UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson v Manuwa – What A Night!

Stu Rich - UFC London

Stu and Rich at UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson v Manuwa

Well my first UFC event has been and gone …and what an event it was!

As mentioned previously (see post here), myself and a few friends bought tickets for UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson v Manuwa which took place on Saturday night at the O2 Arena in London.

It was the first UFC event for all of us and being big fans of MMA (and the UFC), myself and Rich headed down the day before to make the most of it. We were are a little disappointed to find out that the likes of Bruce Buffer, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg wouldn’t be in attendance, however given that we wouldn’t be listening to the commentary (£10 for a single use ear piece) we weren’t going to let it get us down.

As I’m a UFC Fight Club member we received passes that allowed us to watch the pre-fight weigh ins and the Q&A sessions with Forrest Griffin, Conor McGregor, Ross Pearson and Joanne Calderwood.

Upon arriving for the weigh ins/Q&A sessions there was real disappointment as there was no clear indication of where Fight members should go and we inadvertently joined a queue with non-members that led to us waiting an hour and a half for an autograph signing session with the fighters etc. which we should have been able to skip …we were only told this when security came around to advise that there would be no further admissions and so we never got any autographs.

Still, things weren’t too bad, we did get our pictures taken with UFC ‘Octagon Girl’ Carly Baker…

Stu and Rich with UFC Octagon Girl Carly Baker

Stu and Rich with UFC Octagon Girl Carly Baker

The Question and Answer session was good fun despite someone asking the question I’d planned to ask almost immediately (to Forrest Griffin regarding his impromptu interviewing of Tito Ortiz in his last fight) which left me trying (unsuccessfully) to think of another for the remainder of the session. Forrest Griffin and Conor McGregor seemed very relaxed, down to earth and were both very funny, as was Ross Pearson who came across as being very insightful. With women’s MMA being relatively new territory I wasn’t familiar with Joanne Calderwood who herself appeared a little uncomfortable being thrust into the spotlight alongside the more established male fighters that she was on stage with. That said, she’s obviously very passionate about fighting and has a real spark, once her nerves have settled and she has a couple of fights in the UFC behind her, I can see her going on to great things.

There was real buzz in the air when the weigh-ins began, largely due to the presence of UFC President Dana White who along with matchmaker Joe Silva didn’t seemed to impressed with the non-UFC merchandise that I’d bought for Rich that he was wearing (the way they were looking at us made me think they were going to have us thrown out at one point)…

Dana White UFC KFC

Dana White Not Lovin’ It!

After the weigh-ins we went for a couple of pints at the O2 and a bite to eat in Greenwich before settling down at the hotel ready for the big day ahead.

The next day we were joined by Roland, Kate and Vince for the event itself and we made our way to O2…

UFC Belper

The Belper Crew at UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson v Manuwa (minus Roland who is taking the picture)

The atmosphere inside the sold out arena was electric and after getting a round of beers from a guy carrying a barrel on his back (costing £5 each!) we took our seats, which despite being very high up and steep, gave us a great view of the Octagon; there were also plenty of big screens around for when there was need to focus on the action a little bit more and to watch the replays.

UFC London Seats

Our seats UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson v Manuwa

It was surprising how many women were in attendance, however despite this the queues for the men’s toilets were obscene, with many of us electing to do the same thing women have been doing for years in using the other gender’s facilities. Some of the ladies weren’t too happy, but it was either that or miss out entire fights.

The fights themselves were, for the most part of a very high standard; although I was a little disappointed in the performances of both Melvin Guillard (lacked willingness to engage) and Brad Pickett (played it safe against an opponent he should easily beat – at least on paper – and against whom he could consider himself lucky to have got the decision).

The main event was everything I expected and more, the crowd when crazy for both fighters when the entered the cage. Despite Manuwa being the hometown fighter, there was a large Swedish contingent present who were very vocal in the support for Gustafsson. Although he was a significant underdog, Manuwa showed he deserved his main event status in a competitive first round before well placed knee in the second, followed by ferocious ground saw him fall to the first defeat of his MMA career.

All in all, a fantastic event which leaves me desperate to attend one in Las Vegas where the few things that were missing (Bruce Buffer was sorely missed) would serve to be the icing on the cake.

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