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Rashad Evans and UFC in D.C.

(All photos by Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

UFC came to Patriot Center Monday night. The event drew a sell-out crowd of 8,500. B.J. Koubaroulis covered the event for The Post; I also went, since one of the PR guys promised he might wear a Dikembe Mutombo shirt. Eight observations.

1) The place was packed, and the crowd reviews were favorable from everyone I talked to, including PR people who weren't involved with this particular show.

"It's the first time we've ever been here, so they're pretty excited," Joe Rogan told me, during a break between fights. "When we come to a place for the first time, they tend to be really enthusiastic. In Vegas, everybody's so used to it. Before the card even aired live on [Spike], this place was already packed. In Vegas, everybody likes to be cool, they show up late, and all that other stuff."

"They show up to the fights early and they're rowdy," said Rashad Evans, a UFC star who was watching from the crowd. "They're thirsty for it. They're just excited to see anybody. For the first fight of the night, they're here, way more people than there would be in Vegas or somewhere on the West coast.....This is a fight night on a Monday, and look at how many people are out there. This is a Monday. I was like, man, I'm probably going to spread out over a couple rows. Who's gonna come here on a Monday? But surprise, surprise."

I suggested to Rogan that the demographic, at least judging by Monday night, seemed to be 30ish white dudes.

"That's a lot of it, but that's the people that come to the live events," he said. "I think there's a lot of people that are apprehensive about coming to it live, people who might be closet MMA fans, enjoy it at home, but might be a little...."

By this point, some 30ish white dudes were screaming at Rogan for a photo.

"I'm doing an interview [bleep bleeper]," he yelled back. "Shut the [bleep] up."

2) This friendly chap named Evan Dunham defeated Efrain Escudero with a third-round armbar. Dunham said he knew he had it won by the vibrations he could feel in Escudero's arm; "when i was cranking on it it went pop pop pop," he explained. "When I felt it start giving a little bit, I knew I had something there."

I later followed up with Dunham, and he seemed almost apologetic about his phrasing and the pop pop popping.

"It's a brutal game," he said. "You don't want to hurt anyone. I don't think I broke his arm. I hope I didn't break his arm. I know he's a tough fighter, and he has a very high threshold of pain."

Still, I asked what it's like when you start feeling that pop pop popping.

"You're like, 'Yeah!' Dunham said. "You know it's working."

3) Fans booed virtually the entire third round of the main event, between Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz. The veteran MMA reporters on press row were not pleased by this reaction from the Fairfax crowd. From one report:

Not every fight is going to be a barn-burner, but neither is it fair to heckle guys who are legitimately engaging in combat. Learn to appreciate the nuances of the sport, otherwise we come off like the bloodthirsty barbarians that the sport's critics portray us to be.

Maynard, meantime, apologized to the crowd after the fight, though he later suggested he was apologizing to his coaches for not following their smart plan.

"Sorry 'bout that," he said in the ring. "Hope it was fun to watch....I don't know, I saw his face and I wanted to fight. It was stupid, but I hope you enjoyed it a little. Hey Virginia, I appreciate you having us. I heard you the whole night."

The crowd responded like this: "BOOOOOOOOOO."

4) Because I'm single-minded, I asked Evans about the Gilbert Arenas stuff, and whether fighters carry weapons.

"For what?" Evans said. "If I carry a weapon, I'm gonna get in trouble, it's that simple. And besides, with us, there's not that separation that there is in other professional sports between us and the fans. [Interviewers] are like, 'Oh, I bet people challenge you all the time.' Not really? People want to shake your hand, take a picture. Everybody's cool. I don't feel the need that I have to even do anything like that."

Then I told Evans about the poop-in-the-shoe joke.

"That's not a joke," Evans said. "I'd beat [Arenas's] ass. You're gonna [poop] in my shoes? That's disrespectful on so many levels. You don't do that. Because if you do that, you [poop] in his shoes right now, what's he going to do tomorrow? You have to set the example."

Then I told Evans about how Gilbert once arranged to steal Nick Young's car.

"That's not a joke, man," Evans said. "His jokes are way too hard, man. Where'd he learn how to joke around?'

5) Back to that pop pop popping arm bar for a second. Randy Couture was in the house, and I wanted to ask him about that sensation.

