Mixed martial arts tries once again to conquer Los Angeles. This time they’re bringing the big guns to do some damage to a boxing-crazy town.
Welcome to Ultimate Fighting Championship 104, the rematch.
Last time UFC ventured into the city of Angels, it was met with mediocre attendance and plenty of empty seats for MMA’s most popular organization. That was 2006, this is now.
No longer is MMA new to Los Angeles. The mistake UFC made was in thinking L.A. is like Orange County. That’s like comparing New York City to Newark.
In the first foray into Southern California UFC planted its initial show in Anaheim, the heart of Orange County and home of Disneyland. It’s also home to many MMA studios. They didn’t know O.C. was different from L.A. County.
Now, UFC 104 hits the Staples Center with Lyoto Machida (15-0) defending his light heavyweight title against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (18-3) and Mexican-American Cain Velasquez (6-0) meeting Big Ben Rothwell (30-6) on Saturday Oct. 24. The fights are available on pay-per-view television as well.
Even the heavy Latino population of L.A. knows these guys.
Since 2006, when UFC 60 brought Matt Hughes and an ageing Royce Gracie as the main event, MMA has made great strides in Los Angeles as fans of professional fights have become familiar due to the abundance of club shows and television coverage of the sport.
Dana White, the president of UFC, has made it clear he’s targeting not just Latinos, but aspirations of worldwide domination.
When Machida arrived in Los Angeles at LA Live for the press conference a month ago, the Brazilian champion was greeted by several hundred fans who shouted his name. Most were Latino MMA fans who are growing in numbers every day.
Rua, another Brazilian, was equally cheered by fans in L.A. who shouted his nickname “Shogun” in unison. Three years ago this would not have happened.
Even Velasquez was cheered though he only has six MMA fights. He could be one of the important keys to UFC’s capturing the fight crazy Latino fans.
“I’m real excited to be fighting in Los Angeles,” said Velasquez, a former college wrestling All American from Arizona State. “It’s just like any other fight. I think of all my fights as title fights.”
Rothwell is a former heavyweight champion from the now defunct International Fight League. Well-spoken and amiable, Rothwell is making his debut for UFC against Velasquez.
“I can already preempt the boos coming out. There’s nothing I can do about that,” said Rothwell knowing that the Latino fans will be cheering for Velasquez.
“I expect a lot of fans to be behind me,” Velasquez said.
No title will be at stake but the winner is promised a shot at the heavyweight title.
Fans know Machida will be defending his light heavyweight world title that he took from former champion Rashad Evans. Now he has Shogun in front of him and though both are from Brazil and speak little Spanish, Latinos and MMA fans in general will be stacking the seats at Staples Center this Saturday.
This is the rematch for UFC. It should be a KO.