SIDELINES: UFC Fight Night gets very 'loud' in KeyArena

Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson lays on top of Dan Hardy during UFC Fight Night Saturday night at KeyArena in Seattle. Johnson won the 170-pound fight in a decision. The night included 12 fights.
— image credit: Lance Giles/For The Mirror

Quick, what are the first four things that pop into your head when you think of mixed-martial arts fighting?

Here’s my buddy’s answers: Staph infections, tattoos, TapOut T-shirts and cauliflower ear. I’ll admit, I laughed. But that’s how a lot of people view MMA and its most popular organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

I actually love the UFC. I’ve even gone as far as to purchase more than one pay-per-view event at my own home. I’ve also made a pair of road trips to Phoenix and Sacramento to cover Decatur graduate Ben Henderson. They were two of the best live sporting events I have ever witnessed.

There is no middle ground regarding the sport of MMA fighting. You either love it or you think it’s a sign that society is decaying right in front of us.

But that group of MMA-loving fans keeps steadily rising. The UFC is the fastest growing sports organization in the world. Around the world, UFC is in 354 million homes and can be seen in over 145 countries.

I was lucky enough to witness more than 14,000 of those people at UFC Fight Night Live inside KeyArena on Saturday night. It was the first time the UFC has brought a live show to Seattle, and UFC President Dana White vowed it wouldn’t be the last. It was the highest attendance for any of the 24 Fight Night events the UFC has held. The event pulled in a live gate of $1,182,850, according to UFC officials.

The noise inside KeyArena on Saturday reminded me of the mid-1990s, when the Seattle SuperSonics were running through the NBA year after year. But the yelling and clapping coming from the 14,000 MMA fanatics wasn’t the only noise reverberating around KeyArena.

The “noise” coming off a lot of the clothes inside the building could also be measured in decibels. It reminded me of the little noise-measuring machine sideline reporters would always hold up inside the Kingdome during a Seahawks game back in the day.

“The noise in here is equal to a 747 taking off” was the standard report. That decibel-level machine would have read the same thing Saturday night had I held it up to a few of the T-shirts roaming around KeyArena.

Wow, the amount of sparkling beads, combined with tribal artwork, combined with color combinations that shouldn’t go together was mind boggling. It made for the perfect people-watching paradise.

“MMA Dude” has always fascinated me and I know I’m stereotyping in a big way, but some of these fans make it very easy to do.

A few things that I noticed inside KeyArena regarding “MMA Dude” included sparkly-pocketed jeans, full arm-sleeve tattoos, liberal use of bronzer, flat-billed baseball hats, energy drinks and an over-abundance of bald guys with goatees.

I also saw “MMA Girl” rolling around KeyArena. She does not fit into the generic mold of her male counterpart. She can take the form of many different appearances, but always has a perfect tan and 5-inch high heels. Always.

Thankfully, I have never slipped on a pair of high-heel shoes. But I don’t figure they would be the most comfortable accessory to put on your feet to walk a mile from the parking lot, up and down the endless flights of stairs  to your seats and then back to your car at the end of the night.

But the best “MMA Girl” I saw at KeyArena Saturday actually combined the 5-inch heels with a mink coat.

If you have ever been to an event where 14,000 people are crammed right on top of one another, you know a mink coat isn’t the first thing you would pull out of your closet. What was this lady’s thought process? Did she think the fights were outside?

“What would be the perfect complement to my sparkly Ed Hardy T-shirt with my sparkly-pocketed jeans? I know, a mink coat and high heels.”

On a serious note, the UFC Fight Night 24 event at KeyArena was a huge success. The six-hour, 12-bout card was nationally-televised on SpikeTV — and the UFC knows how to put on a great show.

The music was blasting, the spotlights made the eight-sided cage look like a dance floor and the fans were going crazy with anticipation before, during and after each fight. These guys are the best conditioned athletes in the world.

And since KeyArena isn’t used for anything except a random Rod Stewart/Stevie Nicks concert or Disney on Ice, the UFC should be more than welcome in Seattle at all times.

I’m pretty sure the restaurants affected by the departure of the Sonics to Oklahoma City a few years back would welcome loud MMA T-shirts, mink coats and high heels any day of the week.

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