"Obviously, physiologically, we know what's going on there, because we know how to apply the submission," Couture said. "You have to understand the physiology in order to submit a guy. Is Evan a mean guy and just wants to go rip arms off? No. But it's up to the guy that's been caught, it's like checkmate. It's up to him to tap....Your elbow will pop, and they say it'll pop three times before it'll really do any damage. So I don't think he broke anything, but I'm sure he'll have a sore elbow for a while....It's a one-dimensional joint that's not meant to flex that far."

I could talk about popping ligaments all day. Just fascinating.

"I've been on both ends of it," Couture said, so I asked what it's like to get your ligament pop pop popped.

"It hurts," he said.

6) I always imagined UFC fights as these gurgling cauldrons of testosterone and celebrity. Monday night in Faifax, though, might not be the primest of celebrity hours. I asked UFC for a list of any celebrities in attendance. They told me LaVar Arrington was there.

7) Best exchange of the night

Reporter: "Amir, is there anything you expected to happen in the fight that didn't?"

Amir Sadollah: "Pain."

8) Back to Evans. Yes, we talked for a while, and he seemed quotable enough. His knockout of Chuck Liddell in 2008 was one of the most famous punches in UFC history, from what I gather, so I asked what that feels like, to knock a guy out.

"You can't tell," he said. "It just feels like a clean punch. Maybe you can tell by the way he falls sometimes that you landed a good shot, but you really can't tell until they fall and the referee is coming toward you. That's the only time I can tell. But sometimes I'm just so caught up in the moment, I hit somebody and I'm already thinking about my next move right away....I'm still trying to finish my combination before I recognize that they're out."

And when he does recognize that they're out, what does that feel like?

"You work so hard for eight weeks, training and training and training, and then the first opportunity when the fight's over, you almost get like an [excited feeling in the groin]," Evans said. "It's like, the fight's over, the fight's over, the fight's over. I'm on vacation. I can chill out."

I asked him how many times he's watched his knockout of Liddell, and he said only when someone puts it in front of him.

"It feels nice, but you can't sit there and marvel at your work," he said. "You've got to get off your own [groin]. I'm not that kind of guy."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 12, 2010; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  Fighting Sports , Wizards  
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My favorite post of the new year! Way to talk to all the big names in the crowd, it's a great read. I especially like Evan Dunham's descrption of the arm bar. These guys are cut from a different mold.

Posted by: goose33 | January 12, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse


Long time reader, first time commenter. This is good stuff. The crowd would have been more diverse if the event were held in the district. I live in Southern Maryland and I'm not trying to drive out Fairfax to catch an event. What's up with all the MMA action in the are taking place in Fairfax? Next time you talk to Evans ask him about all the practical jokes Rampage Jackson played on him during Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights. Also ask him his thoughts on Kimbo Slice's future in the sport.

Posted by: conspiracyT | January 12, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

mma is barbaric garbage.
It is just like pro wrestling except it isn't fake

Posted by: jonthefisherman | January 12, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Nice write-up. I saw you down on the floor during the event and figured you'd get some choice comments from some of the guys. I particularly like Rogan's response to the picture-seekers. Heh!

I've watched UFC off an on since it was the one-night tournament style event back in the day, but I'm a relative noob when it comes to a lot of today's fighters.

One of those that I was hoping you'd have gotten a chance to talk to is Tom Lawlor, the guy who came out with the '80's vintage Hulk Hogan style entrance (complete with "Real American" theme song). Since Monday I've read a good bit about him, and he seems like he would be a great fit for the Bog.

Posted by: Goat_74 | January 13, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

MMA demographic is mostly guys who are barely out of high school who are bored with pro wrestling. Usually guys who work in line positions. You won't find too many staff people at MMA fights, and the ones that are there probably have low self-esteem.

Posted by: Randy_Hawkins | January 13, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Great post Dan. The WP needs to send you to Florida or San Jose to cover a Strikeforce event and/or Fedor Emelianenko.

You kind of missed out on Ovechkin's return to San Jose a week or two back. The Caps dominated SJ in D.C., but at the tank Ovechkin was more focused on trying to land a check on 6-foot-3, 240-pound Swedish defenseman Douglas Murray (inventor of the 'ubertap').

Murray had the flu when SJ was in D.C., but last year when they played at the Tank it was Ovechkin trying to decapitate Murray in the third period again. He almost completely forgot about generating offense. Haven't seen too many players have that effect on Ovie, especially when it is a big defensive-defenseman and not an opposing team's top offensive star.

Posted by: pj48 | January 13, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

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