UFC EXPO – IS THE UFC TAKING OVER?

Carol Ann Weber

Carol Ann Weber

By Carol Ann Weber

Went to the launch of the new official UFC magazine last week, which was on the eve of the UFC 100 (I think this meant the 100th championship fight) scheduled for the next night at Mandalay Bay. (The card included this bruiser of a guy, Brock Lesnar, a cutie named Georges St.-Pierre, as well as quite a big undercard. Oh, and there was also the first all-female card the night of the dinner over at the Orleans – the women are gaining ground in this very macho sport.)  Anyhoo, it was a dinner celebration for the magazine sponsors and held at the Nove Italiano restaurant inside the Palms Hotel here in Las Vegas. My good friend, Antoinette Forte (she does the advertising for the mag), put this whole shindig together and I have to tell you, the girl knows how to throw a party!  First of all, when I walked in, she was surrounded by a bevy of good-looking buffed guys, as she was chatting everyone up and keeping the party going.  I thought to myself, “even the advertisers for this magazine are great looking guys who are majorly built, how cool is that?” And since women are still a minority in the UFC genre, the odds were in my favor. I was in heaven. I knew one of the guys, a pioneer from the golden days of bodybuilding, Kevin Lawrence, who not only was an artistic poser in his own right (in bodybuilding, great posing is essential to winning), but did some amazing couples posing with a friend of mine, the legendary Diana Dennis.  It was good to see him again. Kevin’s now involved with a great company, BNRG, and I was sitting right next to the COO, a real character by the name of Chris Riley (with a great English or Australian accent – I couldn’t figure out which one).  Chris kept me entertained all evening, and became my partner-in-crime as we found our way up to the Playboy Club after din-din.DSC_2971

Speaking of dinner, the Nove staff explained to us they were serving dinner “family style” and let me tell you, they were planning for a very hungry family.  There were tons of appetizers, like fried calamari, three different kinds of pizza (one tasted like it had escargot on it – was really good!), caesars salad, a delectably prepared herring, and lots and lots of chianti.By the time the main courses arrived (the most deliciously huge meatballs I’ve ever tasted), melt-in-your-mouth gnocci, perfectly baked salmon, and more stuff I can’t even remember, I barely had room left in my appetizer-stuffed stomach. But, the steady flow of chianti in my glass was making everything taste even better and soon, the good-looking guys around me were gorgeous!

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The next day, although slightly hungover, I attended the UFC expo and realized that a lot of comrades from my bodybuilding days have moved over into UFC territory.  The UFC is a rapidly growing industry, not just a fight club, and many of the sponsors I’ve seen for years at bodybuilding shows were there in force. Supplements, vitamins, energy drinks and bars, even beef jerky were being touted at the various booths.  Even spotted bodybuilding champion Flex Wheeler at his supplement company’s booth. Some are saying the UFC will not only be bigger than boxing but will be the biggest international sport in the world.  (No doubt football will always be the biggest in the U.S.) From what I heard, Dana White, the no-holds-barred UFC owner, recently turned down a deal with HBO – this, from a man who just a few years ago was considered an outsider with a sport that could only attract a small cult-following.  I do know that UFC events attract crowds that rival Vegas’ biggest boxing events, and UFC fighters are now, for the first time, gaining an element of celebrity.

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The BNRG Crew

One thing I noticed – and of course, is of greatest importance – is that the UFC people have the coolest t-shirts and clothes – much hipper than bodybuilding.  Lots of designs that look like elaborate tattoos, on both front and back, and sprinkled with rhinestones and studs. Spoke to Mitchell Bobrow, the guy who owns the clothing line OTOMIX.  I wore a lot of his stuff when I worked out at Gold’s Gym in Venice, California and always thought it was cool.  Now, it’s even cooler with a UFC flare. Mitch says he founded his company 20 years ago, about when I started competing in bodybuilding, and was the first sponsor to the first UFC fight.  Pretty cool.

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Jose Conseco

The Mandalay Bay convention center was packed, and I caught glimpses of an assortment of celebrities in attendance, including Jose Conseco, various bodybuilders, martial artists, boxers and of course, a lot of MMA fighters muscling their way through the crowd.  Even got my picture taken with one of them, Clay “The Carpenter” Guida over at the BNRG booth.  Met a very cool chick (did I just say that, er, lady) named Chantelle Louis who is a MMA champion currently training with boxing legend Freddie Roach in L.A.  She is gorgeous enough to be a model and you wouldn’t know she could kick your butt anytime, anywhere.  So sweet and soft spoken.  I know of several other boxing trainers who are now working with MMA and UFC athletes. See, I told you the UFC may be taking over boxing.
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Also visited almost all the booths, including Ultimate Nutrition, where I schmoozed for awhile with Neil Blitzer, Melissa Lang and their very friendly crew.  Also bumped into Candace Houston, the overall amateur figure champion from the 2008 IFBB Arnold Classic.  She was in great shape, as she’s getting ready for the USA Bodybuilding Championships next month and will probably compete in the Olympia in October.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted after having to fight my way through the ever-thickening crowds of people. Having tasted just about every protein drink and power bar (why is it that the worse they taste, the better they are for you), I was ready for a relaxing evening in my easy chair, sipping a glass of chianti and wishing I could order me some of those amazing meatballs from Nove Italiano.  I ended up with leftover pizza…

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