, but the time will go quickly. When they’re broadcasting fights from earlier in the night to fill space after live fights, there’s an intermission at the live event. So there’s plenty of time to walk around and buy things.
  3. UFC 118 Banner Holders
    Per item #4: Notice the three guys all standing on one stool holding the banner behind the fighter, who happens to be obscured in this photo by the banner, but you can see his feet below the banner. That’s Bruce Buffer, Veteran Voice of the Octagon, on the upper left side of the Octagon, reading from a card and standing next to UFC referee Mario Yamasaki.
  4. During the actual fight, there are four cameramen filming (literally: 4 guys with cameras). Each cameraman stands on a small stool and holds his camera on his shoulder, over the top of the Octagon, pointing his camera at live action. When the UFC fighters are fighting on the side of the Octagon that is directly beneath the cameraman, he gets down from his stool and films through the cage.
  5. On TV, when Bruce Buffer (Veteran Voice of the Octagon) introduces each fighter, viewers see three members of the fighter’s entourage unfurl and hold a banner with sponsorship logos behind the fighter. What viewers do not see is that these three people are crowded onto a single stool behind the Octagon cage — the same stool that the cameraman stands on. (see image to the right)
  6. The chain link of the Octagon stretches out of shape a bit when fighters grapple against it. So in between rounds, people come out and pull the chain link of the Octagon back into shape. They just squat down a couple of feet from the black chain link, grab it, and lean back to pull it towards them.
  7. Doctors come into the ring and stand near the fighters between rounds. You don’t generally see them in the televised close-ups on the fighters and their coaches. The doctors dress rather stuffily. Last night one female doctor was wearing a blue cardigan and wore reading glasses on the end of her nose. A male doctor might have been mistaken for a caricature of Sigmund Freud. They give the general impression that they are real party poopers. (My wife’s brother is a doctor. Having studied medicine in Las Vegas, he actually knew one of the doctors who was there. He said it would probably be a pretty good gig.)
  8. All fighters enter the arena, doing their famous “walk on,” out of the same corner of the arena and using the same path to the Octagon. A lot of other people might have known this, but for some reason I envisioned it like a football or basketball game, where each team enters out of a different end of the venue.
  9. When you see a UFC event live in an arena, there are monitors everywhere (much like other live sporting events). So you can switch between watching the image being broadcast or the fighters themselves. In that sense, it’s the best of both worlds. However, you never get to hear the announcers or their commentary, and it’s difficult to hear Joe Rogan’s post-fight interviews over the crowd noise.
  10. All the fighters seem to be fairly tanned, even one’s who look really pale on TV.
  11. None of the fighters seem aware that the folks who’ve bought tickets are proud that their town is hosting a UFC event, and none of the fighters really play to the audience. Randy Couture, among the most media and PR-savvy UFC fighters, did start his post-fight interview by exclaiming how great it was to be in Boston, and the audience just went berserk. But I don’t remember hearing any of the other fighters remark about Boston at all. This definitely relegates UFC attendees to the status of mere spectators, so that there’s a missed opportunity to make ticket-buyers feel more like participants in the sporting event.
  12. Everyone is thinner and better looking live than on TV. This is true of Bruce Buffer (Veteran Voice of the Octagon) and the UFC ring girls.
  13. When Joe Rogan steps into the ring to do a post-fight interview, you can tell from his posture and his stride that he’s “turned it on,” and he looks totally different than he does when he walks away from the interview.
  14. In person, the fights are much more intense. Even the fights that seem kind of boring on TV have a brutal intensity.

It’s really an amazing time. If a UFC event comes to a venue near you, you should go and see it. If you’ve never watched UFC, tune into The Ultimate Fighter, which is an MMA tournament show that is dubbed “reality television.” You can also check listings on Spike TV or Versus for UFC broadcasts. It’s far-and-away the most fun sport to watch.

All of us at UFC 118
My wife’s brother, his wife, my wife, and me at UFC 118.