Mixed martial arts is both a sport and a spectacle, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship knows how to put on a show.
The music heard as a fighter walks from the dressing room to the Octagon isnt from the in-house DJ pressing the shuffle button on his iPod. A fighters walk-out music is important to the UFCs production values as well as the fighter, who chooses which song is blasted over the arenas loudspeakers.
The music often is chosen to get a fighters adrenaline pumping and to whip the crowd into a frenzy; sometimes the song is meant to soothe. During Saturdays UFC on FOX 9 at Sleep Train Arena, fighters will enter to a variety of rap, heavy metal and reggae, each song a personal touch.
I walk out to Country Boy by Aaron Lewis because I come from a small town (Hanford) and Im big into outdoor sports it just represents me, said Chad Mendes (15-1), who now lives in Sacramento and fights Nik Lentz (26-5-2) in a featherweight bout on the main card. Ive used that song the last four or five fights, and I listen to it before and after practice, too.
Another Sacramento resident, Joseph Benavidez, fights for the UFC flyweight title against Demetrious Johnson. When Benavidez (19-3) lost to Johnson (18-2-1) in 2012 for the title, he walked out to Ted Nugents Strangehold. This time, he contemplated walking out to James Browns soul classic Payback for obvious reasons, but he remembered the last time he used that song.
It was the second time I fought Dominick Cruz, and I lost to him again, Mendes said after Fridays weigh-ins. It didnt seem like a good idea after that fight, so its probably not a good choice this time around.
Stranglehold fits Benavidez; seven of his victories have come via choke holds.
Also on the main card, Urijah Faber (29-6) fights Oakleys Michael McDonald (16-2) in a bantamweight bout. Faber has walked out to Tupac Shakurs California Love for as long as he has been a pro MMA fighter and said he will again. The song pumps him up and gets him ready to fight, he said.
Jon Bones Jones, perhaps the sports best pound-for-pound fighter after Georges St-Pierre retired Friday and vacated his lightweight title, said he comes out to Bob Marleys dance hit Could You Be Loved because it mellows and focuses him.
The song just puts me in a good place, Jones said.
From Tokyo to Sacto Eiko Miyuchi, 31, flew to Sacramento on Thursday from Tokyo to attend todays card. Miyuchi, a huge MMA fan, met UFC site coordinator Burt Watson at a Tokyo show two years ago and has stayed in touch via email and Twitter.
Watson told Miyuchi that if she went to the effort and expense to come to Sacramento, he would make sure shed see the weigh-ins as a VIP and meet the fighters. For Miyuchi, it was like meeting the Beatles or Mendes, at least and she was allowed to walk into the Octagon escorted by Watson.
She kneeled down and kissed the canvas, Watson said. Thats the kind of respect she has for the sport.
Mark Billingsley covers mixed martial arts for The Bee. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.