Show Business: Couture vs Sylvia

 Randy Couture, all smiles, climbed on the scale in front of a large crowd of cheering fans.

“222.5 pounds,” shouted announcer Joe Rogan. Couture, a natural light heavyweight, had bulked up for this fight.  The truth was that despite being a former Heavyweight Champion, Couture had probably always been too small to fight in that division and often when facing bigger men he ended up being manhandled.

Couture’s career was marked by extremes of both crushing defeats and scintillating victories.  This was a comeback for the 42-year-old MMA pioneer and if he lost, which is what most people in the know expected, it would most likely be his last fight.

Next the Champion, Tim Sylvia, lumbered from backstage to a chorus of boos from the fans in the arena.

“ No love for the big man?” Rogan egged the crowd before announcing“ 263.’”  When Sylvia stepped off the scale to face off with Couture he playfully extended his long left arm and put it on Couture’s shoulder to demonstrate two of his many physical advantages over the aging UFC legend—7 inches of height and 5 inches of reach.  Photographers snapped away and the two men slapped hands and hugged.  There was something about Sylvia’s body language, the way he carried himself, I thought as I watched from the press section: he was too friendly and lackadaisical, too unstressed and happy for the day before a big fight.

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Show Business: Goldie and Rogan

The Strip runs 3.2 miles north to south along Las Vegas Blvd and is home some of the most lucrative real estate in the world. There’s The Luxor, built like a giant pyramid; Excalibur, a giant medieval castle; one fashioned after New York; another one looks like a miniature Paris, The Bellagio with its dancing fountains; and Caesar’s nearby.  A little further down is City Center, which was the apotheosis of the “bigger is better” school of casino building. The ambitious development ran out of money halfway through and for a while was a monstrous, multi-block, Ozmandian gash in the heart of the Strip. Eventually Arab oil money made good on the construction bonds and it was completed. Further down past the Wynn and the Encore you get into old Vegas, seedier but more colorful.  Toward the end of the Strip if you take a left on Sahara you come to the Palace Station.  This casino is part of the Station Casino Group, a chain of stripped down economy class establishments. The Fertitta family owns Station Casino and the Fertitta family fortune is the source of the 42 million dollars, which, along with Dana White’s media skills and bravado kept the UFC alive until the sport eventually took off after The Ultimate Fighter in 2005.

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Show Business: Rua vs Griffin

One way the UFC distinguished itself from boxing is that it seldom marketed uncompetitive matches or gave fighters easy wins in order to set up bigger fights down the road.  That being said, Shogun Rua vs. Forrest Griffin was about as close as they’ve come to an attempt at that kind of cynical matchmaking. Rua was ranked number one in the world and had decimated opponents in Japan for years and Forrest was one of the most popular of the UFC’s roster but one who was thought to be limited as a fighter.

The UFC, had recently purchased its former rival Pride Fighting Championships, and had access to the Japanese promotion’s roster of stars, setting up a potential spate of dream matches that fans had coveted for years. Many in the press had long speculated that the best martial artists were fighting for PrideFC and the not in the UFC.

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