Adam Wagner is a writer for MMAmania.com. He is in Canada as part of the UFC 83: "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2â€³ Ultimate Fight Train experience. He'll blog about his whirlwind trip throughout the weekend, providing an inside account of what it's like to be in Montreal (and Toronto) when the UFC comes to town for the first time ever. Enjoy.
Canadian fans know how to cheer on a fight. I've had the privilege of attending a few UFC events, as well as professional sporting events for every major sport except basketball. To date, there have been 3 crowds that I have witnessed that were truly a spectacle to beyond. You could tell history was being made—it was in the air:
- FedExField, Landover, MD. The Washington Redskins swept the favored Dallas Cowboys on December 18, 2005 in a must-win situation to earn a playoff berth, crushing their hated rivals 35 — 7. I'm a die-hard Steelers fan since forever, but I was proud to be living in D.C. on that day.
- Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH. The first-ever UFC event in the Buckeye State was UFC 68, when Randy Couture returned from retirement to take Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia's Heavyweight title. From the moment Couture knocked Sylvia to the ground with his very first punch, the crowd neverreturned to their seats for five rounds of action.
- The Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It's hard to gauge who was louder, the Canadians during GSP's ass-kicking of Matt Serra at UFC 83 or the Americans at UFC 68. But I can tell you this without a doubt: I have never witnessed such an intense crowd from the getgo—even during the undercard, this crowd was bumping. It felt like I was watching the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals...in Canada
- It takes an intense degree of dedication to be a fighter that most of us know nothing about. I know most of us fantasize about being a fighter from time to time, even when we know it'll never happen. Hell, Canadian glam rocker Robin Black fantasizes about it to the point of actually throwing his hat in the ring (and if he wins his upcoming debut, I'll eat my hat ... then blog about it). But in the end, most of us like our faces the way they are. The amount of scar tissue on some of these fighters' faces is unbelievable. You can't tell by watching a season of TUF (the production crew has a make-up professional for a reason); you can only see it up close. They've truly made themselves ugly through their love of the sport.
- I love fights, but I don't gotta love the spectacle. Some people are involved in the MMA community because they love to fight or they love to promote fights. Others love to promote themselves. I realized this weekend more than ever before that I'm just a writer who's terrible at self-promotion (this has been and will continue to be my downfall, professionally speaking). But I don't give a damn. I hate costumes and phony one-name celebrities. My hat goes off to my Canadian hosts for the weekend, Sean McManus (contributing writer to MMAmania.com and Director of Media Relations for MMACanada.net) and Justin Curtin (Owner of and Director of Operations for MMA Fight Gear and the mastermind behind the Ultimate Fight Train) for being two of the good guys.
- Kalib Starnes ought to look for a better excuse. I think it's pure crap that the UFC — or any fight promotion — doesn't provide the best healthcare money can buy for its fighters so they can keep their fight purse, win or lose. I don't know the facts, whether they do in some cases and don't in others, but if they don't for each and every fighter on a fight card, that needs to change. Although as far as I can remember Starnes is the only UFC fighter to complain about medical bills that were not picked up 100 percent after a fight inside the Octagon (his loss to Alan Belcher) under the Fertitta regime. That said, Starnes looked like a scared 12-year-old in his fight against Quarry. The fans next to me were saying, "He must have broken his arm or something" to try to explain away why he refused to engage. I was actually thinking the same thing myself, "Something's GOT to be the matter with him." I think I was right, there is something the matter with him, and now the whole world knows it. I can't believe Chris Leben lost to this guy. Hell, I can't believe Danny Abbadi lost to this guy!
- Mania RULES! I don't know if you guys noticed, but since I was last at my computer on Thursday night before leaving for Toronto, MMAmania.com has featured more than 30 articles of some of the best MMA coverage on the Internet today (and one stunning photo of Arianny Celeste). I was floored when I went online today at the sheer volume. Now I gotta play catch up. Ah yes, life is good. Thanks again, Mania, for sending me to Canada and making my weekend one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in a very long time.
Check out some pics after the jump.