Skateboarding and organized fighting? What’s the connection?
By Eric Stricker for skateboarding.com
About eighteen months ago, I received a call from the UFC letting me know how much of a fan their president, Dana White, is of skateboarding and TWS, and that his two sons skate, and what could they possibly do to get Dana on the cover of TransWorld SKATEboarding. Being the extremely cordial and easily approachable person that I am, I emailed back and forth with the company and calmly let them know that that is not how skateboarding works (unless the then 37-year-old Dana was about to 360 flip El Toro), and simply shrugged off the misunderstanding that mainstream public relations people often have of a skateboarding magazine.
Fast forward fourteen months and, while I still didn’t have a giant Skin Industries decal on the back of the raised pickup truck that I don’t own, and there was no Affliction T-shirts in my closet, I had found myself periodically watching UFC programming via Spike TV. I am not a fan of the blood and am only now becoming a fan of the technique, but originally my thoughts were probably the same as someone drawn to skateboarding for the first time: Who are these people and why would they possibly do this? And it was just at that time when I got another call from the UFC saying, “At least come out to Vegas and see what this is all about.
It was right then when Osiris signed Quinton “Rampage Jackson and I learned that former UFC champ Tito Ortiz is the cousin of legendary TWS photographer Chris Ortiz. It was right then when I started seeing photos on the Internet of skateboarders Caine Gayle and Pat Channita in their mixed martial arts kits. It was right then when Brian Sumner called me and told me of his UFC obsession and that he himself trains, and that everyone from Jason Ellis to Eric Koston to Christian Hosoi are self-proclaimed UFC fans and have chalked up many a night alongside the octagon. And it was right then when I called Brian back and said, “Let’s do this.
With Saturday night’s UFC 74 being the culmination of our road trip to Vegas, we started fight morning by taking Dana’s kids to the local Vegas park. Dana, being the extremely cordial person that he is took two hours out of his busy fight-day schedule to hang with us while his kids—Dana III (6), and Aiden (5)—cruised the Las Vegas’s Metro skatepark with the help of their flown-in-from-the-OC skate coach. The dangerously slippery surface (City Of Las Vegas—you really need to look into that), took some of the big boys out, myself included, but the groms shredded hard not falling once except to demonstrate the proper way to knee slide. Alongside an injured Andre Genovesi, Sumner took it upon himself to win the one-man demo with park hamms such as 360 flip nose stalls and crails to flat.
Pre-fight, while all the other, probably more legitimate media was corralled into the press room and security was on high alert, TWS was given free reign of the event floor and the octagon to do as we please. So we did what any other credentialed person would do—we shot portraits of ourselves inside the cage with Dana to heighten our respective MySpace statuses.
As the 12,000-plus capacity crowd filled in and the Mandalay Bay arena lit up, Jake Brown, Jason Ellis and PLG took their seats front row stationed in front of Mind Freak Criss Angel. Sumner has yet to be interviewed by Larry King, so he was relegated to Dana’s personal seats about nine rows back with Andre, Sean Eaton, and Birdhouse TM Steve, in perfect place to touch all the UFC fighters as they stormed the ring. Sumner loves those seats. Our crew was about fifteen rows back sitting among the friends and families of fighters Kendall Grove and Joe Stevenson. When fight attendee Kobe Bryant was showed on the screen and booed by the crowd, we laughed. When RVCA’s Antoni Hardonk tapped out affter the first minute, we cried. And when the French Canadians Patrick Cote and Georges St-Pierre dominated their opponents, PLG bought rounds of margaritas.
In the end, the formerly retired 44-year-old Randy Couture showed he is as extreme as his Xtreme Couture line of club clothing suggests, and he bloodied Gabriel Gonzaga and took home the victory. As for us, we chalked up another addiction alongside skateboarding, and we’re eagerly anticipating the Iceman versus the Dean Of Mean. See you in Anaheim for Knockout, UFC 76.
A BIG thank you goes out to Jennifer Wenk of the UFC and UFC President Dana White for inviting TWS and the Birdhouse team out to Vegas. Oh, and Dana, thanks again for the water.
Check out ALL the attached slideshows to the left to see the fights, the skating, and the craze!!!