Last week, one of the biggest events in MMA history came to Orange County when UFC 214 took over the Honda Center on Saturday night. But ahead of the weekend’s massive fight card — which featured three historic title fights and a handful of other headline-worthy bouts — three days of free promotional events spread some MMA love to fans across Southern California.
We were there for just about every moment of the four-day marathon, so here’s a by-the-minute account of everything that went down.
Wednesday, July 26 — UFC 214 Press Conference
11:57 a.m. The doors to the Novo in LA haven’t even opened yet, and there’s already a mobscene of people waiting to get a good view of the press conference.
12:15 p.m. We finally got inside and seated, and the buzz in the air feels more like a long-awaited reunion concert than it does a pre-fight press conference. To be fair, most UFC events don’t get their own public press conference during fight week. Now we just have to sit through 45 minutes of promo video before anyone actually takes the stage.
1:07 The Novo isn’t exactly full, but there are more people here than pretty much any other social event on a Wednesday afternoon. We’ve got the combatants from all three title fights (light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia, and women’s featherweights Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino vs. Tonya Evinger) plus UFC President Dana White on the stage right now, so no one’s feeling too badly about missing work.
1:15 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Demian Maia seems like he’s probably the nicest guy who’s choked out more people than would fit around a Thanksgiving table.
1:24 While most sports press conferences are pretty boring, this has turned into Jones and Cormier calling each other “crackhead” and the other four fighters sitting around and laughing. The fans are loving every minute of it — particularly the one guy who keeps yelling in what sounds like a fake Irish accent.
1:32 Almost every question is directed at Jones or Cormier, but Cyborg still got the chance to say something like “It’ll be violent. It’ll be Cyborg,” and the crowd erupted. The Brazilian transplant and Torrance’s Brian Ortega are the two most local fighters on the card, so they both figure to be fan favorites.
1:47 There’s minimal jawing between the fighters as they square off for a photo op, but the crowd’s cheering louder than you’d hear for pretty much any local fight. People flew in from all over the world for this one. Other than the Mighty Ducks movies and maybe the 2002 World Series, this is probably the biggest international sporting event to ever hit Anaheim (and possibly Orange County).
1:49 The tension in this staredown for Jones and Cormier is enough to make even Dana White look worried to stand between them. He’s looking extra pink right about now.
2:11 Even as security is sternly asking autograph-seeking fans to leave the venue, there’s enough excitement bouncing around the room that they could hold another entire event right now and it would pop off as well as any planned promo could. Day 1 might be done, but this entire fight week seems as good as advertised so far.
Thursday, July 27 — UFC 214 Media Day
12:17 Since there was the press conference yesterday, we get the week’s media day and open workouts both on the same afternoon at the UFC Gym in La Mirada. What a day this could be.
12:44 I think this is my first time in La Mirada, but it does have one of the nicest UFC Gyms I’ve ever seen. I don’t know that I’d recommend it to someone looking to take their MMA training seriously, but — as sheerly a workout facility — it’s nothing short of spectacular.
1:06 This is far from my first UFC media day, but it’s easily the most crowded and chaotic one I’ve ever seen. We have a dozen fighters and around 100 media personnel crammed into a single workout room. It’s going to get interesting fast.
1:23 Between running around for interviews and the heat coming off of the bright lighting, I’m sweating as much as anyone actually working out at the gym right now.
1:39 Brian Ortega just pointed out that he’s now fought back-to-back at the Forum and the Honda Center. Pretty solid locations for the undefeated 26-year-old from the South Bay, and this time he even gets to play the “Mexican vs. Brazilian” angle as well.
1:47 Andre Fili might be based out of Sacramento, but the dude undoubtedly knows more about tattooing in OC than anyone else in the UFC.
1:54 British knockout artist Jimi Manuwa is likely next in line for whoever wins the Light Heavyweight Championship bout on Saturday night, but he feels he could already headline an event of this caliber. Stylistically, he’s not wrong, but there’s no matchup for him that could bring the same excitement that Cormier-Jones 2 has been building for the last couple of years.
2:01 With Manuwa, Cyborg, and the Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone fight all packed into the middle of this card, UFC 214 has the potential to be the most violent event in MMA history even if the main event doesn’t live up to the hype. A lot of these undercard fights could end up as Fight of the Night and even headline their own events.
