Well folks, this is going to annoy some of you, but it's a slow news day so bear with me. Last night in suburban Chicago, a WWE wrestler named Phil Brooks (stage name: CM Punk) elicited one of the craziest, loudest, and most diehard crowd reactions you'll ever see in just about any arena. Yes, pro wrestling's not real. Yes, it was based on a storyline. And yes, it's likely a case of apples and oranges when it comes to comparing this sort of reaction to how a crowd reacts to an MMA fighter because it's a much different type of emotional investment. But it got me thinking - can an MMA fighter ever earn a reaction like this? Has this happened before in MMA?
For those of you that care, the storyline was pretty simple. CM Punk, after five years of being underutilized by the WWE, chose not to renew his contract with them despite Vince McMahon urging him to stay. He came out three weeks ago on their TV show and said exactly that. He called out the company on all it's mistakes and political garbage. He told the truth. The interview was scripted, but it blurred the lines of reality. Punk was the "heel", or bad guy before this. He cut two more promos setting up a final WWE title match with John Cena, the company flag-waver and champion. The matchup was in his hometown of Chicago, and the reaction was unreal. Here's a video of his entrance (yes, it's inverted for some reason. No idea why).
Honestly, I don't think any MMA crowd has ever been as rabid as the one in Allstate Arena last night. The fans chanted his name during every match, he got a four-minute standing ovation entering the ring, they stood and chanted his name for almost all of the 30-minute match, and went absolutely bonkers at the finish (spoiler: Punk won the title and took it home with him. Here's an amusing pic of where he decided to store it).
Here are the biggest MMA reactions I could come up with (with some help from the staff):
Randy Couture vs Tim Sylvia, UFC 68 - The Natural came out of retirement to fight the unloved champion in Sylvia. It took just a eight seconds and one Couture punch for the crowd to go bananas. They rarely let up for the rest of the fight.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader, UFC 132 - It seemed like people didn't really know they were still Tito Ortiz fans until he won. Then the crowd went nuts. After all the ill will that Tito garnered, it was great to see that people could see through of it and still root for the guy.
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen, UFC 117 - After Sonnen stunned everyone into silence for four rounds with his relentless wrestling and ground and pound, Silva shocked everyone with his fifth-round triangle and the crowd went berzerk.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Mirko Cro Cop, Pride Final Conflict 2003 - 67,500 people lost their minds when Big Nog finished Cro Cop. Japanese crowds are known for being calm, but the reaction to the finish was legendary, just like the two fighters.
Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung, WEC 48 - While all 12,555 people were likely not in the arena for this fight yet, the reaction to one of the wildest featherweight wars of our time was off the hook. It was the first undercard fight in recent memory to get a standing ovation. And it lasted a while.
I'm sure there are plenty more. If your choice isn't on the list, put it in the comments. If you don't vote, it's clobberin' time.