For the past few years, Dana White has been a man on a mission, and the mission is to make mixed martial arts the most popular sporting event in the universe. The UFC President fi rmly believes putting two individuals in the Octagon and allowing them to use any martial art translates through all cultural barriers because, quite frankly, people love watching fi ghters throw down.
White makes a valid point. But regardless of the outcome of his mission, music will always be the universal language. Also, it is an important, yet underappreciated, facet of MMA. Not only does music help engage a crowd and pump up these modern-day gladiators as they walk to the cage, but it tends to reveal a lot of information about a particular fi ghter.
Take Matt Hughes for instance. The 35-year-old welterweight has the most distinct theme song in the business as he uses “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. During the song, Williams sings about the pride of country folks and details their capability to persevere through the roughest of situations, both of which are qualities that accurately describe the former welterweight champion.
“I am a country boy. I was born and raised on a farm, and on my farm, I’m miles away from anybody,” Hughes says. “When Mark (his twin brother) and I were growing up, we didn’t have anybody else to play with because there wasn’t anybody else around. I just didn’t grow up in the country with my next-door neighbor close enough I could throw a brick at. I couldn’t do it. So, I like Hank Williams Jr., and I love that song. I think that song somewhat represents who I am.”
Although Tito Ortiz isn’t a country boy, he can certainly relate to specifi c records as well. In the early tenure of his career, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” walked out to nu-metal bangers from the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit. But when he returned to the Octagon at UFC 59: Reality Check in April 2006, he started rocking out to “Mosh” by Eminem. The political rap anthem immediately connected with him on several different levels.
“If you listen to the lyrics, Eminem says, ‘He grew up with a fatherless past,’ and I didn’t have a father in my life. ‘He’s a entrepreneur who’s help launch a few rap acts,’ and I had a few guys I came upon in the entrepreneur stuff I do with my clothing company,” Ortiz says. “So I really look into lyrics to thrive me, and you hear it when it talks about the war, about how it’s all bullshit and what the president is doing, and how stupid he is. I look at the political side of it, too.”
But in his fi nal UFC appearance at Ill Will against Lyoto Machida this past May, Ortiz abandoned “Mosh” for “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy in a statement aimed toward the MMA conglomerate.
“The reason I came out to ‘Fight The Power’ is because the power I was fi ghting was the UFC, and it’s a billion dollar company. I may have lost the fi ght, but I still stood up against a company that nobody would stand up against,” he says. “I look at it as you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and the feelings that make you feel something when you come out and fi ght. When I come out to a song, it’s very emotional to me, and it means a lot. Every lyric you hear is 100 percent the way I feel.”
Evidently, it isn’t just some run-of-the-mill tune. A lot of thought goes into the entrance music, and that is something former ICON Middleweight Champion and FIGHT! Contributor Jason “Mayhem” Miller understands entirely. “It’s a whole experience,” he says. “It’s not just a damn song. It’s the whole vibe I put out.”
Mayhem always makes a grand entrance and earlier this May at DREAM 3, he did it again. The middleweight, always looking fi erce with his Strip Of Doom haircut, danced his way to the ring to “Dance Monkey” by Sage Francis with a few fellow break dancers leading the way. While entrances aren’t usually this extravagant in the States, it’s highly valued in Japan. “I like to get a song that has some buildup to it and [have some] kind of an explosion because [it’s] kind of like a performance art,” he carefully explains. “I think showmanship is kind of like a lost art. It’s underrated.”
The grand entrance is also something rarely seen nowadays and Mayhem notes, “It’s not my fault nobody else does anything cool.”
Sometimes, the fi ghters don’t really have much of a choice. According to DJ Mikey Swift, who has been the resident spin doctor for the WEC since March 2007 and the UFC since September 2007, not everyone gets to pick out their own song.
“In the WEC, they don’t give the fi ghter a choice necessarily of what song they get. They give them a genre. They’ll pick one or another. I’ll get with them, and we’ll decide what’s the hot hip-hop song that’s out right now and see what song fi ts with a fi ghter’s personality, if you will. And we’ll go ahead and do it that way,” he reveals. “With the UFC, it’s defi nitely a lot more lenient, especially with the fi ghters becoming as big as they are. They let them pick whatever song they like.”
That sounds like a bummer, but it isn’t usually that big of an ordeal. “We give them a choice and most of the time, you get lucky ‘cause most guys want rock or hip-hop,” Swift explains. “So we’ll toss a new hip-hop or rock song over that, they’ll (production) mix the video and create a package for it, and everybody is usually pretty happy. And the guys are so excited just to be there and to be fi ghting at that level.”
But aside from regional signifi cance, political importance, and showmanship, every mixed martial artist is looking to make an impact, and it starts with the grand entrance. As DJ Mikey Swift puts it, “You never want to come out and have the next guy trump you with a better song and a better crowd reaction.”