(Respect the legend.)
It’s safe to assume that most of you reading this have at least entertained the notion of taking an MMA fight. If you have, you’ve probably also given some thought as to the song that you would want playing as you made your walk to the cage. In today’s CagePotato Roundtable, we’re sharing our staff picks for the songs that we would use as entrance music — songs that get us fired up and would (hopefully) enhance the experience that is watching live MMA for those in attendance. Read on for our picks, and please continue to send your best ideas for future CagePotato Roundtable topics to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There aren’t many scenarios in which suddenly being thrown into an MMA fight would not end in a violent, just pitiful death for me. That being the case, I’d want my entrance song to reflect my acceptance of this fate, while also being something that transcends all musical genres and really, all of humanity. What can I say? I’m a simple guy. I would want my entrance song to tell the attending audience that, contrary to the urine stain on my shorts, I do not fear death and in fact am fully prepared to torture my opponent’s body so that his soul will be humble. For God is the teacher, I am his instrument, and his lessons are so…beautiful… (*smears pig blood on chest*)
Only one song meets all of the above criteria: “The Host of Seraphim” by Dead Can Dance.
You’re probably familiar with Dead Can Dance even if you don’t think you are. Aside from the fact that their haunting, neo-classical world tunes have been featured in countless films (“Seraphim”, for instance, was featured in The Mist), Lisa Gerrard — who along with Brendan Perry makes up DCD — is a singer, composer, and musician whose voice has appeared on such iconic film soundtracks as Gladiator, Man on Fire, and Black Hawk Down. But for those of you who might not be familiar with the greatest musical group to come out of Australia in ever, I’d recommend that you check out their impressive catalog of work, which spans over 20 years and eight studio albums. A few of my favorite tracks: “Rakim,” “Ulysses,” “Sanvean” and “Spirit.”
Although the metalhead in me really wants to take the cliché route and blast the breakdown from August Burns Red’s “Back Burner” on loop (or maybe some DOWN, in light of Matt Brown’s excellent usage of “Bury Me in Smoke” on his now cancelled podcast), I feel that “Host of Seraphim” would better serve as a soundtrack to me being separated from my mortal coil and ascending to plains unknown. Of course, the profundity of the moment would probably be lost on the viewing audience once I had fully voided my bowels on the canvas, preferably on the Amp’d Mobile logo.
(Sidenote: I’ve mentioned this once before, I think, but I actually saw STEMM perform at a hole in the wall bar back in 2005. Unaware that they were the much-maligned UFC theme band at the time, I nearly suffered a stroke when they hit the first note on “Face the Pain.”
“Is this band actually covering the UFC song?” I said to my friend.
“No, they are the UFC song,” he replied.
We haven’t spoken since.
All in all, though, I must give STEMM their due credit for putting on one hell of an energetic show. They weren’t the worst metal band I’ve ever seen live, in any case — that honor goes to Hatebreed. My friend and I stopped talking for completely unrelated reasons.)
Ideally, I’d want my walkout song to be one that hasn’t been used by anybody before, and would fire me up for battle while striking fear into the hearts of my opponents. The duel theme from Barry Lyndon — “Sarabande” by Handel, if you want to get specific — immediately comes to mind. But let’s be real: For most MMA fans, classical music is the kiss of death. I can just picture all the meatheads in the mezzanine making sour faces as soon as my walkout song starts, then heading off to take a piss or get more beer while their girlfriends continue to swipe at their smartphones, half-comatose, totally ignoring my rad walkout. I would be wearing an executioner’s hood, by the way, NOT THAT IT MATTERS TO ANY OF YOU UNGRATEFUL ASSHOLES.
(Serious, but unrelated question: What the hell did bored women do at MMA fights before the invention of smartphones and texting? Did they even go to fights?)
I suppose I could use a metal version of Sarabande, to play to the crowd a little more. Or maybe a techno version? Ugh. I don’t think I could live with myself. Alright, new plan: I would walk out to “Beware,” the first track from the Exmilitary mixtape by Death Grips, which starts with a 48-second clip taken from a Charles Manson prison interview. I would stay backstage until the Manson monologue was finished. Bad vibes would spread throughout the arena. My opponent would feel The Fear begin to take hold. Then, when the first “BEWARE!” kicks in, I’m striding forward in my executioner’s hood, not too fast, not too slow. Purposefully, I guess you could say. Ready to give nothing and take everything.
My nickname would be “The Nailbiter,” because I bite my nails and because all of my fights would go to the judges.
In general, I’m a firm believer that entrance music should be tailored to your opponent. In fighting, you have to do anything to get that mental edge. Besides, my music taste varies from day-to-day. In the end, I’d play it by ear. Pun intended. So if I’m facing, say, a devout Christian like Michael McDonald or Diego Sanchez, I’d probably opt for some Norwegian black metal. Then again, that might motivate them. Maybe go with some Christian music to make less inclined to hit me? Scratch that, I need to be able to look myself in the mirror the day after, so I’d stick with metal.
