Blood spattered canvas. Cold Chisel. Chairs tied together with plastic zips (lest a brawl begin). Muscle bound blokes. I may not have been as close as Chris Hemsworth (who sat ringside) but as I sat in my $400 seat (about 30 metres back from the Octagon) at Melbourne’s (almost) packed Marvel Arena to watch UFC 243, I felt mildly guilty for my pseudo-fan status.
While this remark was never thrust my way, given the disdain my ‘softboi’ surfing brethren tend to hold for Valient Adult Learners, I kept expecting it to come.
Anyway: thanks to my brother’s UFC obsession I found myself watching everything from the prelims to the main card, which saw Aussie hero Robert Whittaker valiantly (but unsuccessfully) defending his middleweight belt from the arrogant-yet-talented Israel Adesanya, now making a name for himself as the next Conor McGregor (epic timing, epic shit talk, no ground game).
If you want a proper breakdown of the fight; check out the various wraps out there. If you are interested in what it’s like to attend one of the most brutal sporting events in Melbourne as a Sydney softboi (and some of the biggest mistakes I made); read on.
Hardened MMA fans are as obsessed with their phones as One Direction obsessed teenagers
As we discovered, paying a premium for (relatively) close seats to the Octagon does not guarantee you will see the fighters’ entrances, as masses of people rush to the front, waving their phones like it’s a Nickleback concert, trying to Instagram their favourite fighters (and then often staying on their feet for the first few seconds of each bout). Fortunately, the Thai kickboxers to our right (verbally) put a swift end to this for the Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya fight.
A brawl is not as likely as you (might) think
Even though I was nervous at the beginning (upon noticing each chair was zip-tied together, presumably to prevent them from being picked up and thrown in the event of a Khabib vs. McGregor style brawl) – despite being a soy latte drinking ‘softboi’ I never once felt the need to retreat into my slightly-more-MMA literate (and much larger) brother’s arms.
In other words: though the media often likes to paint everyone who listens to Joe Rogan as a bunch of roid-abusing bros, that (as far as I saw) is far from the case, with all the core fans being friendly despite my naive questions (why didn’t he just back away before getting hit?).
It’s nowhere near as lame as WWE
Though the Rick Flair ‘woooos’ do eventually get a bit repetitive, the blood on the line makes the UFC experience about as close to a modern-day amphitheatre as you’ll find.
It’s not as ‘Lord of the Flies’ as you’d think
Though you might expect the fans to be permanently baying for blood (which we kind of were), there was also a lot of cringing and wincing when fighters took serious damage. #Empathy for the win… Also, despite the home crowd supporting its own (Whittaker) and booing Adesanya, even though everyone was shocked and disappointed by the Aussie hero’s loss, there was still grudging respect for the lethal skills and defensive game of Adesanya.
The heavyweight fighters aren’t always ripped
Just in case you needed another excuse to skip the gym and chow down on some Uber Eats every now and then…
It’s not as male-dominated as the stereotypes predict
To put it bluntly; there were heaps of women. Most of whom could, again, to put it bluntly, drag me around the Octagon as if they were Megan Anderson and I was Zarah Fairn.
The main card fights aren’t necessarily better than the prelims
Though the Whittaker vs. Adesanya fight got all the hype, the Brad Riddell vs. Jamie Mullarkey was insane.
Always buy four drinks at a time
Though this is likely the same at any sporting event it’s always worth a reminder: the lines are crazy, so if you don’t want to miss anything, maximise your beverage per trip percentages.