I got talking to a fan sitting in front of me at a UFC event over the weekend, and he asked me how many events I’d been to previously. When I told him this was my seventh UFC event I’ve attended, he asked me which other ones I attended, and which one was my favorite. Interestingly enough, while I have told people that UFC 140 was my favorite event to attend, I never actually have really taken the time to think about the various individual memorable moments that I’ve seen firsthand. So I decided to reflect on the various UFC events I’ve attended (UFC 97, UFC 140, UFC 152, UFC 159, UFC 169, UFC 203, and UFC Fight Night 102) and share some of the milestones I can say that I witnessed firsthand.
- Anderson Silva sets the UFC record for most consecutive victories. While the main event of UFC 97 between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites was far from the most exciting main event in the history of the UFC, that night in April 2009 in Montreal saw Silva win his ninth consecutive win in the UFC, a record he would ultimately extend to sixteen.
- Frank Mir breaks Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s arm. While I’m not exactly a fan of fighters suffering gruesome injuries, this is a pretty famous or infamous moment in the UFC’s history. Mir had applied a kimura to Nogueira, and Nogueira didn’t tap before Mir broke his arm that night in Toronto in December 2011. Needless to say, witnessing it live in person and taking a brief glance at the jumbotron immediately after to see the replay was enough for me, and five years later I still haven’t quite gotten myself to watch the replay of that moment.
- Demetrious Johnson wins the flyweight title, and begins his reign of dominance. It’s crazy how I had no clue what the world of MMA was in for when Johnson won the inaugural flyweight title that night in Toronto back in September 2012. It almost seemed like a good portion of the crowd didn’t even care for the flyweight championship bout (a small corner of the arena even started a “fuck this weight class!” chant at one point during the fight). But Johnson beat Joe Benavidez that night, and has since defended the flyweight title nine times and has become arguably the best fighter in the world today.
- Jon Jones ties Tito Ortiz’s record for light heavyweight title defenses. I was there that night in Newark in April 2013 when Jones tied Ortiz’s record of five title defenses. It was a bittersweet moment for me, as Ortiz is my favorite fighter of all-time, but getting to see Jones defend his belt for a record setting fifth time was a cool moment to see live and in person. In fact, that night marked the third time I had seen Jones defend his title, as I had previously seen him defeat Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 and Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 before taking down Chael Sonnen at UFC 159.
- CM Punk makes his UFC debut. Of course not everyone looks back on this experiment fondly, but CM Punk was my favorite active wrestler on the WWE roster at the time of his departure from the world of pro wrestling. But I had mixed emotions to see him compete in the UFC. Sure, it’d be cool to see him try real fighting, but at the same time I feel his presence can delegitimize the UFC. Regardless, being there firsthand for this was incredible, even if Punk did lose in just over two minutes.
- Stipe Miocic defends the heavyweight title in his hometown. This moment was even more incredible than seeing CM Punk make his UFC debut. Stipe Miocic, a native of Cleveland, made his first title defense in Cleveland against my favorite heavyweight of all-time, Alistair Overeem. Of course I put a muzzle on cheering for Overeem since the last thing I needed was to incite the partisan crowd. Seeing Overeem nearly snatch the belt away from Miocic, and then watching Miocic knock Overeem out and listening to the roar of the crowd was probably one of the most surreal moments in my time as a sports fan. The place absolutely came unglued, and this particular moment might actually be my all-time favorite moment to have been a part of in person.