MMA brings in crowds, $$$

Nov 24, 2009 5:00 PM


The UFC 106 bout at Mandalay Bay Saturday night – Ortiz vs. Griffin II – seems to have brought in a crowd. It looked busier than usual at the Strip resort as we worked our way through the casino pre-fight.

According to the fight drew an unofficial 10,529 fans who delivered a $3 million live gate. While not a record for a UFC match-up, $3 mil is not pocket change.

Ortiz-Griffin was not on our agenda that night. In fact, I haven’t been to a live match of any type since Fan Man made his crash entrance into the ring at the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe bout 16 years ago this month. After that I confined my viewing to closed circuit broadcasts. They weren’t the same, of course, but did seem safer.

It wasn’t too many years after Fan Man that I gave up on boxing altogether. The matches didn’t seem to have as much punch, and the hype reminded me more and more of wrestling, which everyone knows is pre-choreographed entertainment.

But while boxing has declined, MMA has risen as the new "in" fighting game. The Fertittas, Frank III and Lorenzo of Station Casinos fame, gave it a big shot in the arm when they got involved with the UFC in 2001. In fact, many give them credit for bringing MMA into the mainstream and turning it into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

So, after observing the progress this game has made over the years, I’m ready (I hope) to see my first mixed martial arts contest. Saturday night I’ll be attending Truesport MMA at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino.

It’s strictly amateur night though. The guys stepping into the cage have been training for months, suffering many aches and pains, to have this opportunity to show their stuff in the hopes their ability will be recognized. If that happens, they might be able to line up a pro fight and have a turn grabbing for the brass ring.

My interest is a little more personal, though. GamingToday’s former advertising sales rep, Erick Kapp, will be on the card. Over the past few months I’ve spent what seems like hours trying to convince him to find a different dream. Not that I have anything against MMA. However the odds of making it big (as in any sport) are small, and from my perspective the chance of getting hurt seems too real.

But, Erick is determined, so Saturday night I’ll be ringside rooting him on to victory.

CONGRATULATIONS! Twenty years is a long time, and spending it with the same employer says a lot about the company, but even more about the employee. It says here The Mirage has been very lucky to have Yolanda Acuna taking care of business for the past two decades.

Yoli, as she’s known to her friends and co-workers, was there to keep things running smoothly in the race and sports book when The Mirage opened its doors 20 years ago this month, and she’s still there today coordinating things for all nine (soon to be 10 with the opening of Aria) books under the MGM MIRAGE umbrella.

Way to go, Yoli.

UNIQUE DINING: Sunday afternoon found us at Town Square, one of my favorite haunts. After not finding anything on sale to my liking, we decided on an early dinner. Since we missed lunch, we were plenty hungry so opted for Texas de Brazil at the north end of the mall. It’s a Brazilian-American steakhouse with a fixed menu and price, and great food.

You start buffet style by walking through the salad bar and helping yourself to the nearly five dozen different items, including imported cheeses (loved the fried mozzarella), specialty salads (tabouleh caught my fancy), gourmet vegetables (grilled zucchini, roasted peppers and sautéed mushrooms found their way to my plate) and traditional sides, such as potato salad.

As you’re finishing up, carvers seem to come from nowhere with huge skewers of beef (cooked to perfection), pork (melts in your mouth), lamb, sausage and chicken (so moist and tender), offering you as much or as little as you like. And, they keep coming until you say stop!

If you go, make sure you have an appetite; there are no doggie bags.

See you around town.