2:05 As the fighters from today face off for photo ops of their own, all you can hear is the dozens of camera shutters echoing off the walls. Former bantamweight champion Renan Barao got into a little trash talk with his opponent Aljamain Sterling, but it’s pretty minimal compared to what everyone saw with Cormier and Jones yesterday.
2:08 Donald Cerrone seems to be having even more fun now that he’s fighting at 170 pounds instead of 155. He walked right out in his cowboy gear and immediately yelled “The fight everybody wants to fucking see!” He’s not wrong, although there aren’t too many fights anybody wouldn’t want to see on this card.
2:27 One consistent highlight of covering UFC events is the food. Today’s lunch is catered by Panera and features a few different options for salads, sandwiches, and even cookies. Saturday’s dinner spread will be even better.
3:23 Jon Jones isn’t working out today. Instead, he’s just talking to the press and then signing autographs for the fans. I don’t think anyone’s taking issue with that.
3:26 Jones admits this may very well be the biggest fight in MMA history, and the hundreds (or maybe thousands) of fans gathered in this UFC Gym would tend to confirm that. It’s a huge crowd for an open workout.
3:54 Tonya Evinger started her workout in the gym’s central Octagon while Jones was still signing autographs. As someone who’s been the underdog for pretty much her entire career, the odds she’s been given against Cyborg don’t seem to both her at all, and she’s just enjoying being a part of the whole spectacle of this week. Of course, she also stands to go into the history books with a win.
4:13 Demian Maia is working out now and showing off his slightly awkward striking style. It might be because his grappling is just too perfect for public consumption, but it’s also why many experts believe Tyron Woodley has a good shot at retaining his championship belt by knockout or decision. That said, if Maia can get into a dominant position on the ground, it could also be a short night for the current champ.
4:42 Cyborg just entered the cage to do a capoeira-style workout with legendary jiu jitsu competitor Cobrinha, Tito Ortiz, and former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum’s brother, Felipe. They cut the music to go with a more traditional soundtrack, and now the crowd is clapping and chanting along with them. As someone about to fight for her first UFC title after a lengthy dominant career, Cyborg’s still more of a star than anyone on the card outside of the main event.
5:41 After everyone else, Cormier just won the day by following up his open workout with a speech in which he declared he’d stick around and sign autographs for every single fan (except for the one obnoxious Jon Jones fan he wants kicked out of the gym).
6:04 With the media day and open workouts in the books, we’re that much closer to one of the greatest combat events in history. Here’s hoping everyone makes weight tomorrow.
Friday, July 28 — UFC 214 Weigh-Ins
11:02 a.m. I was too lazy to wake up super early this morning to go to the actual weigh-ins at 8:30, but the final fighter (Brian Ortega) just made weight without a minute to spare before the 11:00 deadline. All of the fights are good to go for tomorrow, but we still have the ceremonial weigh-ins later today.
4:56 p.m. Just took my seat at the Honda Center because I feel like I’ve seen the promo video for UFC 214 enough times that I don’t need to sit through it again before the fighters come out.
5:07 To be honest, I kind of forgot there were more undercard fights before the televised ones tomorrow. Nothing terribly exciting, but Kailin Curran and Alexandra Albu figure to put on a slugfest at the lightest weight class in the UFC.
5:19 Although I typically enjoy the little mini interviews Joe Rogan does at the weigh-ins ahead of championship fights and main events, it seems a little redundant to be doing them for all three title bouts tomorrow. I’d be cool with just Jones and Cormier getting them.
5:24 Cyborg has a Brazilian flag painted across her eyes and it looks pretty damn cool. I thought it was a shiny green masquerade mask at first, but the face paint is even cooler. She’s definitely a fan favorite out here.
5:32 That’s a wrap on the weigh-ins, and I think everyone in the building is more than ready for Cormier-Jones II by now. There’s only one day left for something to go horribly wrong and stop the fight from happening once again.
Saturday, July 29 — UFC 214
2:23 p.m. Just got to the Honda Center. Can’t quite get in just yet, but there are tons of fans out here digging the UFC Fan Experience ahead of the doors opening.
