Working for Clinch Gear allows you to do some pretty cool things when it comes to MMA. One of those was attending this past weekend’s UFC Fan Expo in Houston. While I ended up doing a couple of shows for our friends at Sirius/XM, I had plenty of time to walk the floor of the GRB Convention Center and check out all the things the UFC had provided for their fans.
I have been lucky enough to cover the Super Bowl four different times. Like the fan expo, at the Super Bowl it is easy to lose track of all the former players you see around town. The difference between the UFC and the NFL comes when you talk about accessibility of the players/fighters.
While you may see Joe Montana at a restaurant, you have no chance of talking to him for 5/10 minutes as MMA fans were able to do with guys such as Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Clay Guida and more.
I watched Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez put his bags down to take pictures and sign autographs for a half a dozen fans in the hotel lobby.
On the topic of autographs, if that is your thing, bring your patience because once you are in the expo, you are going to wait…and wait…and wait. I heard security tell people they could expect to be in line an hour in order to meet Mark Munoz.
My advice would be, take your chances on autographs outside the venue, and head over to the main stage and listen to the guest speakers. Fans in Houston were treated to an all-star reunion of former cast members of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Herb Dean was great talking about being a referee. “Mayhem” Miller seemed to be having a great time as he stalked from one side of the stage to the other taking questions from the fans.
Along with your patience, bring your wallet. There is anything a UFC fan could want for sale at the expo, but it all comes with a (high) price. When a fight program is $20.00, you know you are not getting out easy.
On the topic of buying “anything” a fan could want, what is the appeal of buying a championship belt? I must have seen 50 people (none named GSP) strolling around the floor of the convention center with a belt draped over their shoulder and a stupid smug look on their face. What do you do with that belt? How do you get it through the TSA line at the airport? I can understand posters, programs, hats, shirts, DVDs etc, but a belt? Is there no one in their life to sit them down and say “Hey Greg, I know that you are a bad-ass, but you like more like a guy who has never gotten laid in his life walking around with that belt on your shoulder”.
You could have walked the hallways of the downtown Hilton in a pair of Dennis Hallman’s trunks and a tank top and had the same reaction from your peers. Trust me, never once did anyone stop what they were doing and say “Hey! There goes the champ” No, instead what they were saying was “Look at the F’n idiot, who spent $400 on his belt, and $75 to sit in the back row of the arena”. I was at the post fight press conference and I never heard Chael Sonnen mention your name, so that money may have been better spent elsewhere. I hate to be the guy to break this news to you, but better me then the chick you meet on Craigslist. Put the “belt” up for sale on Ebay and use whatever cash you get to try and get your guy card back.