Fear and Loathing in Utica, an UFC Fight Night: Rivera vs. Moraes road story

Utica, New York; a place most famous for being the location of one of the branches of the fictional Dunder Mifflin. A town where everyone knows each other and most definitely knows when you’re an outsider. I know this because walking into the Utica Applebee’s felt like walking into a family party of a family you’re not a part of. I am Dan LaMorte, a comedian and actor, and by actor I mean I attempt to make people believe I am a personality in the MMA world.

And this? This is my story of covering the UFC Utica fights alone.

Being lonely is something I am used to. I enjoy it. Being alone in Utica? This tested how much I enjoyed being alone. My Fight Fist Podcast team was supposed to be with me but due to car troubles I ended up the lone man of a three man team.

Luke Touma and Diego Lopez were stuck in New York City and I was too close to Utica to come back. We operate as a three-man team at events. I sit cageside and handle the live tweeting of each fight; usually jokes with a hint of analysis. Luke has a powerful voice and handles fighter interviews backstage. Diego handles writing questions for the interviews and editing/uploading the footage as well as ideas for tweets. Their absence meant one thing; my workload just tripled. Or, to be honest, it stayed the same since I didn’t have a camera or computer that could handle uploading footage also I’m a lazy sack of shit.

We started off rocky, I entered the venue in Utica through the media entrance and was handed a beautiful press pass with big red letters saying, “No Floor Access.” Fuck. No floor access? How would I handle tweeting the gold that I constantly tweet from a small media room?

Have no fear, the UFC is incredibly accommodating to those who cover the sport. They fixed my pass within minutes. I was good to go. I took my seat cageside only to hear the Fight Pass Prelims would be delayed due to a cancelled fight. The fight was cancelled due to chapped lips. I’m excited to learn more about this. But alas, the music sounds the lights dim and it’s time to create some magic.

During these events I live tweet from the MiddleEasy twitter account, I also handle interaction on my account and the Fight Fist Podcast account. Complete coverage from the event can be found on all three if you go back to Friday night.

The rest of this article I will share my highlights from the event. I’d also like to add all of the security guards at this event are completely jacked and I feel so safe right now. I want them to come with me on stage for when hecklers get rowdy. I often wonder if the UFC brings their own security team because there is no way there’s this many bodybuilders in Utica.

The first highlight comes from the first Fight Pass Prelim: Jose “Shorty” Torres vs Jared Brooks. Shorty is an exciting young prospect. With an exciting young prospect usually comes a very excited family/fan section. I had the pleasure of sitting directly in front of them on Media Row. Pre-fight, their nose level was absurd. I’m talking Frankie Edgar in Atlantic City loud. It was quickly silenced when Brooks landed one of the sweetest spinning back fists. Shorty got rocked bad but hung in their the entire first round.

Second round was off to a different vibe. Shorty stuffed two takedowns and was throwing some solid combos. Brooks shoots again and Shorty stuffs but then Brooks went for a slam. And it was a beautiful slam, well minus the fact that he knocked himself out. Shorty realized what happened and finish the fight with strikes. An exciting prospect, an interesting debut and an exciting finish; mostly at the hands of Brooks finishing himself. That sounds wrong but I’m too lazy to go back and rewrite it.

My next highlights of the night both came within the second fight on the televised prelims; Belal Muhammad vs Chance Rencountre. During the first round someone in the crowd tried starting a Utica chant. I would say 5 people joined in but all loudly. It died out very quickly. What happened next was special, most of the Utica started laughing at the failed attempt. I come from a small town in NJ where we shit on ourselves a lot so it really resonated with me. This crowd is fantastic. Not much booing thus far which is always the sign of a good MMA crowd.

The other highlight from this fight is Belal Muhammad himself. One of the most underappreciated and underrated fighters in the UFC. The dudes takes fights on late notice, he takes opponent changes, he runs fight camps through his religious holidays despite making cutting more hard. He is a true warrior. I hope we get to see him push even higher because I think he has what it takes to be appreciated by most fans. Sure he looks like a Sacha Baron Cohen character, but he’s still one of the most quality fighters and humans in the league.

The next highlight comes from the first fight on the main card. Specifically, Smilin’ Sam Alvey. This was the first time I’ve been able to work an event where he’s fighting. It was fun to watch from the start. He walked out, as he often does, to Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” and the entire arena broke out into a karaoke party. As media you’re not allowed to show emotion and this one was tough, I so badly wanted to sing along. It’s such a catchy tune.

The fight itself had some flashes of excitement but overall was slow. Alvey did a good job making Gian Villante fight how he wanted him to fight. He literally never stops smiling. It must be insane to get hit so hard from a guy that looks that happy. He always looks like he just got enough tickets for a big prize from Chuck-E-Cheese. The coolest moment though? Alvey took about 6 minutes to walk back to the locker rooms because he was taking pictures and shaking hands with every fan possible. Seeing someone enjoy what they do so much is always inspiring. It inspired me to tweet. That’s about it. I already like what I do.

At this point I am wondering what to put as my next highlight. At the moment of this exact word being typed we are approaching the co-main event. I will leave two moments that I really liked. The first was just pure fight art.

Julio Arce put on a damn display. Kept his opponent aggravated the entire fight. He utilized the front leg kick to get the separation he needed the entire fight which also resulted in Teymur’s timing being completely off with lots of inaccurate strikes. Then don’t even get me started on that choke. One of the most vicious chokes I can recall in recent memory. He kept cranking it until blood was pouring out of cuts I didn’t even know existed on Teymur’s face.

The other cool moment was in the Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz fight. Daniel landed a kick to the face and Harris said “Good Shot” and then Harris landed a knee right after and said “You too!” Oh the simplicity of the fight game. I love it. Mutual respect is something that comedians like to pretend to have for one another. We’re not nearly as cool and compassionate as fighters.

I can’t pass over Gregor Gillespie without talking about how amazing he is. This is the first of main “co-main” and future “main” events for him. He is a beast, his level changes are some of the best. He keeps his opponent guessing which means he beats you psychically and mentally as well. But I can’t talk about him for too long because Jimmie Rivera is currently walking to the Octagon. Jimmie has become a friend of mine, he was the first ever UFC fighter to come on Fight Fist. He’s been on twice and we’ve done other podcasts together. This is the most nervous I’ve ever been for a fight. My stomach is literally turning. The next paragraph will be written after the fight is over. God my fingers are crossed, my toes are crossed, and I assume some of my arteries are crossed as well but that’s more of a me problem.

Well that was unfortunate. I do not want to comment further on the main event because I am truly upset at the result. Jimmie is still my guy and a great fucking fighter. Such a weird ending to a great fight card. Thanks as always to the UFC for letting me come and cover these fights. Utica is pretty cool after all. This Thursday I will be at Madison Square Garden covering the new PFL so you’ll hear from me then.

Love you guys!

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