From the desert sands of Las Vegas, Nevada, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s attack of Dillon Danis at UFC 229, which sparked a chaotic scene before the many watching the live pay-per-view, resonated to my core, even from the comfort of my living room in Northern California.
The website I created, norcalmixedmartialarts.com, transformed my fandom into a member of the media, granting me access into every event that would respond to my request for a credential. NorCal MMA’s year and a half long existence can be condensed into one word: surreal.
It’s one thing to absorb all the content served to you by others as a passive sponge: following your favorite news sources, tapping into interesting conversations on your go-to podcasts, and judging how a particular promotion—from the UFC to an event under a tent near you—chooses to highlight their product; it’s another thing to create content for yourself, or even be commissioned to do so. The entire process can be a lot of fun—until it’s not.
I’ve digitally bumped into countless MMA fans, hardcore individuals who rarely, if ever, miss a weekend involving a canvased war zone floating around in cyberspace, yet they haven’t attended a fight night live. With the proper ingredients in place, an explosive concoction of energy can emanate throughout any venue—whether it’s T-Mobile Arena or a roller rink in Rancho Cordova.
I know, comparing regional MMA to the upper echelon can seem like a stretch—but bear with me.
On September 30, 2017, Carlos Figueroa and Josh Dim blew the roof off of Sacramento’s McClellan Conference Center with an unforgettable clash at The Titans Cage 16. Behind-the-scene of blunt-force trauma delivered by Figueroa—in a barnburner voted as the runner-up in NorCal MMA’s 2017 Fight of the Year—Dim drew mental warfare tactics to the surface in hopes of rattling the product of Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance, filling his social media with outlandish posts and bringing a bodybag with him to the cage—designed for Figueroa, though Dim nearly left in it. The electricity inside the venue danced on the pores of every ticket-holder when Figueroa survived Dim’s onslaught in the opening frame, the same clubbing technique that hadn’t yet failed him—at least not until the second-round.
As often is the case, the video may add a thousand words, but there are so many senses that go untapped if you aren’t digesting the action from the belly of wherever such a battle ensues.
I remember tensions escalating near the red zone when of TTC 16’s co-main event was waved off. Fortunately, patrons maintained their composure, remembering the sporting side to this recreation of gladiator times.
Witnessing wild scraps with invested followings in the flesh has been one of the many perks in managing norcalmixedmartialarts.com. Other pros to playing “media guy” have included:
- Cage side seats (nothing beats this—NOTHING!)
- Fighters, promoters, and fellow fans constantly feeding inside information to my inbox
- Weekend adventures throughout California’s central valley and northern half
- Forming stronger connections with people than I’d ever imagined
- Learning about how to publish content using various multimedias
- Feeling like the content is important because people lean on you as a respected source
- Watching the website’s stats bar grow each day like the mercury inside a thermometer on a summer day
For all the positives my position in MMA media have provided, not all the glory of becoming an Internet-invented journalist is lined in silver. In fact, MMA, especially without the dazzling glitz-and-glamour of the globe’s leading promotions, is rather dark. Dramatic weight cuts, ridiculously low pay for professionals on the rise, issues with match-ups actually coming to fruition at the sound of the bell, slimy managers and promoters, and a litany of other logic-bending reasons make “news” difficult to present as I believe it should be, even amongst the local ranks.
If I’m modifying content on a regular basis, there simply aren’t enough hours left in the reserves for me to complete the other twenty items on my to-do list. “The Golden State” has a wealth of talented prizefighters locked in its boundaries like a vault, and it’s been an eye-opening journey to unlock the hidden facets that go into making a successful face-puncher. Staying current is a never-ending cycle, and, in my opinion, a never-ending cycle combined with constant instability will keep MMA in a perpetual slurry-like state, never solidifying its place in the mainstream.
Safety Is Never Number One Bullshit
When Khabib hurdled the cage after submitting McGregor in the fourth-round, I immediately flashed back to The Titans Cage 19 on June 2, 2018, a show I covered that turned my perspective upside-down—along with every table and chair inside the Jackson Sports Academy. Pundits and fans alike appeared eager to run to their corners with beliefs they refused to budge on, defending or impugning either man in the main event’s decision-making. My point has nothing to do with the UFC’s executives allowing McGregor to personify their ever-present push toward entertainment, nor does it aim to assassinate the character of the, now, undisputed champion at 155-pounds; instead, it’s the unpredictability in trying to corral the potential for pandemonium that leads me to lose considerable interest in preserving my folding chair at media row.
During my timespan on the regional beat, I have counted over fifty fist-fights, at least, occurring outside the cage and reported on three separate events being shut down because people in the stands couldn’t remain civil: West Coast FC 18 (link no longer available), The Titans Cage 19 (link here), and Panda Cup 5 (link here). At The Titans Cage 19, a melee, sent me scrambling for a safe place when the crowd of one particular fighter decided to tear themselves apart like cannibals.
Who would have imagined: those whom purchased a seat to cheer for the same person would have self-destructed as it did?
Questions of security followed each instance of a card’s premature jerking of the proverbial curtain. Although the training and aptitude of a skilled security team are of the upmost importance, nothing, at least not in the realm of MMA, is better equipped than what the UFC has access to—and even they struggled to prevent the escalation of the situation at UFC 229, though it was extinguished shortly thereafter.
Luckily, I have yet to meet any reports denoting innocent bystanders being injured in the near-riot that ensued. Sadly, luck isn’t a sufficient means to an end.
I’m not erasing norcalmixedmartialarts.com from the map, but followers who stay close to all the current releases will notice a tremendous dip in the output of articles, podcasts, and such as I focus on areas unrelated to the day’s hottest headline.
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