2:38 The doors just opened a little under an hour before the fights kick off, but most fans are still out here either waiting in line or getting photos/autographs from their favorite fighters, refs, and other MMA personnel.
3:07 The chicken breast cutlets offered for the UFC press lunch are a little dry, but the mashed potatoes and pasta are both on point. These are the things that really matter.
3:34 The Honda Center is still pretty empty as lightweights Joshua Burkman and Drew Dober walk to the Octagon for the first fight of the night. That’ll change over the next couple of hours though.
3:43 UFC 214 is less than 10 minutes old and we’ve already had our first nasty knockout. Drew Dober put Joshua Burkman out cold in just over 3 minutes. Here’s hoping for some more highlight reel finishes.
3:49 Bruce Buffer’s suit game is silently the highlight of most UFC events. He’s the most stylish man in the building every time. It’s almost as good as Mike Beltran’s facial hair.
4:00 Next up is a couple of 125ers with Eric Shelton and Jarred Brooks. I’m pretty sure Brooks is the clown who called out Uncle Creepy on Twitter repeatedly trying to make a name for himself.
4:14 As exciting and quick as the first fight was, this is the opposite. Brooks seems woefully incompetent on his feet, and Shelton is too timid to take advantage of it.
4:22 The fans have started booing, and rightfully so.
4:25 There was more action in the last 10 seconds of that fight than the first 14:50, but it still could’ve been an excellent early bathroom break.
4:28 Brooks wins via split decision to a mix of cheers and boos. He promises to take over the division and gives Joe Rogan a hug. It’s hard to think who he could beat anywhere near the top of the division with a performance like that.
4:35 The nice thing about that last fight is it means no break before Alexandra Albu walks to the cage for her fight against Kailin Curran. The strawweights figure to put on a much better show.
4:46 I’m not sure who Albu’s head coach/strategist is, but she may want to consider not wearing herself out on the ground so much when she’s dominating the standup.
4:55 Curran is looking for a comeback in the final round, and the crowd is chanting “U-S-A” like this is some Rocky IV shit. This has been an absolutely brutal war. Women’s MMA is awesome sometimes.
4:59 Albu wins by unanimous decision much to the dismay of the crowd. She certainly took more facial damage and looks a little bit like Sloth from The Goonies, but she won the first two rounds.
5:03 We’re live on FXX and Andre Fili is up next against newcomer Calvin Kattar. I spoke with Fili about tattoos for like 20 minutes on Thursday, and he’s planning on going to get another one if this fight goes his way.
5:06 Now that the Fan Experience is over, the crowd is filling in nicely. Every seat will be full in no time.
5:17 After that last war, this featherweight bout just isn’t doing it for the rowdy fans. It’s not Kattar and Fili aren’t exactly lighting each other up, but Kattar is solidly in control of what action there is.
5:24 That Fili/Kattar fight just made everyone miss the violence that Curran and Albu were involved in. The only way I can see it going is 30-27 Kattar, although — unlike Albu — he probably won’t be going to the hospital after his win.
5:30 Torrance’s Brian Ortega takes on the Brazilian Renato Moicano are about to face off for their Top 10 featherweight battle. Someone’s losing their undefeated record in this one.
5:41 Anyone disappointed by that last fight has to be happy with how heavy Ortega and Moicano are throwing at each other in this one. It’s impressive they’re both still standing at this point.
5:49 It looks like Ortega is fading a little bit, but the crowd and his DMX walkout song are keeping him going. They’re just battering each other at this point. It’s probably 19-19 after the first two rounds.
5:52 Holy hell, Ortega just pulled off such a slick guillotine choke to win one of the best fights of the night. That’s his fourth final-round win in a row now.
6:05 Renan Barao vs. Aljamain Sterling is interesting because aside from being two excellent fighters, it’s a former champion who’s been struggling a bit recently against a young prospect on the way up. Does Barao turn things around or does Sterling use him as a marquee win going forward?
6:21 Barao looked alright through the first round, but it’s pretty apparent he’s not going to win this fight without a big turnaround. The future is in Sterling, and the future is now.
6:30 Sterling wins by unanimous decision thanks largely to some stellar grappling, but the bigger question is what has happened to Barao over the last few years? Once a dominant world beater of a champion, he’s now a shell of his former self.
