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 isn’t from the in-house DJ pressing the shuffle button on his iPod. A fighter’s walk-out music is important to the UFC’s production values as well as the fighter, who chooses which song is blasted over the arena’s loudspeakers.
The music often is chosen to get a fighter’s adrenaline pumping and to whip the crowd into a frenzy; sometimes the song is meant to soothe. During Saturday’s 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 I’m 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. “I’ve 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 Nugent’s “Strangehold.” This time, he contemplated walking out to James Brown’s 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 Friday’s weigh-ins. “It didn’t seem like a good idea after that fight, so it’s 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 Oakley’s Michael McDonald (16-2) in a bantamweight bout. Faber has walked out to Tupac Shakur’s “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 sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter after Georges St-Pierre retired Friday and vacated his lightweight title, said he comes out to Bob Marley’s dance hit “Could You Be Loved” because it mellows and focuses him.
“The song just puts me in a good place, the right kind of mood,” said Jones, who was in Sacramento to promote a new UFC video game before the weigh-ins. “If I’m in a good place, then good things will happen.”
And, as Marley sang, “Don’t let them change ya, oh! Or even rearrange ya, oh no!”
Watson told Miyuchi that if she went to the effort and expense to come to Sacramento, he would make sure she’d 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. “That’s the kind of respect she has for the sport.”