Recovering from the late night of the Sunbow Celebration and the time change, on Sunday afternoon we ventured to Downtown, Los Angeles. For some reason, I've been here more in the last year than I had in the previous 5-6. Before heading to Club Nokia for a University of Mixed Martial Arts event, we stopped off at an old Happy Hour standby, Fleming's Steakhouse. I've never actually had a steak at this house of them because they've got a pretty substantial Happy Hour menu that runs every day. There's 5 selections of cocktails, wines and food for $6. Walking in, L.A. Live looked more happening than I'd ever seen it, then looking across to the Staples Center I saw a crowd of people. It finally dawned on me that all these people wearing Lakers jerseys, shirts and hats weren't cosplaying, they were going to a game! We found a standing counter spot easy enough and proceeded to down some Lemonade made with Tito's Vodka out of Austin along with Butternut Squash ravioli, calamari and a bacon cheeseburger. It was all good. The place soon cleared out as Happy Hour ended and tip-off must have been near.
Some friends explained that Nokia Live and Club Nokia were two different things. Good on them otherwise we'd have been wandering around thinking we had the wrong date...Located above Lucky Strike Bowling, Club Nokia is an interesting venue for partying and events. There's a main floor with a bar then you can go up to a seated balcony with another bar. I met promoter/scheduler/everything guy Jorge Albarca at The Van Damme Triple Dip where he came out to see the Belgian badass on the big screen two nights in a row for Double Impact and Bloodsport. After attending Dolph Night and An Evening with Carl Weathers, he's one of the few in the city who have all three Dammaged Goods special edition shirts. Set up as upscale amateur fights, U of MMA was boasting a huge 18 fight card with several title bouts. 30 gyms around the Los Angeles area support the league and it's sanctioned to ensure safety. It was a great atmosphere and I was happy to see it so crowded. I heard one of the fighters was from Bas Rutten's gym, the Dutch kickboxer turned MMA fighter with a hilarious sense of humor. Apparently he was there but I didn't catch a glimpse, next time.
With the earlier matches consisting of three, two minute rounds, the pace of the action was solid. No lay and pray over here, these were all hungry fighters looking to build their records and reputations. By the time they switched to three, three minute rounds, the shin guards came off and you started to see a little more attitude and aggression in the cage. Plus one of the referees had an amazingly long, braided beard. Of course no MMA event would be complete without the guy in the crowd who's an expert yet is spectating instead of participating. This particular guy kept talking about the differences between boxing and MMA and doing more coaching than the guys at ringside. Ah well, it was a fun night and my first fight in years. Looking forward to the next one.