My dirty little secret of covering MMA is that I have never been to a UFC event before, but I am lucky enough to attend UFC 96. This weekend, I will give you updates on what it's like to go through the UFC experience for the first time.
My first trip for a UFC event got off to a bad start, as my alarm didn't go off. I had to break landspeed records to get from Chicago to Columbus in time for the press conference, but I did it. (By the way, Indiana and Ohio, thank you for not pulling me over. I will drive more carefully on the way back, I promise.)
When I first arrived at the arena, I expected to be intimidated by the presence of Keith Jardine and Rampage Jackson. I've watched both of them knock out people much stronger than me, not to mention that they are both quite talented at scowling. At the very least, I expected a dirty look or two, but no such luck. They both just smiled as I walked by them towards the press conference.
At the press conference, Dana White ran the show, and it was easy to see why the man so often gets what he wants. He knows how to keep the press conference running, make the press laugh and keep everyone interested. Whether you like him or not -- and there are plenty of you who don't -- you have to admit that White has some charm.
The other person who is not short on charm is Rampage. It was entertainment enough to just watch his reactions to everyone else throughout the press conference. White should pay for Rampage to come to every press conference just to spice things up and keep everyone laughing.
Next, Mark Munoz and Matt Hamill spoke. These two are known as some of the nicest and humblest gentlemen in MMA, so there would not be trash talk coming from either of their mouths. Munoz, who spent many years coaching wrestling, mentioned that the Ohio high school state championships are going on this weekend, and that this has been a good weekend for him in the past. Hamill thoughtfully welcomed Munoz to the UFC.
I was amazed at how gracious everyone was to each other. The manners displayed could have just as easily been shown off at a press conference announcing some business merger. I'm eager to see how these well-mannered gentlemen turn into punching machines in just 48 hours.