A Fan’s Perspective of the UFC in Sweden

MMAViking.com offers a “fan’s perspective” from this past Saturday’s UFC in Sweden, with a guest post, who is a long-time MMA fan and local resident here in Sweden.  Enjoy!

Finally I feel I can speak openly about my huge interest for the worlds fastest growing sport.

Having the UFC put on an amazing event in the Globe Arena in Stockholm and the main stream media picking up on the story in a respectful knowledgeable way I hope this has opened the flood gates somewhat for the next phase of acceptance of this great sport.

I felt proud of the Swedish crowd that showed the UFC and the world watching that we are the most knowledgeable and engaged MMA fans out there. Dana White even confirmed it via twitter directly after the event was finished.

So I want to share my own personal experiences of this amazing event to give you view of what a UFC fan does during a UFC event Fight Week.

Fight week in Stockholm was crazy, the slow release of built up excitement during the week was the equivalent to what fighter would call controlled aggression. That then finished with the actual event and what a fighter would call a devastating knock-out.

Firstly I had a close eye on the activity schedule during the week on mmaviking.com http://www.mmaviking.com/ufc-sweden-fight-week-events/  and planned how I could attend different events. And also which events that were happening that the MMA media was covering and then watched their video reports and read the Tweets and blog articles about them.

Twitter is now my new best friend, or should I say my link to the amazing MMA community. During Fight week the topic to follow was #ufcsweden. MMA journalist and MMA fans were very active sharing information and there thoughts and passion for the sport.

So my week looked like this.

Wednesday, April 11th

The Open Workouts, sadly these weren’t open for that public as many fans had thought, so the quick trip to Pancrese Gym on my lunch break didn’t happen. But mmaviking and mmaheat had some great videos and tweets from this event. GSP on the palates ball was a laugh…. I was waiting for him to twist his knee and ruin his ACL again just after his latest surgery. Dana, don’t watch this video!!

Thursday, April 12th

PRESS CONFERENCE – this was a important event, also closed to the fans but the info coming out of the Clarion hotel were it was held was brilliant. Again some really good interviews in You Tube were posted and the mmanytt studio corner was a real treat. Missed Dana at this one, I think all the hard core fans knew why Dana wasn’t going to arrive until Saturday night.

UFC SIGNING SESSION – Tito Ortiz and Arianny Celeste.

I stood in the queue  outside Budo-Fitness on sveavägen to meet on of my all time favourite fighters Tito Ortiz, I got the autographed picture and a photo of me and Tito. I felt nervous meeting him, or more like that built up excitement was right near the surface when I shook his hand and stood next to him for a photo.

Friday, April 13th

UFC Fight Club Q&A with Tito Ortiz in the Globe.
This was a great event I finally got the mingle with loads of like minded MMA fans and sit and hear Mike Goldberg interview Tito Ortiz. The hour went by so fast and just listening to Tito Ortiz live was very surreal. He seemed to have relaxed after a couple of days in Sweden and with the way Swedish fans are. He interacted really well with them and they asked some really good questions. Tito’s own tweets about the Q&A were really positive.

UFC Weigh-ins
After a short break after Tito left the stage and I had time just enough time to write my own blog article about the Q&A it was time for the official weigh-ins. The fans went mildly crazy for the Swedish fighters as they came onto the stage. Again that built up excitement starting to release it’s self. I could see to same thing in many others in the Globe Arena. An anticipation and excitement of finally being able to express their passion openly for this sport and organization the UFC. The weigh-in’s were the first real taste of what was about to come. The grand finale of Fight week was just 24 hours away.

During the week the big UFC stars slowly arrived in Stockholm and announced their arrival with tweets. They even got time to see some sights. Here are some there most memorable tweets.

Kenny Florian – posts a twitpic of his money after exchanging some, Sweden 500 kroner notes next to American dollars.

Karyn Bryan – I made it to Sweden! Got here after flying in from Germany with Denis Siver.

Mike Goldberg – Great to be in Sweden!, gonna check out this Ice Bar tonight, also want to do VASA Museum

Brian Stann – Media media media, more than usual for some reason.

Bruce Buffer – Packing for Stockholm n just realized better bring the overcoat n scarf w me. Looking forward to this trip!

Dana White – Just landed in Sweden!!!! The arena here is sick and I am PUMPED for these fights! It feels like its been FOREVER!

NEWS FLASH – Jabb.se announces that BJPenn the Prodigy is in Stockholm and will be attend the meet and great the fighters event in Saturday morning at 10:00. WOW, This is Huge.

Last 24 hours – Twitter was the place to be, people were arriving in Stockholm from all over and Sweden. The fans are approaching the Arena from there usual abodes, they are excited and seem to have same anticipation that  I had. So sleep was not easy, blogging and tweeting into the night about this event I have to agree with many many others that this was like the night before Christmas when you were 10 years old.
Saturday, April 14th

Fight Day – SNOW, Stockholm had put on a show for the UFC, it had dumped 6cm of snow over the whole capital and traffic almost stood still. But, fight fans are tough enough to weather an early storm.