Likewise, there are simple answers for other types of fighters or scenarios. Taking on an ex-Chute Boxe fighter? Just avoid trance music. They love trance music. Don’t encourage them. Fighting in Germany? Go with Rammstein. If you start to lose, hopefully the crowd will riot. Josh Barnett? Play Kenny G — don’t worry, I’m not linking this one — and he’ll tap before the fight starts. Squaring off against Matt Hamill? Eh, it doesn’t really matter. And so on and so forth.
“But George,” you begin, even though we’re not on a first name basis and this was not a conversation, “what if you didn’t have any foreknowledge of your opponent? What would become of your music selection then?” You are cruel to press me so, imaginary interlocutor with impressive grammar skills. It’s a tough question to answer, in part because you’re not picking the best song for an entrance; you’re picking the song with the best two-minute opening, which is all you’ll hear. In that time the song needs to embody the transition a fighter experiences in the build-up the fight; the shift from the relatively serene to the unrelenting and primal.
Lately I’ve been digging Trentemøller’s “Hazed” in that vein. It’s dark, ambient, and has a pulse like a heartbeat that keeps pushing the song along as the rest builds around it. On another day I go see myself being slightly less patient and opting for El-P’s “Request Denied” (assuming the first 50 seconds could be cut) or Strapping Young Lad’s “Skeksis”. Like I said, my taste varies. They’re all different styles and genres, but in the end all would do an excellent job of firing me up and taking my mind off the fact that I’d be about to get mauled by a professional athlete in front of way too many people.
I would choose “Wild Hearted Son” from British rock band The Cult’s 1991 album Ceremony. The opening scene of the video shows a Native Indian doing a dance through a modern city. The message has to do with how we’ve had our primordial war-based instincts submerged by soft living, but just beneath the surface beats the heart of someone proud.
“Got a screaming horse in my belly/Scar on my heart” howls vocalist Ian Astbury. Fighting in the Octagon™ might involve signing away your soul contractually and shaking hands with all kinds of undesirables, but the song carries a powerful message that reverberates beyond that experience.
It’s a god-damned crying shame that the art of dramatic entrance seems to be a thing of the past — a relic from an era that was glorious enough to give us Genki Sudo, the epitome of awesome, who nobody will be remotely as cool as — ever — period — end of sentence. So for me, the actual song itself is almost secondary compared to the opening spectacle. This is especially true in the rare instances when the musical artist actually participates in the ring-walk.
A couple of my favorite pugilistic entrances were when that dickhead “Money” Mayweather was accompanied to the ring by 50 Cent on Cinco de Mayo against Oscar De la Hoya while decked out in Mexican patriotic gear (and a big ass sombrero) #irony. There was the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, being more traditionally nationalistic when he welcomed Apollo Creed to his own funeral with a stirring rendition of “Living in America” #drago. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Motorhead giving a magnificent performance of HHH’s theme before the co-main event of Wrestlemania 17 #lemmysmole.
That is what I crave to recreate. I want to come out to a presentation, but I heed Dirty Harry’s advice and I know my limitations. Therefore, I’d lob an email to Jon Lajoie and he could make this shit happen because he’s rad. Truth be told, my mother (who has her doctorate) is a 100% descendant of Poland (What doctorate? Amiright?) and my pops is a mutt like most of Americans. His family is part German, Irish, Scottish and a partridge in a pear tree, whatever.
Anyways, I would go vintage Tito Ortiz (kinda) with my half Walesa flag half Old Glory as “Everyday Normal Guy 2” starts playing. Then Lajoie would walk out with his hoodie on and I’d follow — lip-syncing the words all while I’d have my mouthpiece IN. I would make history with the brutal honesty and humor. I’d win the crowd over with my entrance jam and my obscene nipple twists. Once the actual fight starts, I would be immediately synonymous with names like Mark Hominick, Houston Alexander, Tim Hague and Jonathan Goulet. #stupidface.
As important as music is to the experience of watching live fights, there unfortunately exist far more examples of lousy, forgettable entrance songs than good ones. From unspeakably cringe-worthy nu-metal to cliché-ridden rap to the most overplayed, overrated pop songs you can think of, you’re guaranteed to hear a variety of uninspired cheese whenever you attend a local MMA event. Even I am guilty of walking out to “Tom Sawyer” by Rush for my amateur Muay Thai debut; the song may be overplayed and slightly overrated, but I justify my decision on the grounds that it was Kerry Von Erich‘s theme song.
Although I highly doubt that I would ever compete again, I don’t see how I could possibly walk out to something other than the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, “Free Bird” if I were to change my mind. For starters, Fabulous Freebird fans among us will quickly point out that “Free Bird” was the first rock song to be used as entrance music, and I’m a real sucker for history like that. Another reason that the song works is that everything about it — from the chord progression to the melody and lyrics — gives off great “calm before the storm” vibes, making it an inherently dramatic way to kick off a fight. There’s no need for props, theatrics, or plain old overcompensation when you’re walking out to “Free Bird” — the song makes any statement you could possibly try to make for you. That sort of confidence is a signal to even the most casual of fans that shit is about to get very real, very quickly (for some particularly brutal examples, see Butcher, N.).
And even if you aren’t into all that fancy, book-learnin’ in-ring psychology stuff: “Free Bird” is a great song. Sometimes, that’s the only reason you need.
Do you have any better suggestions for an entrance song? Let us know in the comments section what you would pick.