August 19, 2013

UFC spectacle could make visit to Maine

If the Ultimate Fighting Championship ever comes to Maine, fans would be treated to quite a show.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON — Part-time Mainer Dana White, the president and CEO of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, says he's working on bringing the world's premier mixed martial arts fighting organization to the Pine Tree State.

Steven Siler, Mike Brown
click image to enlarge

Steven Siler celebrates after knocking out Maine’s Mike Brown in the first round during a UFC show Saturday night in Boston.

The Associated Press

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Specifically, White said he wants a show in Bangor. Of course he also said Saturday he wants to return to Boston and will take the show to Ireland in "the third quarter" of 2014.

Based on Saturday's show at the TD Garden, a UFC show is part concert, part movie/theater production, and plenty of high-energy fighting.

It's also in demand at venues throughout the world. But if White does create enough financial impetus to bring the UFC to Maine, here's what a first-time attendee could expect.

TOP-LEVEL ATHLETES

The fighters are physically prepared to compete at a high rate for a full 15 minutes. Every fighter I saw was fit. How many 6-foot-7 guys can kick a 6-foot-4 man in the head?

That's what heavyweight Travis Browne did repeatedly in a single round -- after Alistair Overeem had him so hurt Browne later said, "my mind could understand everything that was going on but my body just wouldn't respond."

EXCITING FINISHES

They may be capable of going the distance, but UFC fighters are primed by significant bonus money to do their best to end fights sooner with knockouts or submissions.

Six $50,000 bonus checks were awarded within a half-hour after the show -- two more than normal.

A FULL-FLEGED SPECTACLE

The four large video screens in each corner of the Garden gave fans up-close access to fighter walkouts, between-round and postfight slow-motion replays, and slickly produced vignette-style profiles.

Just as important, when there wasn't something pertinent to show, the screens were kept on a non-distracting logo.

The audio quality was also top-notch, both for ear-pounding music and in-cage interviews.

A TIGHT SHOW

Quick knockouts like the one suffered by Mike Brown of Standish against Steven Siler did not mean interminable delays.

That's a stark contrast to the Bellator show in Lewiston, where a fixed live TV time slot with limited fights and quick finishes left the fans at the Colisee waiting long stretches between fights.

After Travis Browne surprised with his front kick to the chin to knock out Overeem in the co-main event, there were just two minutes of down time following the in-cage interview.

After the pump-up videos (kept short and done well), Chael Sonnen was on his way to the ring, sneer on his face, to square off with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

AN ECONOMIC BOOSTER SHOT

UFC officials said Saturday night a commissioned economic impact study in 2011 determined UFC 129 brought $40 million to the Toronto economy when it sold 55,000 seats at the Rogers Centre.

"That show was four times a normal show, so that's why I'd say Boston was probably around $10 million. If you want to go real conservative you could just say in the millions," said Dave Sholler of UFC.

At the postshow press conference, White said Saturday's attendance was 12,539 with a gate receipt of $1.53 million -- for a show on free TV (if you could find it) on new 24-hour sports channel Fox Sports 1.

PUNCH IT UP

It may be called mixed martial arts, and the punches definitely come from all angles with fighters in all positions, but there's no mistaking the fact that the Garden crowd loved the big punches.

CROWD KNOWS WHEN DANGER LURKS

There's a definite different noise, a sort of rising crescendo of 'uh oh,' when a submission hold gets slapped on.

You better stop tweeting or texting your girlfriend when you hear that noise because the fight is about to end.

Just ask "Shogun" Rua, who was forced into submission by Sonnen's guillotine choke.

(OTHER) GREAT EXPECTATIONS

White sent out tweets to his 2.6 million followers during the show.

His best came after Boston's John Howard and Uriah Hall spent the last 30 seconds laughing and touching gloves: "HORRIBLE!!!!!!! The high 5 fight of the night WTF." ...

The ring girls have their own fans for obvious reasons.

Ring announcer Bruce Buffer sounding like his brother, Michael "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" Buffer, but looking like a possessed preacher as he introduces the top fights.

Better defensive tactics make submission holds much harder to execute.

Loads of elbows to the head.

The larger cage with smaller stanchions creates fewer blind spots for fans than locally promoted shows.

CELEBRITY GUESTS?

New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was backstage hobnobbing with new friend White, boxing great Oscar De La Hoya and Irish fighter Conor McGregor.

Maybe Stephen King and Joey Gamache could be behind the curtain in Maine.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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