Dana White announced on his twitter this past Friday that he’d be somewhere in West Los Angeles by mid afternoon to give out free tickets to UFC 104, which is happening just down the street from All Elbows Headquarters at the Staples Center. I will likely be shooting for the best magazine in the world, Fighters Only, so no need for tickets really. However, since I live in this town, I’ve quite a few friends who could use a ticket and I was curious to see how this was going to go down after hearing about White’s stops in New York and Phoenix. After a lot of hemming and hawing, we finally hopped into the car and hit typical LA traffic. It was going to take us an hour to get to the westside, only eleven miles away.
But we made it and as soon as I ascended the escalator towards the Westside Pavilion’s Pac Sun, where Dana White disclosed he’d be giving away tickets I saw the line. Correction, lines. There were two lines stemming from the center going in opposite directions.
I snapped shots of the lines, of Dana posing for pics with fans, and even the guy taking down people’s info — then I myself got in line to try and get some tickets.
The line was the best part. I heard all kinds of fun things and realized the grip that UFC has on its fans. There is no MMA, I mean, there was a guy behind us who trained and had fought before, and he said MMA a lot but most everyone said UFC and referred to other leagues with a lot of inaccuracy. One guy said “M-1 makes people go out of business, that’s why EliteXC went out,” if EliteXC went out of business because they co-promoted with M-1 Global, well then, I don’t know where I was for a whole year. I giggled.
One said that he hoped Rampage would come back and kick Rashad Evans’ ass. A lot of discussion about Kimbo Slice. Many said his fight with Nelson was boring, but all said they’d watch to see what happened in the coming weeks. Some fans discussed the head sizes of varying fighters, lots of discussion about Tito. A dude behind me said that Mayhem was really normal in person, which I would debate. Normality isn’t a judge of character by any means, Jason Miller is a standup guy.
The madness began at around 1:40 pm on a Friday afternoon, I showed up around 2:45 pm and was at the front by 4:30 pm. Dana White had been standing there for three hours and he continued to stand there, posing with fans, as there were still twenty plus people in each line. I have to say, this is very clever. What a way to earn the loyalty of your fans! White was patient, cordial, friendly, listened to everyone who spoke to him.
I have no idea if I will get called for tickets, but I sure hope so. I don’t have too many friends who could afford to go to a UFC right now. As with everywhere else, we’re hurtin’ in LA. I’ve many friends in production without work and production flows a lot of cash into this city into businesses you wouldn’t believe.
It makes me wonder how ticket sales are going for 104. It’s a card headlined by two (awesome) foreigners. Though, if the cheers at the presser were any indication, Machida’s got a rapidly growing fan base. I watched The Karate Kid last week, and well, it’s nice to have a real karate hero. And if these people in line were any indication, a town might show up for any UFC, no matter the headliner, all in the promise of a night of good fights, entertainment, and fun.
That same fellow who’d trained and fought before, said after about an hour in line and people were worried that one line might be for pictures and one might be for tickets, that he didn’t even want the tickets, he only wanted to meet and take a photo with Dana White. Dana White. There were no fighters at the mall, just the president of the UFC. I can’t imagine a line like this to meet Roger Goodell.
If that’s not testament to the efficacy of the UFC’s amazing marketing machine and fan connection, well, I don’t know shit about fighting I guess.