LAS VEGAS -- The Strip positively broils in mid-summer, a steaming heat that launches persistent assaults on the sweat glands and nostrils. Many choose to avoid it this time of year, which just meant more room for the relentless invasion of the mixed ...and more »
TOP TRENDING Martin Rogers, USA TODAY Sports 9:24 p.m. EDT July 9, 2016LAS VEGAS --Â The Strip positively broils in mid-summer, a steaming heat that launches persistent assaults on the sweat glands and nostrils. Many choose to avoid it this time of year, which just meant more room for the relentless invasion of the mixed martial arts world over the past week.Las Vegas has long prided itself on being a fight town, of the boxing variety. Yet while boxing weekends are electrifying spectacles, the sweet science has rarely delivered an influx of human traffic into Sin City to match this one.UFC 200, the historic milestone event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, brought its supporters flooding into town in their droves, assembling at a variety of scattered events around Vegas during the week and collectively at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.If the UFC arrived a while ago, this was the time to flex its muscles.The diehards and fanatics were here of course, but so, too, were the newcomers, those drawn in by either the UFCâ€™s ongoing juggernaut or by its relentless publicity machine or just because someone told them this shouldnâ€™t be missed.The seven years since UFC 100 have seen drastic growth, and fans who can trace their patronage to the very beginning, in 1993, are mightily few.One guy behind press row loudly boasted to his friends heâ€™d attended â€œat least 150â€ of the 200 UFC pay-per-views. An unlikely brag, to be certain, but there are all sorts at a UFC event.Saturday saw little in the way of ceremony or pageantry as might have been expected from an occasion with such numerical significance, though the octagon floor itself was hued in an impressive shade of bright gold.In reality there was little time for much else, as the action came thick and fast. The UFC and its president Dana White has long taken the buffetÂ approach to compiling fight cards, stacking onÂ the entertainment, and this was the mother of them all. Boxing could take note.â€œI went to Mayweather-Pacquiao and it was nothing like this,â€ Aaron Small, a 28-year-old fan from Huntington Beach, Calif., said. â€œThe undercard was short and bad and the main event was horrible.â€Small soon scuttled off excitedly to watch TJ Dillashaw, the No.1 ranked contender and former champion of the bantamweight division. Dillashaw is accomplished and popular enough to be considered for co-main event duties of a regular UFC pay-per-view. Here, his victory over Raphael Assuncao was the seventh to last fight of a card designed to build up in order of importance.Even the early fights drew a crowd at UFC 200.Â (Photo: Joshua Dahl, USA TODAY Sports)By then, a full four hours before the main event, a glance at the audience indicated the place was already more than 90%Â full. Fans of the UFC are loud, sometimes crass, and not to everyoneâ€™s liking, but there can be no doubting their commitment.â€œEveryone is insane,â€ Clara Yan, a college student brought along by a generous date. â€œBut you canâ€™t help enjoying the atmosphere. Everyone says theyâ€™ve been waiting for this event forever.â€For the faithful fans this was their coming out party, this night where the UFC sat pretty at front and center of the American sports scene. Okay, maybe not so pretty, but compelling, dramatic, and very much here to stay.
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