Whilst some of the Kitkase team were attending the CFC Sports Merchandising and Licensing Show I was lucky enough to visit New York to witness the UFC's maiden event at Madison Square Garden, following a near 20 year ban on Mixed Martial Arts in New York.
The UFC and Dana White promised the 'biggest, baddest card ever' and they certainly didn't disappoint. A fight card featuring the UFC's poster boy Conor McGregor also included 2 other championship fights and a host of other exciting fighters including Chris Weidman, Frankie Edgar, Khabib, Miesha Tate and Thiago Alves.
The fun started at 15.00 on the Thursday afternoon when I attended the UFC205 press conference at MSG. McGregor arrived fashionably late by twenty minutes and it was his choice of fashion that was one of the main talking points. As a throwback to 'Smokin' Joe Frazier, Conor wore a white mink coat and red polo neck, talk about making an entrance! The press conference was a sign of things to come, as McGregor's every word was greeted with rapturous applause, whereas his opponent Alvarez struggled to be heard over the crowd of jeering, largely Irish, supporters.
Over the next two days it was amazing to see just how popular MMA has become as UFC205 was the topic of every conversation in every bar we visited. As an avid follower since 2003 it's great to see MMA, and specifically the UFC, being watched by a global audience of millions - in fact UFC205 generated a record 14 billion impressions on social media - wow! not to mention record gate receipts of $17.7m at MSG.
Whilst I was there to watch the fight I didn't waste the opportunity to check out all the latest UFC merchandise, and there was certainly lots of it. T-shirts, caps and hoodies in every style and colour imaginable, though as expected many featured McGregor. Fans were parting with $25, $50 or even $100 like it was going out of fashion, but wait, no UFC branded travelcases - an opportunity I detect :)
So fight night arrived and I entered Madison Square Garden, swept along in an Irish sea of green, white and orange. Hats off to the Irish fans they were first class and between 19.00pm, when the prelims started, and 1.45am when McGregor was crowned the UFC's first dual-weight champion, I dread to think how much alcohol was consumed! This said, and despite the obvious violence witnessed within the octagon, I didn't witness any trouble whatsoever from the fans, other than a few people falling over drunk in high spirits.
As expected the fight card truly delivered and the event was by far the UFC's greatest, this comes from someone who witnessed the UFC's two previous showcase events UFC100 and UFC200. Despite all the trash talk and bravado you have to respect McGregor's unrivalled talent inside and outside the octagon. He ruthlessly dispatched of Alvarez (the 155lb champion and no mug) early in the 2nd round with a lightning fast, lethal four punch combo - good night Eddie!
Without doubt UFC205 and New York combined superbly to deliver one of the most enjoyable weekends of my life. The bar has been set very high, but I have no doubt Dana is already planning how he can raise it once again and I'm already saving for it....................