ST. LOUIS — Prior to this weekend, I’d been to and covered many MMA events, but have never had the opportunity to see fighters interact and be real people.
By chance, I ended up staying in the same hotel as the fighters and decided to take this opportunity to really watch and observe how they interact with people and how they carry themselves.
I’ve been here two days and I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that MMA fighters are some of the most down-to-Earth and real people in the entire world.
Sure, there’s a few bad apples out there that ruin the reputation of everybody, but what I’ve seen so far confirms what I thought I knew: These guys rule.
I can only imagine the horror on the faces of other hotel guests when they enter the lobby and see these towering, imposing, sometimes tattooed men standing around. They must be getting ready to head for higher ground and stay somewhere else.
I saw it earlier today.
Antonio Silva and his camp were in the lobby when a curious group of people can in with the vintage "WTF?" look on their face. Then, in a flash, a fan came up to Silva. And they had a small child. Silva gently took the baby and took a picture with the baby and the fan.
Earlier in the day, it was easy to see why Andrei Arlovski received the loudest response of anybody on the card at the weigh-in. This was because after everything was done, Arlovski took the time to take pictures with and sign autographs for every single fan that wanted one. From afar, I could see a giant mob around someone with flashes popping. I decided to go take a closer look. There was Arlovski and his camp handing out free shirts with Arlovski being one of the most fan-friendly people on the planet. He literally was there so long that security had to kick him out to continue clean up. So Arlovski signed a few final T-shirts and gloves and photos and took the last few pictures outside the arena.
It really is a great thing to see.
That’s what makes these fighters special: They are so accommodating. Could you imagine someone of Arlovski’s stature in another sport signing for everybody, for free, as well, while having a smile on his face and truly enjoying it all? I’m having a hard time doing it.
At the weigh-in, "King Mo" Lawal, Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley all signed for everybody at a scheduled signing. The day prior, Lawal, Renato "Babalu" Sobral and Fabricio Werdum all did the same, signing for everybody who wanted an autograph. The signing ended prior to the scheduled time, and as the three were waiting on the street, a few stragglers walked up to them. At this point, it should come as no surprise to you that all three signed everything and took every picture.
I’ve tried to observe a lot these last two days, but I’m sure all the scenes I’ve missed have been similar to the ones I saw.
That’s why we’re all apart of a very special sport.
Matt Bishop is an MMAForReal.com reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org