It's been six years since Ultimate Fighting Championship was last in South Florida, which means those who like watching nearly-naked men roll around inside a cage bloodying each other up might have some pent-up aggression of their own.
And considering that South Florida was the winner of the Harley-Davidson Hometown Throwdown contest, where online fan votes determined where the event would be held, the desire to have UFC back in South Florida is as obvious as a stiff punch.
When the fight comes to the BankAtlantic Center on June 8, it will feature a main event with heavy-hitting implications in the flyweight division.
When Ian McCall and Demetrius Johnson battled in Australia last month, Johnson was declared the winner until that decision was overturned due to an error in the scorecard counts. After a controversial draw, the two meet again to determine who will fight for UFC's new 125-pound title later this year. And with that impressively anachronistic mustache he often sports, McCall looks like a guy who's able to win a fight -- and may even be worthy of some bonus points from the judges just from his facial hair grooming.
With more than 12 bouts on the card (four of which will air live on FX), mixed martial arts fans will also get to see welterweight fights between Josh Neer and Mike Pyle; Charlie Brenneman and Erick Silva; and Carlos Eduardo Rocha and Mike Pierce. And the interactive aspect that brought UFC back to South Florida also allowed fans to choose which fight would air first on that night's FX broadcast, with Scott Jorgensenvs. Eddie Wineland winning that honor.
"I'm excited to bring the UFC back to Florida," says UFC President Dana White. "The first fight between Johnson and McCall was incredible, and on June 8 they will finally finish the fight to determine who is going to fight for the first-ever flyweight title."
Although they will not be fighting at the Hometown Throwdown, several UFC fighters call South Florida home, including The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion "Suga" Rashad Evans, who recently helped open the Jaco Hybrid Training Center in Deerfield Beach with fellow fighters such as Melvin Guillard and Alistair Overeem. Coconut Creek's American Top Team gym is also home to UFC fighters such
as Thiago Alves, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Mike Brown, a former WorldExtreme Cagefighting Featherweight Champion who resides in Boca Raton.
"It's really a big deal, and UFC's going to see how big a deal it is when they come here," said Evans. "They've been to the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, but it wasn't big enough for the interest in UFC. There's so much interest in having a fight around here and I think UFC is going to be surprised by the turnout for this fight. It's not a huge card with a lot of big names on it, but at the same time it's going to be one of those cards with a lot of really good fights and people are going to walk away feeling really satisfied by it."
If interest stays high, Evans says, he might even step into the ring himself.
"I would love to fight here in South Florida. WWE was just here for WrestleMania and there was a lot of interest. I can just imagine if UFC came here because I know if we put a really good card together it would bring people out. There are a lot of fight fans down here in South Florida and I think UFC's going to have a good time here," he said.
With so many fighters plying their crafts in the area, UFC's return to South Florida should be quite a spectacle. Tickets range from $40 (a view from afar) to $175 (you might be close enough to the cage to get some sweat on you). Call 954-835-7825 or go to bankatlanticcenter.com.
--Jonathan Williams, WrestlingWithPopCulture.com
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