TORONTO - There is nothing like it. The deafening noise. The bright lights. The 10 video screens that attack my ADD from the press box seat where weíre not allowed to turn the lights on.
This is being written in the dark, which is pretty much where I am on Ultimate Championship Fighting.
I canít tell you whether I like this, loathe this, am fascinated by it, am titillated, because itís almost impossible to convey a thought in all this loudness, with all these people, in our staid young Air Canada Centre, where sporting events donít look like this, sound like, feel like this.
The noise is making my chest shake while Iím sitting down, and you know, the main part of UFC 140, the second foray into Toronto with this remarkable sell, hasnít even begun yet. The television show is over. The pay per view is about to start and the Hominick kid from Thamesford, just down the 401, hasnít made his way to the ring yet for all his seven seconds of action.
Seven bouts into a 12-bout card and there is the kind of anticipation thatís usually reserved for a night of championship boxing. Only with boxing, nobody pays any attention to the early fights on the undercard. Most of them are fought without any fans at all. Here, they take everything seriously ó the sell, the show, the canned noise if the crowd isnít making any, the introductions, the post-fight interviews, the music that guides the fighters to the ring.
If there is one thing unique about these Dana White productions itís that they leave nothing to chance. It is sell, sell and sell some more. Iíve been to more nights of title fights in boxing than I care to remember, and while those main events can conjure up this crazed atmosphere, there is nothing start to finish like the UFC.
Even Vince McMahon hasnít been able to sell this well in the live arena. His shows work on television. This works on TV and live, for what it is.
And still, Iím not sure what I think about the fighting itself. Iím a boxing guy. I was ringside when Marvin Hagler fought Tommy Hearns, when Leonard fought Hagler, when Mike Tyson stopped Michael Spinks, when Evander Holyfield humilated Tyson, when Lennox Lewis knocked out Razor Ruddock in two rounds. Each of those events, in their own way, never leaves you. They are memorable not for the sounds, not for the screens, not for the amount of people, but for the actual fight, the people involved, the story lines.
This is entertainment overload. Mixed martial arts has its moments, like the instant win for Chan Sung Jung of South Korea over Mark Hominick. Just not enough of them. When the two combatants drop to the canvas in what is called ground and pound, Iíd rather change the channel. Only you donít have that option when itís live. We werenít allowed to turn the television on in the press box. Apparently, the lights might mess up the television show, and we wouldnít want to do that.
My first up close and personal with UFC came at the show at the Rogers Centre last April. That night, amazing happened. Almost every second bout was something you hadnít seen before, knockout after knockout, or ending after ending, that made you think: This is wow.
But like any kind of fighting, not everything is wow. Itís too real to always be wow. Like when John Makdessi of Montreal, fresh off a backwards spin kick at the Rogers Centre that had you thinking ó what was that I just saw ó lost in the first round Saturday night. Thatís another place UFC differs from boxing. Twenty four fighters took part in the card at UFC 140. By the end of the night not one of them could call themselves undefeated.
Makdessi was beaten by American Dennis Hallman, and quite handily. Now Hallman was a whole lot bigger than Makdessi, which raises some questions all their own. Hallman missed weight, which meant Makdessi was entitled to 25% of his purse, which he probably would have relinquished for the victory.
After the fight, Hallman came out to be interviewed. When I requested to talk to Makdessi, I was politely told: We donít bring out the losers. ďAh,Ē said Hallman, ďthat would have been a great win for him. I donít think he was ready for me.Ē
Which is kind of how I feel about UFC. I want more before deciding. I just donít know when.