(The lumpy, discolored face of victory. / Photo via Esther Lin @ MMAFighting)
By George Shunick
UFC 154 wasn’t the first time I’ve attended a UFC event. It wasn’t even the first time I’ve attended one at the Bell Centre. (That would be UFC 113, when Mauricio “Shogun” Rua emphatically put an end to the Machida Era.) But with Georges St. Pierre fighting — returning from a serious knee injury, no less — this card was a special experience. Not to say it didn’t have its flaws — the decisions got to be a bit much after a while, Alessio Sakara managed to get himself disqualified, and Tom Lawlor managed to get himself robbed. Still, the atmosphere of the crowd, Johny Hendricks’ knockout of Martin Kampmann and the finale, in which St. Pierre withstood the most adversity he’s faced in years, more than made up for it.
I was seated a few rows above the exit ramp, where the fighters made their way backstage following their fights. It provided me a great view of the action, the fighters as they walked by, and Dan Hardy’s mohawk. Hardy was in attendance, and made frequent trips back and forth between cageside and backstage. So, consider it official: Dan Hardy pees a lot. Maybe. Also seen frequenting the backstage area were Brittney Palmer and Arianny Celeste, both of whom are (quickly) escorted out after the third round commences in each fight, and Bruce Buffer, who was rather short. I also managed to catch Ben Fowlkes walking down towards cageside and yelled after him, but whether my voice was lost in the din of the crowd or Fowlkes is just terrified of being associated with CagePotato yet again, I cannot say. (It’s definitely the latter.)
The Canadian crowd was pretty solid throughout. They’re not quite as partisan as the Brazilian crowds, but damn if they don’t cheer their fighters on — even if they don’t know who those fighters are. I suspect no one there knew who Ontario’s own Antonio Carvalho was. (I also suspect I was part of this group.) They occasionally boo too early, but in general they seemed fairly knowledgeable. Unfortunately, that generalization did not apply to the group sitting directly behind me, who complained that Chad Griggs was matched up unfairly with Cyrille Diabate — he was, but not because he was “tiny” — and were under the impression that an armbar was “a wrestling move.”