Once upon a time there was a lot of controversy over whether or not the fine province of Ontario should allow prize fighting.
Soon after legislation was passed to allow it, the collective jaws of MMA fans in the Greater Toronto Area dropped when the UFC announced UFC 129 in Toronto, headlined by Georges St. Pierre v. Jake Shields. The card also included names like Jose Aldo, Lyoto Machida, Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson and of course Randy Couture.
Besides Couture getting crane kicked into oblivion, there was a lot of other action surrounding the event. Enter the UFC Fan Expo, a place for all us MMA nerds to call home. I won’t talk about all the key-note speakers or training sessions that are available because let’s be honest, if you go to those you have a lot of money, have a lot of time or are a press member. After some research to add to my personal experience, here are some things you may want to consider before going to a UFC Fan Expo.
5. Lines, Lines and More Lines
Yes, there will be lines. If you’re a real fan (and you better be) most of the lines for the non-GSPs are pretty reasonable. However, if you want to meet some one like the Axe Murderer, be prepared for the long haul. My friends and I waited a good hour to hour and a half to meet Wandy, and when we were about five people from the front he “had to go”.
If you want to get a closer look at Arianny (wasn’t Playboy enough?), you can triple that wait time as you do a slow, pathetic march behind the hundreds of other perverts waiting eons to see this girl whose job we all wish we were attractive enough to have.
4. Lesser-Known Fighters Are Often Seen Walking Around
With so many fighters these days, there are bound to be a bunch of them you wouldn’t even recognize unless they were sitting behind a table with their picture on it holding a pen.
If you’re lucky, you might just catch one of your dark-horses just wondering around like we did. Be quick about it though, you could be taking a picture with the guy who played Steve Urkel’s girlfriend (she was actually kind of hot…is that Gabrielle Union?) and as soon as people see it they will rush over. If you prevent them from leaving, they may want to punch you in the throat.
3. Fitness Models & Promo Girls
If taking pictures with sexy girls who are paid to do so is cool, then I am probably the coolest person on earth. You will find no shortage of good-looking women selling (I don’t remember) from companies like (who cares). What’s better is that they know you want a picture with them and will happily do it.
It’s basically like saying “I want to show other people I was with some one attractive” and who wouldn’t want that? There’s even a good chance a porn star or two will have a booth (they did).
2. Fighters Sneaking Away
Just like Wanderlei Silva there are many fighters who are either ushered away or try to slip through the crowds when they see the opportunity. Some legitimately are out of time, others clearly don’t like this aspect of the job. Luckily, the Polish Experiment was more than happy at the time, probably from doing experiments.
We managed to catch Nate Diaz literally squeezing through the cracks of two displays at some one else’s signing before people realized it was him and started yelling his name. Like any good Stockton boy, he signed a couple autographs and then a little more after some one cracked a joke he liked, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there.
1. Free Stuff and Cheap Food
Sticker collectors beware; your head may explode. Key chains, stickers, lanyards and buttons you name it and it will be given away to try and get you to buy things. There are better prizes, too. Most people got a GSP headband, a friend and I both managed to snag free hats…I had to win an epic rock-paper-scissors match to get solidify mine. You’re likely to come away with wristbands, headbands and t-shirts too (MusclePharm comes to mind).
With the expo likely to be held at a convention centre, this means American-style gluttony is at hand. Grease goes really well with hot chicks and violence, as we all know. The best part was that it wasn’t at stadium prices, but nice and cheap…and greasy.
A UFC Fan Expo can be a great time. Grab some free gear, take pictures with pretty gals, meet your favourite fighters and wash it down with some carbs and you’ve got a pretty good day out with the squad.
But, if long lines and crowds are a problem for you you’re going to hate it. Don’t expect to walk in there and meet everyone you want in a couple hours. With the sport as huge as it is, it will take a lot of planning and dedication to meet the biggest stars. As far as experiences go, I’d say it’s worth it to go to at least once.