by Connor Rogowsky (@rogowskyc)
October 6, 2018
UFC 229 was my second live MMA experience.
The first fight I saw was TJ Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight championship back in January of 2016. I bought the tickets for Joel as a present, and the fight was in Boston at the TD Garden, close to where we went to school. The atmosphere of that fight was amazing, watching fights live for the first time, and it was a great card too.
UFC 229 was my first real experience with the UFC, going to the fighter meet and greets the days before the event. We even went to the ceremonial weigh-ins the day before the fight, and wow, it was such an unreal experience that we have never gotten to do before.
Joel and I are huge Conor McGregor fans (Joel may be the biggest fan, he went as McGregor for Halloween this year), so we planned on buying tickets for the event because it was McGregor’s return to the UFC. The fight had buildup and Las Vegas was an easy trip from Denver. Let’s be honest, we had to go… its CONOR MCGREGOR.
Buying tickets was probably the hardest part as they were sold out in I think, six minutes? I tried to buy tickets at the presale, and at regular sale time for the public but was unsuccessful. I eventually found tickets, but at long last and high stress, we had our tickets, and we already had the hotel and plane tickets well in advance. We made sure that no matter what, we were going to be at this fight.
At the weight ins, there was a crowd outside the T-Mobile Arena, waiting for the doors to open for a ceremonial weigh in. The Irish create quite an atmosphere. They travel in packs, starting chants that the entire arena joins in, wild celebrations in groups, beer flying around inside and outside. It was almost comparable to New Years Eve the way people were drinking and celebrating. This of course, is the day before the fight.
There was so much going on in Las Vegas, especially the day of the event. This was my first time in Vegas! Joel and I met “Platinum” Mike Perry at a restaurant one night and got autographed photos and pictures of our own with him. We both met him the next day as well where the UFC had meet and greets which featured Joseph Benavidez, Claudia Gadelha, and others. Outside the arena, we ran into Jim Edwards and Justin Gaethje. The coolest thing that happened was when Joel met Benavidez, he called him out and remembered Joel’s Twitter handle from an article he wrote on him in 2017.
Fight night was amazing, the whole day was full of excitement. At this point, Joel and I have been drinking for a few days straight, and we start the day off drinking Tequila, so we were off to a good start. Drunk before brunch on fight night, here we go. We get in the arena early to find our seats, get some food, and of course drinks. The early fights were great, even with a small crowd, the fighters put on a show. The fights went on and the crowd got bigger, and the fights kept the excitement up. Even the fights that went to decision were exciting. Derek Lewis won his fight after being hurt a couple of times, and won in one-punch fashion with time about to expire. A walk-off win with few seconds left, a fight that put him in line for a title shot.
Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis may have been the fight of the year if Pettis didn’t break his hand, as his corner decided to stop the fight. Both fighters trading shots, getting hurt, getting knocked down, blood everywhere, such an incredible fight for only a two-rounder.
The main event, Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov. The bad blood, all the talk, the action, it was finally here. McGregor had a special walk out where the canvas was covered by a fog machine, his whisky, Proper 12, on the canvas as well. I remember the fight starting, and my stomach was doing flips, I felt almost nauseous. I was so anxious at every moment, it was a feeling I never had in my entire life before. The crowd, louder than it has been all night long. Then McGregor got taken down, but did a really good job when on the ground by not using so much energy. As the fight went on I remember still feeling anxious, but McGregor was doing well on the ground, not really getting into bad positions. The boo’s that would come from the crowd with each takedown were almost deafening. Then he ate the right overhand from Khabib and got knocked down, seemed to recover, but was taken to the ground and the uneasiness of the crowd at that point could be felt. He was still ok on the ground, defending well against submission attempts, though he did not look as comfortable and started to give up some positions. He actually came back to win the third round in my opinion and many have this same belief, which this is monumental as this would be the first round that Khabib lost on the scorecard. The crowd had reason to cheer again. In round four McGregor looked tired, and ended up in a bad position on the ground and had to use more energy to try and get out of the positions. He ended up giving up his back which allowed the face crank to develop which is how he lost, that was not the end of the excitement.
I remember the crowd start their mass exodus as the tap happened. As I looked back to the octagon, I saw Khabib start to run at the fence, and I was confused. I continued to watch as people in my row passed by and watched him jump from the top of the cage, and try to double heel stomp on Dillon Danis. Half the crowed stopped to watch, the other continued to walk out quickly. The action then shifted, as Khabib was corralled as was Danis, to the Octagon. McGregor did punch one of Khabib’s teammates who went over to him, but did not see the other teammate of Khabib jump over the fence and hit McGregor from behind, continuing to hit him as he was being restrained. Khabib and his teammates were taken through the tunnel and had beer thrown on them as they were escorted out. Fans leaving the arena started chants back and forth, some fans even began to fight each other and were restrained by security and police. There was so much passion, and the way that everything played out after the fight led to fans also joining the frenzy on their own accord.
It was a somber moment as a McGregor fan. However, the loss did not take away from the experience. Of course you would rather see your favorite fighter win, but the atmosphere was still one of the craziest experiences of my life. I have been to live sporting events many times in the past, including other UFC cards. Nothing compares to the hype that follows Conor McGregor. It is hard to find your way to see McGregor fight in person, but I will admit, even with the loss and all the stress to the buildup, the show was worth it.