Mere blocks away from our office and the Immigration building, on 3.19.11 at Prudential Center, Newark
An international event. How appropriate. What a show it will be. One is a former member of Croatia’s Parliament. His main forte is kickboxing. He once fought before 71,000 fans in Japan. Another gentleman is a native of Iran who wrestled for his adopted nation, Great Britain, in the Olympics. Also appearing will be a 4th generation Japanese man of Korean descent who has won gold medals for both countries in judo. Natives of the Czech Republic, Nigeria, and Armenia are on the card as well. And yes, there will be half a dozen Brazilians, Jiu-Jitsu blackbelts, including the current Light Heavyweight champ. It is Newark after all and the heavily Brazilian Ironbound neighborhood is right around the corner. The rest of the fighters will be American, at least four from NJ. 17,000 aficionados will attend with an expected gate of $4 million. Hundreds of thousands will watch on pay per view. Mixed martial arts may fly under the radar for most sports fans. But they might start paying attention. The company that is putting on this show, UFC, has shows aired in 130 countries. The UFC welterweight champ was named Canadian Athlete of the Year by Rogers Sportsnet in 2008 and 2009. The heavyweight champ is Mexican-American and an All-American wrestler at Arizona State. And the lightweight champ is a Jersey native who helps coach the Rutgers wrestling team. UFC fighters include an awful lot of college grads, former policemen, the occasional high school math teacher, and more than a few movie stars in the making. Look past the cage. There’s a real melting pot in there.