BJ Penn is my absolute favourite fighter, and no way was I going to miss this chance to meet him. So I drove through the snow to jabb.se store and arrived 40 minutes before the doors opened, 100 hard core MMA fans stood there in the freezing 0 degrees snow storm whirling around waiting to meet their hero’s. 11:00 I finally got into the store and my dream came true. I met sat next to BJ Penn and had a chat about New Zealand where I come from and about the possibility of him fighting again in either Sweden or New Zealand, I thanked BJ for all that he has done and got my photo and autograph. My absolute favourite picture from Fight Week is of me and BJ. And that says a lot as the actual event hadn’t even happened yet.

I also got the meet, Jake Sheilds, Tito Oritz (again), Cheick Kongo.

UFC pre-fight party organized by mmanytt.se during the afternoon at Imperiet. Now we are talking hard core fans who are now only 2-3 hours away from seeing what is the most important sporting event that they have ever seen. Really good vibes at this party. By now I had my 3 brothers in laws with me who are hardcore MMA fans from Dalarna. And we are about to join up with 3 other friends to complete out Fight Night team.

The Globe Arena – massive queues outside and we waited one hour to get in. Some never even got in before the first prelim fight started. The Globe was rocking, even from outside the sound vibes were intense. The queue was calm and respectful, this isn’t football over hockey, there aren’t two teams of fans on opposing sides, everyone was calm and happy, excited and apprehensive. Mixed ages and from all walks of life seemed to be represented in the queue.

We got in, we bought the t-shirts, UFC gloves, UFC Live commentary Radio’s, Beer and popcorn, and found our seats. The arena was half full and event was 3 minutes from starting at 18:30, and then it did.

With Kenny Florian and Mike Goldberg in my ears and sitting next to one of my best friends we sat back and watched for first fight. It felt like sitting at home with Goldie talking us through the fight.

The first fight was over, time to relax a minute…. to look around….WOW, it’s happening. The UFC is actually in the Globe Arena in Stockholm and has just put on it’s first fight.

The time to release this pressure and excitement is now. And without delay Mike gives us the key, the first Swedish fighter is coming up in the next fight. And the fans give what I would call are small controlled eruption of support for Besam Yousef. This was the perfect warm up for the next fight with Swedish fighter Reza Madadi, the crowd got of their feet really got vocal to show Reza some local support.

Personally I must say that this and the next fight with Magnus Cedenblad was when all my built up energy and excitement from a couple of months was released. I have never cheered and applauded any sporting event before in my life as I did last night for Reza and Magnus.

I was actually aware of the fact that we, the fans had to show the UFC and Dana White and Lorenzo Fertita that we enjoy and understand out MMA. So I can say I lost my voice trying to do my part. I could finally sit back enjoy the fights, the event, the music, light show and atmosphere that only the UFC can create. This was better than Christmas!
The quality of MMA was above average, there was definitely nothing to complain about and we were treated to some great submissions, knock outs and decisions. Some good sportsmanship like when Brian Stann choose to stop punching his opponent from the mount immediately when he saw Alessio Sakara was knocked out.

The evening was electric, and I have never seen a Swedish crowd at any sporting event so engaged in the what was going on in front of them. This crowd has been watching the UFC for many years, many of us there last night in the Globe Arena have been following the UFC since about when Tito went his first fight in 1997. And many other even before that. We know our MMA, we love our MMA, and finally the worlds biggest MMA organization came to our back yard and gave us a treat and we were really showing our appreciation as fans.

I read a Tweet before the Main Event from Dana White – “Sweden crowd might be most educated ever!” Wow, Dana gave us some cred that speaks volumes.

The Main Event – how do explain the event that tops the iceberg, that puts the cap on a event that is already perfect. A humble 25 year old from Arboga take’s center stage and with the full support from 15428 fans they raised their voices to the max, they clapped there hands and stamped their feet to try and raise the roof of the Globe Arena. We gave this young viking all the support we could to give him the strength to take on his hardest test yet in the worthy opponent Thiago Silva.

The fight was a exhibition of Alexander Gustafsson technical skill and Thiago despite being a very dangerous opponent could not find his distance to stop Alex.

Pride, pride was what I felt when Alex’s hand was raised. Pride in him and pride in the crowd who drowned out Bruce Buffer with there cheers. We had done our best, we had given it all and I hoped the UFC were happy with our efforts.

The light’s came on, the music stopped and people left the arena. And very empty feeling was left, at the same time a very satisfied and proud state of mind.

But as a fan the only thing left was the go against the stream of people leaving the arena and get down close to the Octagon and Dana White and just wait until the security guards asked us to leave.

So after walking over the road to the Tap Out after party we decided to call it a night instead of queuing up to get inside.

That should be the end of this fans detailed story of events, but the thing is. The  MMA fan base in Sweden is bigger that what anyone really knows. The taxi driver home couldn’t stop himself from butting in on our conversations, he had to tell us about how he watches MMA and UFC and has for years. I listened to him and thought of myself and what I said as I started this article. “Finally I feel I can speak openly about my huge interest for the worlds fastest growing sport.” and the Taxi driver of Stockholm Taxi nr 1265 seemed to feel the same way.

Dana White quote from Post Fight Press Conference. “Well be back as soon as possible”

Thank-you Dana, we will be ready and waiting.