6:35 Jason Knight just walked out to Limp Bizkit for his fight against Ricardo Lamas. He’s one of the bigger underdogs on the card, but talk about a divisive walkout choice.
6:43 For all the talking he was doing at weigh-ins and Media Day, Knight doesn’t have an answer for pretty much anything Lamas is doing.
6:45 Lamas just destroyed Knight in the first round. The grappling game was somewhat close, but he just about took Knight’s face off with some of the strikes after they stood up. Thankfully, referee Mike Beltran’s legendary mustache was there to break it up.
6:50 Now we wait for 10 or more minutes for the PPV card to start. This has already been quite the violent event.
6:55 The “Baba O’Riley” intro to UFC events seems extra epic tonight with the historic proportions of this card. Even press row is stoked right now.
6:59 The last time I can remember feeling an arena buzz in person like it is right now was just before Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano fought a couple of years ago, and we’ve still got five fights left tonight.
7:02 After everything we’ve already seen, the PPV starts with a light heavyweight top contender fight between Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir. It’s one of those fights that should end via stunning knockout one way or the other, but there are no guarantees in MMA.
7:16 Finally getting things started for the main card. I can’t wait.
7:20 And just like that, Volkan Oezdemir knocks out Jimi Manuwa in the first round like he was nothing. A lot of Vegas is going to be hurting after that one. That must make Oezdemir the top contender, right? Also, former Weekling Charles Lam continues his perfect streak of always picking the wrong fighter.
7:26 Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone could headline most fight cards, and yet they’re fighting next for the second bout on the main card. It’s pretty much guaranteed high-level MMA and gratuitous violence. What an event.
7:44 The first round of this Lawler/Cerrone fight is already everything that was promised. It’s like the best streetfight to ever happen in a cage.
7:51 I’d hate to be the one having to judge this fight. It’s so close and so great. Neither of these guys are giving an inch, and they’re both just so good at what they do.
7:57 If I have to pick, I think Lawler won, but I really just want them to invent a fourth round sudden death for this. Or maybe they can call it a tie and run it back as a five-round main event sometime.
8:01 Lawler wins via Unanimous Decision, but there were no losers in that fight. It’s the third Fight of the Night contender. Now it’s time for three title fights. What a time to be alive.
8:06 Tonya Evinger walking out to Phil Collins is already winning her over a lot of fans, but now she has to deal with the monster known as Cris Cyborg. Regardless of what happens, this is history for the Women’s Featherweight Championship.
8:11 Tito Ortiz just walked Cyborg out to the cage, and his head is so big that his baseball cap is almost transparent.
8:16 For all of the great talk about how Evinger has a real chance, this just looks like every Cyborg mauling we’ve seen over the last 12 years. To be fair, most women don’t make it out of the first round.
8:23 This is the most methodical and controlled Cyborg to ever step in the cage, and it still looks like a lion stuck in a pen with a lamb.
8:27 If you’ve ever watched a mongoose slowly tear apart a snake (or any other animal take its time killing its prey), you know how most of us feel watching this Cyborg fight. Props to Evinger for being tough as hell though. I’d watch her fight just about any 135er.
8:30 It’s finally over. Cyborg wins by third round knockout. It almost seems weird to say the words ”UFC Champion Cris Cyborg,” but here we are. A lot of people thought this moment would never happen.
8:33 The Rock was just shown on the big screens and got the biggest cheer of the night. Miles Teller was next to him, and no one even noticed.
8:43 Demian Maia walking out to Linkin Park’s “Numb” (which he’s done for years) seems more appropriate now than ever. Even though I don’t expect him to win, I’d love to see him take the title in the name of jiu jitsu.
8:58 Halfway through the second round and Maia can’t take Woodley down at all. As long as Woodley stays on his feet, this isn’t going to go well for the BJJ legend.
9:07 The boo birds are out in full force as Woodley and Maia continue their slow-paced chess match through the third round. Yes, Woodley is winning this fight, but he may be costing himself some fans (and money) in the process).
9:20 Although very technically sound, that fight was so slow that the crowd did “the wave,” lit up the arena with their phone lights, and chanted both “bor-ing” and “This is boring!” by the end of the fifth round. The boos are so loud you can’t hear much of Woodley’s post-fight interview.
