I’ve never been a fan of Ultimate Fighting or mixed martial arts in general, but I respect the skills, talent and clear determination of the athletes who take part in the sport.
So when my three older sons (the youngest couldn’t make it, still in university exams a long way from home), all aficionados of the emerging sport, purchased tickets months ago to the first event planned for Toronto, they included me. I wasn’t exactly overjoyed, but I appreciated that they wanted to include me.
By the time the event rolled around this past Saturday night at the
Rogers Center in , I had done a modest amount of research. I knew a number of young Canadian fighters were taking part and figured it would be an extravaganza, a spectacle—which it was. Toronto
(As an aside, I had taken the same boys, now in their 20s and 30s, to a World Wrestling Federation event back in 1996 at the old Exhibition grounds in
. The boys were 16, 13 and 9. That was a night they all remember vividly to this day, though we were sitting quite a ways away, as we were Saturday night. A lot of the big names in the industry were there that night—Mick “Mankind” Foley, The Undertaker, Vader, and a young Shawn Michaels. It was a day full of festivities and we had an awful lot of fun. The boys understood what wrestling was, and appreciated it for exactly that—performers with a lot of athletic ability who knew how to entertain. We still talk about that night. We were outdoors at the “Ex”, the weather was great and it was actually better entertainment than you saw at many mainstream sporting events. It delivered exactly what was promised. Interestingly, it was a “dark” show, meaning it was not a TV event. In some ways, that made it even better. No deadlines and TV requirements, etc..) Toronto
So while I have never morphed into acquiring a taste for MMA, I was looking forward to seeing how Dana White’s company handled an event. Though it was loud for my liking and took longer than necessary to complete the proceedings, it was fun, and well- delivered for the most part.
It was interesting to see how the building filled slowly through the 6-7 hours we were there. It was somewhat sparsely attended for the pre-card events, but by the time the last four main-card fights were “up”, there may well have been an announced crowd of 55,000 on hand. You could look around the stadium and not see many empty sits, and rows filled right up to the top rows.
For what’s it’s worth (and you can tell I am far from having useful opinions on who is “good” and who has potential, etc.) I was impressed with a couple of young Canadians—21 year-old Rory McDonald, who earned a decision in his match-up with Nate Diaz and later, Mark Hominick, who lost a unanimous decision to Jose Aldo. Hominick overcame some devastating damage to control the fight in the fifth and final round. (I honestly though the fight should have been stopped in the third round, I think it was.) The crowd was electric and so loud as Hominick worked his tail off to get back into the fight. He earned the admiration of the pro-Canadian hometown audience, and also earned fight of the night honors, I’m told—and a nice bonus.
It was also good to see Randy Couture in his last fight. Though I don’t follow mixed martial arts, I’ve long been aware of Randy Couture’s name. He lasted into the second round against a younger, in-his-prime Lyoto Machida. But the victor paid homage to Couture in the ring afterwards, the way things should play out when a true champion retires and rides off into the sunset.
The much-anticipated match-up between GSP, Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields was riveting drama, but under-whelming in terms of delivery. Again, I’m far from knowledgeable so I state my views in rather timid fashion.
seemed to be fighting not to make a big mistake. (My sons explained afterwards that he had lost a match a while back to a decided underdog, and may have become more tentative as a result). St. Pierre
Nonetheless, you could see the class in all that GSP did. I’d seen him interviewed a few teams and he presents as an entirely likeable guy, determined to be the best in his field—a very good representative of the sport.
Spectacle, drama, skilled fighters and a rare night out with the older boys (now men)—it was a moment to treasure.