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(Mis)Adventures in Las Vegas: UFC 98 Scene Report

(In the lobby of the MGM Grand, going mostly unnoticed.)

I’m not going to lie to you, Potato Nation.  There isn’t a whole lot of enthusiasm for this weekend’s UFC 98 event here in Las Vegas.   Maybe that’s not quite right.  Maybe it’s that there’s just not much awareness.  As great a presence as the UFC always has in Sin City, this week the reaction to the upcoming event from locals and tourists seems lukewarm at best.  But that doesn’t mean that MMA culture in general isn’t a pervasive force all around us.

(Totally not a ripoff of the Tapout design.  Totally.)

A couple days ago I took a trip to Xtreme Couture hoping to see some of the gym’s renowned superstars in action.  I got there just in time to see Gina Carano finishing up and Ray Sefo giving a verbal beatdown to Dream “Super Hulk” participant Jan Nortje and one other apparently unmotivated fighter.  I won’t go into exactly what was said, but let’s just say that when Sefo feels like you aren’t working hard enough he isn’t shy about expressing it.  At length.  And at considerable volume.

After that, it was on to Wanderlei Silva’s gym for what we were promised would be a sparring session open to the public.  Sounds like fun, right?  I took a cab over and had a detailed conversation with the driver about where the gym was located.  He didn’t believe me when I gave him directions, so he called a friend of his who is an amateur fighter in town.  After all, who lives in Vegas and doesn’t know at least one fighter?  Fortunately the friend was familiar with Wanderlei’s place and informed us that it costs $150 a month to train there.  This completely blew the cabbie’s mind, but at least we got to the right place eventually.  It was only when we pulled up that I noticed this.

Turns out Wanderlei decided to give an open training session instead, which means a lot of wasted time for yours truly.  So I did what anyone would do.  I wandered the strip in search of cheap drinks and cheap stories.

The most obvious story in town this week is the general lack of enthusiasm for UFC 98.  Back when B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre were fighting you could hardly go ten feet on the strip without encountering a loyal, passionately nationalistic fan of one of the fighters.  This week you’d hardly know there was a fight in town.

I did spot one guy sporting a Lyoto Machida t-shirt – the first I’ve ever seen in real life.  It was a plain design featuring a UFC logo on the front and a simple “Lyoto Machida” text in black letters on the back.  When I asked the guy where he managed to find such a rare piece of merchandise he admitted that he’d made it himself.  This, apparently, is what you have to do to be a visible Machida supporter these days.

Over at the MGM Grand Machida is the betting favorite at -180.  People may not be generally pumped about seeing him fight, but at least they respect his skills.  Or, as one fight fan I talked to yesterday put it, "I just can’t stand Rashad." 

And yet, from bartenders to cab drivers to people on the street, few seem to even be aware that there’s a fight in town this weekend.  Maybe it’s the anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend rush in a tourist hotspot, or maybe it’s pure indifference, but UFC 98 doesn’t seem to have to lit a spark with Las Vegas.  At least, not yet.  Maybe a good weigh-in shoving contest could get the job done later today.  Looking at you, Serra and Hughes.

Cagepotato Comments

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Komodo- May 23, 2009 at 12:10 am
Crazy. I'm always stoked before any event, even if I'm relatively unfamiliar with who is on the card. Just the effect of the sport in general, I guess :)

AussieJosh- May 22, 2009 at 6:46 pm
I dont understand!? I think this Evans Machida fight would be AWSOME to go see! both have never lost! Evans is very explosive and powerfull and Machida is very tactical! I cant belive Machida is the fav.....even though i have my money on him!....THIS FIGHT IS GOING TO BE AWSOME! i hope.....
But yer....who gives a fuck about the rest of the card! Ill be watching the fight on live internet stream then again later on
Next card ill be getting on payper view will be UFC 100.
Perma- May 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm
4 of the most hated fighters in the ufc on the same fcking card what do you expect?

Hughes-Serra are old and has been and egos the size of the super hulk tourny scale.

Machida is boring and Evans is a piece of shit no one gives a shit about.

All the injurys have took anyone caring about off the card.
ArmFarmer- May 22, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Many of the worst cards on paper have turned out to be the most exacting and action packed, and many of the ones that everyone thought would surely be awesome fights were pretty boring. Keep that in mind.
just some dong- May 22, 2009 at 11:32 am
The fighters are certainly evolving... but the fans... ?
T1- May 22, 2009 at 11:13 am
HARJO made me Lol, props to him +1
NECROPHYTE- May 22, 2009 at 11:08 am
Yeah I was in Vegas the day Jackson/Jardine fought and no fucking hotel/casino was showing the fight. Swear to god I went to every major spot to see if the PPV was showing. Not 1 fucking place was showing the fight. Not even the goddamn MGM.I was pissed at Vegas @ that point.
Savageleto- May 22, 2009 at 11:07 am

I am not impressed with Vegas anyway...

But I am really looking forward to 98-

It is bound to be the best fight in a while...

mayhem- May 22, 2009 at 10:12 am
Maybe it has to do with people just not having the money to spend on what could very well be a boring main-event. From what I have read on-line from each fighters camp it could be 5 rounds of 2 guys just walking in circles. Serra vs Hughes is just going down later than it should have. If this fight had taken place when it first was booked people would be talking about it. Only the hardcore fans care to see it now. Edgar vs Sherk should be a very good fight.
Other than those 3 fights nothing else jumps out at me. So I can understand the lack of intrest. 99 - 100 - 101 all look to be much better cards.

Clayton- May 22, 2009 at 10:09 am
You have to figure that a lot of the lack of enthusiasm is due to the neglect in terms of marketing and promotion that the UFC payed to both of these fighters much of their UFC tenure.

Aside from that, the rest of the card has some big names, but not exactly thrilling fighters. The Serra-Hughes story is tired and both of those fighters are near retirement and way past their prime. Sherk's fights are boring as often as not, so it's a gamble paying to see one of his. Etc, so on and so forth.

It seems entirely the UFC's fault. Maybe also fan money is down from the recession.
ReDx- May 22, 2009 at 9:56 am
Damn reading this makes me want to go back to Vegas so bad. I'll be there in August.
HARJO- May 22, 2009 at 9:54 am
I don't know about everyone else, but I'm pumped about this card.

I just moved to Vegas last month and already I've met all sorts of fighters & fight related people, toured Couture's and Wanderlei's gyms. I met Steve Cofield, Mark Coleman, Gray Maynard, Stephan Bonnar. Going to the weigh-ins today... can't get much better people!

This city is tight, this card is the shit... Machida will prevail as the new champ tomorrow, the Hughes vs. Serra war will finally be had... it's awesome.

Just wish I had tickets.
Fucklord- May 22, 2009 at 9:43 am
Everyone is too hyped for super hulk. Fuck UFC and their oppressive 265 lbs limit. 265 should be the minimum to compete
Juice- May 22, 2009 at 9:26 am
The UFC is slacking. You're telling me they have urine-drinkers and nipple-tweakers throwin' down in Vegas, and nobody knows about it? How are they not promoting this -- they're in Las Vegas!
MonkeyEarMuffs- May 22, 2009 at 9:26 am
I know that more than a few people were pretty disappointed with the last few UFC ppv's. I wonder if it is making people less interested...