9:27 Everybody better wake up before this main event. No matter what happens, it’s one for the history books.
9:32 It’s happening. It’s finally happening. Jon Jones is on his way to the cage to fight Daniel Cormier again. I can’t believe it.
9:40 The bell is about to ring, and we’re about to watch two of the greatest martial artists in history go at it. I know everyone’s hyped up about some boxing match next month, but… Conor who?
9:46 I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who could beat either of these men in an MMA fight except for each other. This might be the best I’ve ever seen Cormier look, and I’m glad I don’t have to score the first round of this fight. I’m guessing this is what it was like to sit on press row for Ali-Frazier.
9:51 Thankfully, I don’t have much of a rooting interest in this fight, because my heartbeat is through the roof right now. It’s truly the unstoppable force against the immovable object. For those wondering, Lawler/Cerrone was the only fight I was personally emotionally invested in.
9:57 Jon Jones just knocked Cormier out with a headkick and followed it up with some strikes on the ground. He’s the best MMA fighter of all time, and this was his biggest win. The only person who can beat Jon Jones is Jon Jones, and it sure seems like he’s cleaned up his act now that he’s 30. We all just witnessed history.
10:01 That was better than any boxing match that’ll happen in the next month. No doubt about it. Plus, Jones just cut the perfect promo for his rumored fight against former UFC Heavyweight Champion (and WWE wrestler) Brock Lesnar and then dropped the mic on his way out. What a way to end things.
10:09 I feel bad for Cormier right now. He was so nice to everyone all week, and he didn’t even know he got knocked out until he watched the replay. He may be the second best light heavyweight of all time, but this is devastating for him — and it’s hard to watch right now.
10:21 So far, the biggest downside about this fight is that the post-fight dessert consists of only the brownies from lunch/dinner along with an assortment of popcorn and peanuts. My inner fat kid will have to survive.
10:25 The post-fight press conferences are going down with one fighter at a time instead of all the winners together. I don’t mind this at all.
10:29 Robbie Lawler may have just set a record for the most “I don’t know” answers in a UFC press conference. He either doesn’t want to be here or he’s just being his usual chill self.
10:33 You have to love that Tonya Evinger is probably tougher than everyone else in the building and is still saying she “fought like a pussy” and is pissed at herself for not getting back up at the end of the fight. She’s already a veteran champion, but she’s got plenty more to show her new UFC fans.
10:38 Cyborg keeps talking about how “relaxed” she was in the cage today, and it’s terrifying to think that “relaxed” Cyborg may be even more dangerous than the usual uncorked variety.
11:11 First, Tyron Woodley explains that his shoulder kept slipping out of its socket when he’d go to throw overhand rights, and now he just dropped a Finding Nemo reference into his presser. He may have not had the best fight, but he’s nailing this press conference.
11:24 Brian Ortega, Renato Moicano, Volkan Oezdemir, and Jon Jones all get $50,000 performance bonuses for tonight. A nice pickup for the local Ortega among so many great fights.
11:28 UFC President Dana White is pissed about the Woodley-Maia fight and says UFC legend Georges St-Pierre is coming out of retirement to fight Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping because “Bisping will show up, and he will fight.” That’s some not-so-subtle shade at Woodley’s performance tonight, for those who can’t read between the lines
11:40 Former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion is quietly sitting in the crowd for Jon Jones’ portion of the press conference just a few minutes after Dana White said she was probably next for Cyborg. That’d be a hell of a striking matchup.
11:55 Jon Jones is out here giving motivational speeches to reporters and talking about how his weight cut was so good that he ate both ice cream and pancakes this week. Did he eat them together? Because that’s my kind of meal.
11:59 Jones ends his presser by saying he wouldn’t be interested in fighting the legendary Anderson Silva because he idolizes him. I think that’s probably a fight a few years past its prime anyway. Jones would destroy him at this point.
12:06 a.m. From start to finish, this was truly one of the best fight cards in history. It lived up to the hype completely, and I don’t think we’ll stop talking about this one anytime soon. Outside of Las Vegas, the Honda Center has historically been one of the best venues for MMA, and UFC 214 only adds to that legacy.