Ben Fowlkes takes it back to UFC Japan 1

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                                Ben Fowkles takes it back to UFC Japan 1

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                    <p>Tomorrow night there is an awesome UFC card in Japan. However, long ago, back even before TUF 1, the UFC had its first show in Japan.</p>

Ben Fowlkes interviewed a number of MMA stars on what it was like.

Tito Ortiz:

"Me and Liddell were teammates and friends...I thought. I mean, usually when you stay at someone’s house and train together for weeks you have a friendship there."

Chuck Liddell

"I knew him, yeah. We knew each other. But the thing with him is, we didn’t hang out. ...He still makes it sound like we were tight buddies, but he didn’t hang out with me. He didn’t call me to go out. He didn’t call to invite me to barbecues or invite me to a movie. He called when he needed something."

"I helped him spar one time for Yuki Kondo, I thin. He quit halfway through the sparring session because I was hitting him too much."

"I remember I kept kicking (UFC Japan Jeff Monson) in the leg, trying to get him to bring his hands down so I could kick him in the head, but he wouldn’t bring his hands down. But I won the fight, even though I didn’t get to knock him out. He told me he went to the hospital like a week later to see if I broke his leg, because his leg was still hurting so bad."

Dennis Halman

"We all made weight down in the locker room on a regular scale. When we wanted to check our weight on the official scale we asked this [SEG employee] named Paula, and she said, ‘Okay, it’s up in my room.’ Which was, you know, kind of weird."

"We go up there and it’s a freaking bathroom scale. Not only that, it’s all tweaked. We were all over [weight]. I was weighing about 175 [for a 170-pound bout]. Tito was weighing like 208 or something. It was a pretty big difference."

"We went ahead and jumped on it a little bit so it would weigh normal," said Hallman. "After we jumped on it, it kind of had a thing where if you leaned forward you’d weigh really light and if you leaned back you’d weigh really heavy."

"[Perretti] was telling [trainer] Matt Hume how Matt Hughes would kick my ass if we fought again, so [Hume] set the fight up. I think Perretti had a little bit of a crush on Matt Hughes. He really wanted that fight to happen."

"I said that if this guy picks me up and slams me, which Matt Hughes was really notorious for doing, I’m going to choke him or armbar him. I looked like a genius because he went out and picked me up and I armbarred him."

Matt Lindland

"There were a lot of Japanese pro wrestlers there, and a lot of Japanese pro wrestling fans. There were sumo guys there, too. It was definitely a different kind of event."

"I slept when I was tired. I ate whatever they had. I just tried to blend into the culture as quick as I could."

"Dennis (Hallman) had had a bunch of fights at that point. He was a good veteran to hang out with. I just tried to follow his lead and do what he was doing."

"I thought this guy was going to try and box me, but the first thing he did was shoot in and try to get a takedown. I guess he fancied himself a wrestler, because he had a wrestling background, but all that required me to do was sprawl on him. Back then you could still knee to the head [of a grounded opponent]. I think that was the last [UFC] show where you could. So I just started kneeing him to the head and he took a really bad shot and tried to pull guard. I got the mount and finished him."

"I recall right after the fight, [UFC matchmaker] John Perretti just screaming at him, telling Yoji, ‘What were you thinking? You’re going to shoot on a guy whose only skill-set is wrestling?’ And yeah, it was a bad strategy on his part."

"I recall being out that night and seeing a lot of fighters in the clubs and the bars in Roppongi. But it can be a dangerous situation. You don’t want to go out there and drink too much. You never know what’s going to happen. Any time you go to a foreign country and you’re boozing too hard, it can be trouble."

"It’d be nice to be coming up right now when the sport is big, but I wouldn’t give up what I came through, my journey, for anything. I had a great career, a great time coming up when I did. Traveling around, fighting and promoting the sport with Dana and them, we had a good time."

Tito Ortiz

"What I was going to put in my body after the weigh-ins was a huge question. I wasn’t a big sushi fan at the time, but I figured I’d try it out. I needed carbs and I needed protein. At first I thought, thank God for the rice. But I really enjoyed it and it’s something I do before every one of my fights now. After I make the weight, I go eat sushi."

"I think I slept with my belt for the first three weeks."

"When I won the world title, I think there was probably 3,500 people in the audience. When I defended my world title, I think there was probably more like 2,500 people in the audience. It was very, very small. The UFC was very small, just all around the world. PRIDE was overtaking Japan."

"A lot of American fans are very aggressive. You hear them shouting, ‘Kick his ass!’ and ‘Eff that guy up!’ Just craziness. Fans in the United States show so much heart for us fighters, but they want to see us hurt each other. In Japan it’s more respect for the art. That’s a big thing for them, and I think that’s the biggest difference. In the United States, they don’t really care. They just want to see us knock each other out. In Japan they want to see the best fighter win and see great technique while they’re watching."

"There’s a lot of really fun clubs down there, and they’re open pretty much 24/7," Ortiz said. "They’re really dark so you can get lost in time. It’s a little like Vegas that way."

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cool article, really excited for UFC 144, Pride will forever be the best though, unless UFC could switch to more of their rules, tournaments, and production quality.

 Always enjoy Ben's articles.  One of the best writers in the biz, IMO

Tremendous article by a tremendous writer.