The MMA world sometimes resembles a traveling circus. It moves from one city to another, as the UFC or Bellator sets up shop, puts on its show, then moves on. But some stops stand out.
Here are Cagewriter’s best fight towns. Cities were judged on support of MMA cards, local MMA scenes, strength of commission and just an overall feeling of MMA love. Here, in no particular order, are the eight best cities for MMA.
Montreal — Canadians LOVE MMA. They’re nuts about it. Nowhere is that better exemplified than in Montreal, which consistently packs the Bell Centre when the UFC rolls into town. UFC 83, the event where native son Georges St-Pierre won the welterweight championship belt back from Matt Serra, was the fastest sellout in UFC history. Their fervor hasn’t died down, and they are the home for Tri-Star MMA, the training home of GSP.
Kansas City — Wait. You say. Kansas City? Have there been any UFC, WEC or Strikeforce cards in Kansas City? Well, not recently. But here’s the thing that makes Kansas City an awesome fight town: Kansas City fans support all MMA. There’s a reason Bellator, Invicta, RFA, Legacy, and other promotions keep returning, and it’s not just the excellent barbeque. Kansas City fans come out for MMA. They also have the support of several MMA gyms, including HD MMA, owned by Strikeforce and UFC fighter Jason High and WEC veteran L.C. Davis.
Columbus, Ohio — Start with a well-run, thorough commission. Throw in a crowd that gives every fight a college football game feel. Add in underrated MMA gyms nearby and the yearly spectacle of the Arnolds, and you have one great fight town.
(Getty)Rio de Janeiro — At UFC 134, the UFC returned to the second biggest city in fight-loving Brazil for the first time in 13 years, and no one knew just how tight the city’s embrace would be. From fans lining up hours before the card to get into their raucous celebrations when their Brazilian fighter won, Rio gave the UFC good reason to return.
Saitama, Japan — Going to a fight at Saitama Super Arena should be on every MMA fan’s bucket list. Perhaps that would be best accomplished with a time machine that could whisk you back to a PRIDE event there, with a football-sized crowd and the amazing Lenne Hardt screaming out the name of each fighter. But the UFC had an event there in 2012, and it would be wise to return there to bring fights to the knowledgeable fight fans of Japan.
London, England — London crowds make fights fun. Yes, they complain — A LOT — if they feel if they’ve been slighted by a fight card, but they also show up and support their fighters, no matter what happens.
Los Angeles and Orange County — It may be cheating to group these two, but together, they’ve been integral to the growth of MMA. It’s filled with fight gyms, and the fans have supported some of the sport’s biggest events. In February, two women headlined for the UFC for the first time, and the southern California crowd happily supported it.
Las Vegas — It’s the fight capitol of the world. It’s where the UFC lives. It’s where huge fight weekends take place, dozens of fight gyms make their home, and the powerful Nevada State Athletic Commission does its thing.