UFC Pittsburgh packs a punch, gains a fan

After sitting through five hours of power-punching, kicking and hitting, I was confused as to why a UFC fighter would “tap out” after laying on the ground for about 30 seconds.

Mind you, this was my first time watching a live Ultimate Fighting Championship match. In fact, it really was the only instance where I’ve spent time watching mixed martial arts of any kind.

So, I asked my UFC fighting enthusiast friend, David Dermer, “Why did that guy give up so easily?”

Dermer’s response: “Because he would have went to sleep if he didn’t.”

And with that, Donald Cerrone defeated Alex Olivera by submission in a welterweight bout in Pittsburgh on Sunday. It was the main fight, billed “Cowboy vs. Cowboy,” which attracted more than 7,000 fighting fans to CONSOL Energy Center.

And I’m proud to say I was one of those fans. I’m still a novice when it comes to UFC fighting and I’ll never be as pumped up about it as many were on Sunday, or Dermer is all the time, but I’m willing to give this sport a chance.

I’ve never been a fan of fighting. I avoid any confrontation at any cost, so I would not be a good fit in the octagon or boxing ring.

I did grow up a boxing fan, though. When I was in high school, I had the privilege of following the budding career of Kelly Pavlik. He started out as a scrawny kid from Youngstown and evolved into the lightweight champion of the world.

Pavlik fights were celebrated like a holiday in Youngstown. My friends and I, when we were actually allowed to stay out past 10 p.m., would go to any restaurant that would take us in. All the seats would be filled with people from Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley eagerly awaiting Pavlik to step in the ring on national television.

Before that, I would go to local church halls where Pavlik’s career, like any fighter’s career, truly begins.

He won 40 fights in his career and I’m still proud to say I was a witness to many of them.

Boxing is still an unconventional sport. I won’t go out of my way anymore to watch a fight. It’s just not my style.

Baseball, on the other hand – I can watch some hardball for hours, whether it be on the Little League sandlots or at PNC Park.

Still, even then, when a bench-clearing brawl breaks out, I cringe. I don’t want to see anybody getting hurt.

That’s what I saw on Sunday.

At the UFC fight, there was blood everywhere in the cage. Fighters were getting socked in places that no man should be belted.

That’s where I have to give these guys, and ladies, credit. They know what they’re getting into when they sign up for mixed martial arts. It’s going to be a career of pain, suffering and getting socked in places that no man should ever be belted.

In a typical fight, there are three rounds that are five minutes each. I’m sure for some fighters who are on the wrong side of the scoresheet, it could seem like five hours. Watching some fights where blood was gushing out guys’ mouths, I wanted to “throw in the towel” myself and get them out of their misery.

But they know exactly what they signed up for. Getting to the big leagues, UFC, is a dream-come-true for every fighter. The payoff can be sweet, too. Not only are many fights shown on national television, sponsorships can be attained when fighters reach a high level.

Plus, seeing them celebrate a big victory is just as exciting when watching from the stands.

I will never, ever set foot on a fighting mat of any kind. However, watching my first UFC fights has given me a new perspective on the sport.

I’m excited to go another round, in the stands, in the near future.

(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter at @thempeas)