I have been an MMA fan since way back in 1993. I have bought countless pay-per views and have watched numerous events on free tv. Never have I been to a live MMA event. I live in NY, so there haven’t been a great number of events in the area and a lot of the times I had work or just could not afford a ticket to one of the cards in New Jersey.
This past Friday night I finally fulfilled this dream, and I attended the UFC on FX 4 card The Revel Casino and Resort in Atlantic City N.J. It truly was for me like a kid going to Disney World for the first time. The day started with me and two good friends of mine meeting at The Port Authority bus Terminal in Manhattan to take an approximately 2 1/2 hour bus ride out to Atlantic City. After playing around with a few slot machines we made our way over to The Revel. This is an amazing structure. The place has only been open for a month but you would never know it by the level of professionalism, courtesy, and respect displayed by the staff of this property.
See I am a Cancer patient who has recently finished surgeries and treatments that have left me temporarily with the inability to speak or swallow any liquids or food. I have a feeding tube connected through my stomach (PEG TUBE) that only allows me to ingest drinks, nutritional supplements, and my medications with the help of syringe injections through the feeding tube. For me to go through this process I need some time and privacy when I am out in public. This was a concern of mine when the prospects of going to this event came through. My worries were taken care of immediately when I had my friends speak to a security guy on the casino level at Revel. He came up with the idea of bringing me to a nice sized private bathroom in one of the restaurants at the top of the escalators. It was very clean, spacious, had an outlet so I can charge my phone, and nobody bothered me. It takes me about 20 minutes to feed and take my meds. I was very happy with the way it was handled. I feel bad I did not get this young mans name. Me being in the hotel business myself for 15 years I should know better.
It was about 4 p.m. When we arrived and you can feel the buzz in the air at the casino. You see all these UFC fans with there MMA apparel on. Right away as I am heading to the private restroom I see MMA journalist Ariel Helwani and UFC featherweight Steven Siler within seconds of each other. Now I was starting to get in the right state of mind to watch some UFC action.
I’m personally a guy who loves sports and really do enjoy watching them at home on the big screen. I have been to hundreds of MLB, NBA, and NFL games in my life but never a UFC card. We got there for the first fight of the night and the place was maybe half full at best, but filled up as the night went on. We had good seats about 20-30 yards from the Octagon. I have heard from people in the past how when you go to a live UFC event sometimes you can’t see the action, but for us that wasn’t the case.
I have to first say the UFC and its athletes are extremely good with fan interaction. When I was a kid my Dad used to take me to the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd street and Lexington Avenue in NYC to get autographs from Baseball teams that were in town that week to play the NY Mets. The majority of these guys couldn’t care less about us kids back then. They would walk by you like you were invisible. I mean granted I understand this was their hotel and not the ball park, but it was the way they handled the situation that left a bad taste in my mouth. With the UFC fighters and referees it was the complete opposite. I mean you had guys that just finished having hand to hand combat with another man stopping to take several pictures and signing autographs with fans who paid good money to come support them. This is the way it should be . You can really feel that most of these warriors understood this part of the game. The security at the event was good too. They knew the fine line of letting the fans get close enough for pictures and handshakes, but also keeping the fighters best interest at heart too.
In between fights, NJ native and MMA veteran referee Dan Miragliotta was a complete gentleman. For such a big and imposing figure, he was extremely accommodating talking to the fans and taking pictures like we were old friends from the neighborhood.
UFC Middleweight “Filthy” Tom Lawlor was not fighting on the card, but he was sitting not far from us taking in the action with some friends. After the card was over he was walking around the property taking pictures and being cool with everybody that approached him.
UFC Welterweight Mike “Quicksand” Pyle, who was in Gray Maynard’s camp was a cool guy too. He saw me take a quick picture of him with my I Phone and he came over and asked me my name. I expressed to him that I could not speak right now because of the surgery I had for Cancer. He made me feel really comfortable about the whole thing. A simple little gesture like that can earn you a fan for life.
The venue in the casino-resort where the fights were being held was called Ovation Hall. I think the capacity was close to 5,000 people. Not the biggest place you will see, but one of those places where there is not many bad seats in the place. The crowd was a mostly an east coast type of audience. Loud, no patience, and loyal to the fighters who they are there to see. Just the way I like it.
Overall, I have to say I had an unbelievable night all around. Me and my friends are already planning to go the next event the UFC has in the tri-state area. I can only imagine how good a UFC card would be at Madison Square Garden. One day it will happen, but I have to admit those smaller venues like The Revel are probably better for fighter-fan interaction.
I just want to thank the UFC, its employees, and the Revel Resort and Casino for making this night a success. I also want to thank my true friends Frankie and Elvis for treating me to an amazing night and for being there for me throughout this tough ordeal I have been enduring for the past 21 months. I have been very fortunate to have good friends, and family to get me through this. I won’t name them all in this story, but they all know who they are and how I feel.