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Oh this? It’s just me hangin’ out at a 7/11 on the OSU campus in Columbus with my buddy, UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra. Pretty average Saturday night, really.
Alright, let me explain. You want the long version? Good.
The hierarchy of hatred in Columbus, Ohio, seems to go like this:
1) The University of Michigan, particularly its football team and its mascot, the wolverine.
2) New Yorkers.
3) All other non-Ohio residents.
As a U of Michigan grad who’s lived in New York for the last 5+ years, I could feel their eyes as soon as I stopped into Tommy’s Pizza to take a piss. It wasn’t paranoia; they knew. I got a sense of what it must feel like for a Crip to walk through a Blood neighborhood. That’s both an apt metaphor and a totally lazy one, as most people on the Ohio State campus — where I booked my hotel, mainly out of curiosity — were flying Blood-like colors yesterday. Literally everyone under the age of 25 and over the age of 50 was decked out in Ohio State sweatshirts, jackets, hats, whatever. It turns out that the Ohio State Wrestling Championships were that weekend — fitting, since former OSU wrestling champ Mark Coleman was going to be inducted in the UFC’s Hall of Fame that night — and the sporting types of Columbus were showing their support. So here I come into Tommy’s with my black pea-coat and reptilian loafers (already I was thinking afterparty), and my big Jew nose, reeking of Ann Arbor pheromones. Forks hits plates, a record scratched.
The scene was too hot. But with a 40-minute wait for lunch (so they said) at B-Dubs a couple blocks down, I settled on a nearby noodle shop that, despite its cosmopolitan aspirations (you could get Asian, Mediterranean, or American-style noodles), still featured wait-staff with shirts that read “As Satisfying as Beating Michigan.”
This is all just a long way of saying that I could relate to Matt Serra when they showed the welterweight champ on the jumbotrons during UFC 82 last night and the crowd booed him. His face registered genuine shock before he started to play along with the crowd, doing that “bring on the hate” hand gesture that athletes like to do in hostile towns. Maybe I’m oblivious to this because I’m a New Yorker, but I just assumed UFC fans dug Matt Serra, because he has a great underdog story behind him. Turns out, they don’t feel that way in Ohio. Jorge Gurgel on the other hand, they love. And Anderson Silva was smart enough to thank Rich Franklin after he beat Dan Henderson, rather than Dan himself, lest he get run out on a rail for re-opening old wounds.
Trey and Barry, two UFC fanatics from Tennessee who kept me company in section 101, echoed the Matt Serra hate. “I just can’t stand that guy,” Trey said as Serra showed up to corner Luke Cummo. “No offense.” None taken. But when Cummo and the rest of the New York contingent were handed a loss, the crowd cheered heartily.
After the mind-blowing main event, I stopped by Mynt, which was allegedly throwing an afterparty hosted by Dan Henderson, but I became impatient with the strobe-lights and the crush of people — I don’t even know how they would fit Dan Henderson in that place — so I called a cab from the Hyatt Regency and made it back to my own hotel at about 2 a.m. And just as I’m walking in, I see Matt Serra walking out.
Immediately two fans stopped him and he graciously shook their hands, asked them what they thought of the fights, and explained that the Holiday Inn had no room service, and he was going to the 7/11 to get something to eat. Being the strong investigative journalist that I am, I trailed him like a crackhead mugger.
So now we’re both in the 7/11. Not wanting to freak him out by pouncing right away, I let him browse the shelves for a moment, but another pair of fans got to him first and started chatting him up. As with the fans at the hotel, he shook their hands, asked them what they thought of the fights, and explained that the Holiday Inn had no room service and he was trying to get something to eat. “Did you see them booing me?” he said, still sort of shocked and hurt. “They don’t seem to like us here,” I said, introducing myself. Then I stuck my camera in his face; the result is above.
I’m not sure what Matt settled on, snack wise, because it was slim pickins at this particular 7/11. I saw no pre-made sandwiches, microwavable burritos, or any other of their usual late-night staples, and Matt probably missed his fourth-meal altogether. Columbus may have a great football team and collegiate wrestling pedigree, but I’m very glad I live in a town where you can get a decent slice of pizza at 2 in the morning. You know why Ohioans hate us New Yorkers? Our freedom.
We have tons to discuss tomorrow about UFC 82. I plan on setting a CagePotato record for posts in one day — featuring more off-topic anecdotes, photos and videos — so come back early and look sharp.