Throngs of kids and energy drink samples. Sounds like a great mix. Fans of all ages came out in droves to day one of the UFC Fan Expo at the Mandalay Bay Events Center where vendors and fighters convened for this special event the day before the most stacked fight card in history.
Fans waited in long lines to get autographs and handshakes from UFC fighters like Rashad Evans, Joe Lauzon, Keith Jardine and Nate Diaz, WEC favorite Urijah Faber and Pride/UFC fighter Wanderlei Silva. It brought an aspect of humanity to these fighters who can seem superhuman in their strength and ability to demolish each other in the cage. Faber knelt down to shake the hand of a young boy who was almost to shy to approach him.
Alex Coriano and Craig Diamond from Diamond MMA were among the many vendors hoping to catch the eye of key industry figures and fans with their product. Unlike the flashy Ed Hardy and TapouT shirts, this duo was hawking a product with function beyond style – a new type of fighting shorts.
As Coriano explained, “This is the complete fight short. What makes them so complete is there is an inside jock strap that keeps everything in place with the cup. The compression short fits inside the outer short that protects you as well as this armor-plated fabric with removable leg pads you wear while training to keep you healthy for the fight.”
They looked like a Kevlar vest recycled into fighting shorts.
I was finally able to get my burning questions about jock strap anatomy answered by professionals.
“You have your cheek straps, which is what everybody else has, what makes ours so unique is that muay thai strap, so the cup can’t go North or South,” Diamond explains. “We’re really just trying to bring science, technology and testing to the sport, not just more skulls and flames.”
In addition to all the vendors, volunteers helped organize the chaos at the Expo. Jeff Giovinazzo of New Jersey came to town to volunteer at the Fan Expo, which offers him the chance to monitor lines where UFC stars like Rashad Evans and Gray Maynard are signing autographs. Make that “volutneer,” as Giovinazzo pointed out on the back of his shirt. Someone at the UFC Fan Expo must have forgotten their Xyience on the day they printed the T-shirts.
After leaving the Expo, a quick poll of fans waiting in line to enter the weigh ins yielded an even 50-50 split on the topic of who would win the main event between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, though a sampling of several UFC pros tipped the scales in favor of Lesnar.
Randy Couture said, “I’m leaning toward Lesnar. I think he’s going to be much more difficult to get out of position and beat for Frank this time. The onus is always on the guy who won the last time to change things, make things different, more interesting, to continue to win again. It’s easier for the guy who lost to make the necessary adjustments to come back strong. “
Current light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida said, “I cheer for Mir, but I think Lesnar is very, very strong. I think Lesnar is going to win.“
Former welterweight champ Matt Hughes agreed with his assessment, “I think Lesnar has a little bit of an advantage. Him and I are pretty good friends.”
As for the St. Pierre and Alves fight, only 10 percent of those polled thought Alves had a chance. Lone Alves fan Jason Espanza proudly proclaimed, “Alves knockout,” while his friend Jerry Hicks said, “GSP all the way.”
Annette and John Kendzierski of Toronto made their way to Las Vegas for their first UFC fight and were in favor of St. Pierre.
The weigh ins had a capacity crowd of 5,700 who came out to see intense stare downs from Brock Lesnar and Michael Bisping in the face of calm and almost jovial opponents, Frank Mir and Dan Henderson. Tomorrow is day two of the Fan Expo and the actual UFC 100 fight. The fight is sold out, but diehard fans still have the chance to line up for autographs from their favorite fighters.