I love bars, especially sports bars. I love sports, especially, MMA, football, and hockey. I hate going to bars to watch my favorite sports, especially sports bars. No offense to the proprietors of those establishments, but oftentimes the collective dimness of the patrons makes me want to "accidentally" launch a dart askew. You all know the type I'm talking about.
As a diehard Steeler, Penguin, and Irish fan, I'm used to obnoxious fellow fans. Marginal knowledge of the sport, constant shouts to "SHOOOOOOOT THE PUCK!/TACKLE SOMEBODY!/PUNCH HIM!", egregious mispronounciation of names, and no desire to learn any more than what they overhear what their co-workers talk about. I like to watch my sports without distractions, I love to analyze what's happening, take in the game from all corners, listen to the crowd, hear what the commentators have to say. So you can imagine my chagrin when I had no other option but to watch 134 at an aforementioned bar.
I'm 26, I love to drink, and I've spent more evenings at bars than I care to say, and if you didn't know me, you'd think I was one of the Jager-drinking no-necks I was just discussing, so this isn't from a geezer perspective, or the weirdo who brings his laptop to a bar, perspective. I'm a regular twenty-something washed-up athlete with a beer gut and a glass that needs refilled. By all means, I'm the UFC's target audience, but I HATE being amongst the commonfolk in these situations.
But here I was.
Normally I watch fights either by myself, or with a small group of friend(s), talking to you handsome devils. But this was the only weekend a group of us could get off work for my best friend's long bachelor-party weekend. So alas, this weekend it was. He's a big MMA fan and a diehard, maniac Anderson fan, so who was I to refuse? We finally found a BWW about half an hour away from our resort. After Thursday and Friday's whathaveyou, our Saturday night was set. I hunkered down. Skeptical, but curious as to how the crowd would be for my first UFC sports-bar experience in a few years. We claimed our spots at the bar and we ordered our drinks. I normally just grab beers when I'm out, but shit, this was a UFC and it wouldn't be right if I didn't get my favorite drink. After being told they were OUT OF BLACK VELVET, instead of calmly walking off my stool and setting the bar ablaze like I should have, I made some substituions for the evening and away we went, as evidenced below.
So after watching my first full night of fights (complete with Spike broadcast), at a bar in a couple years, here's what I came away with:
-The Affliction/TapouT crowd was pretty absent. There were a few bros, but it seems that crowd has died down. Don't get me wrong, companies that sponsor fighters and give them food on the table should always be supported, but it seems the dudebros that defined themselves on MMA gear has finally dissipated. My grey shorts, Air Maxes, and AC/DC shirt was pretty much the norm and I was thankful for that.
-The "U-S-A!" plague that makes us all cringe was refreshingly absent. In the Miller-Palhares, Fisher-Tavares, Schaub-Nog, Forrest-Rua fight and even the Pearson-Barboza and Nedkov-Cane fight, which their nationalities were rather ambigous if you missed the intros, there was nary a peep. I'm patriotic as the next red-blooded American, and probably moreso, but we're beyond that.
-The knowledge/apprecation of everyone blew me away. Sure, big strikes were cheered, but so were timely takedowns, guard passes, submission attempts and escapes, GnP recoveries, and a bunch of other shit I had no idea would be appreciated.
-Nary a boo to be had in the place except for me every time Schaub or Silva was on the screen.
-The Miller-Palhares fight kind of baffled all of us. We couldn't hear commentary, so we had NO idea what was going on with Rousimar's celebration. Eventually people put the pieces together and figured it out, but we were all thrown for a loop.
-I don't remember the exact amount, but the guy next to us who we became fast friends with, had A LOT of money riding on Barboza. I loved the fight, but couldn't enjoy all of it because I was constantly making sure our new buddy wasn't going to stroke out on us. When it was announced they were going to a split decision, I thought he was either going to start doing cartwheels if he won, knocking over my drink, or randomly start clotheslining his way through the bar, knocking over my drink. Either way, double whiskeys aren't cheap, and I was ready to go to war. Fortunately, after the third judge gave it to Edson, he looked like he'd just been liberated from Auschwitz. I swear he aged fifteen years during that fight.
-Was it really that loud for Nog's entrance? They only had the volume on the lower-end, but the crowd was BLASTING when he came out. It drowned out the broadcast. Seemed he got a louder entrance than Shogun or Silva.
-More people than you think know about Chael, and they're 50/50 on him. Mission accomplished for the G@ng$ta.
-We take him for granted as diehards (hurts me to even say that), but people look at Anderson like he's Bruce Lee. The first round was muddy, but during that second, he had the bar in the palm of his hand. Everything he did was met with "holy shit" "goddamn", or just disbelief laughter. When he had his hands down and just daring Yushin to throw, people were going wild. They think he's a motherfucking ninja. I can't argue.
-The "JUST BLEED" crowd is dead. During the Miller-Palhares, Griffin-Rua, and Tavares-Fisher fights, the crowd was actually calling for the fight to be stopped WAY before it actually was and much earlier than I thought they should have been. Another great sign for MMA and more signs that New York needs to be on board. Pleasently surprised by that.
-Attendance was huge. You couldn't even make your way to the restrooms. The place was packed. I live in a regulated state, but the audience is certainly there in New York.
-The best part of the night, both as a fan and a patron, was Nog coming back and knocking out Schaub. The moment I knew that the MMA was safe in the hands of the casuals was when Nog rallied to put Schaub out, and I was screaming at the top of my lungs and I couldn't even hear myself. The crowd was that loud. These people had no discernable connection to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. They were young, feisty Americans like Schaub, who should have loved the Hybrid's knockout power; But when Nog stunned him, you would think we were in Bahia. It was incredible to watch and hear and I'm actually proud of my fellow fans.
Top-5 Biggest Reactions:
5. All of the Pearson-Barboza fight. People were oohing and aahing over Edson's kicks alot, and the court of public opinion was way in Barboza's favor.
4. Nedkov rocking Cane and Cane trying to flying kick his way out of the cage. That drew the longest response and most laughs.
3. Silva toying with Okami and eventually TKOing him.
2. Erick Silva's KO of Ramos (both times it was shown).
1. Nog knocking out Schaub (and nothing came close.)
So what did I take away from all this? You casuals and lurkers surprised me, and for the better. The kids are alright. I was proud to be an MMA fan Saturday night, and that wasn't just the thirteen double whiskeys talking.
Can't wait to shoot the shit with you assholes this weekend. I missed you douches.