It was the best UFC combat ever heard. Justin Gaethje landed 136 punches and kicks, and of these, roughly 136 had been bombs. Not one thwack or thud was drowned out by followers.

Gaethje broke down an unbreakable man at UFC 249. Tony Ferguson took round two dozen knockout blows and did not fall — not even when referee Herb Dean mercifully stepped in at three minutes, 39 seconds of the fifth spherical after Ferguson staggered towards the cage and Gaethje moved in for what might need been the kill or might need been nonetheless one other inconceivable survival.

That every one of this performed out in an empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Enviornment in Jacksonville, Florida, by some means didn’t detract from the second. We heard each shot land. We heard coaches making an attempt to get a little bit further out of two battered fighters, yet another so than the opposite. We heard the tv broadcasters being followers, with “Oooohs!” and “Aaaaahs!” standing in for technical evaluation, as a result of that is all there was to be mentioned.

After which Gaethje mentioned what he needed to say. After having his hand raised and being offered with an interim UFC light-weight championship belt, he tossed the shiny strap to the aspect and informed interviewer Joe Rogan, “I will look forward to the true one.”

Gaethje vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov for “the true one” goes to be one thing to see. And, doubtlessly, to listen to.

What we heard Saturday night time was maybe the best unintended advantage of the distinctive circumstances across the return of the UFC.

UFC 249 was constructed for an enormous splash. A no-retreat, all-improvisation predominant occasion. A title combat co-main occasion that includes the comeback of an all-time nice. A conflict of heavyweight KO crushers. And naturally, a “Cowboy.”

However Dana White & Co. took the present on the highway for an much more important mission: to revive normalcy. Saturday night time, in spite of everything, is combat night time — even when that had not been the case for the previous seven Saturdays, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This was a return of one thing larger than the UFC. For the previous two months, main sports activities in the US have been shut down. White insisted all alongside that the UFC can be again in enterprise earlier than anybody else, and he was true to his phrase. But it surely wasn’t simple. UFC 249 was to initially happen April 18 in New York, then needed to be moved throughout the nation to Native American land in California. After that was canceled, the occasion discovered a house in Jacksonville three weeks later. The UFC needed to develop a security protocol, together with closing the sector to followers, limiting personnel and testing everybody for COVID-19. It was sophisticated, made much more so by the announcement of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s constructive take a look at end result on Friday.

Little of what finally went down had the look — or sound — of regular. The broadcasters weren’t at their typical desk proper at cageside. As a substitute, Rogan, Daniel Cormier and Jon Anik had been seated aside, although you could not inform from listening to the printed. Fighters did not put on masks, however their cornermen did. So did the athletic fee officers and UFC personnel, although referees contained in the cage didn’t. Outdoors the cage, some refs did, some did not. Bruce Buffer wore one cageside however entered the cage to bellow his introductions sans masks. He gave fighters elbow bumps relatively than fist bumps.

Nonetheless, the presence of Buffer and Rogan contained in the cage — and Octagon lady Brittney Palmer strolling across the apron holding up spherical playing cards — lent some familiarity to the occasion, although the 15,000 empty seats gave the constructing the “quiet, please” ambiance of a library.

We heard every thing.

Maybe essentially the most sudden sound of all got here proper earlier than the primary occasion. Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo had simply knocked out a legend, two-time former champ Dominick Cruz. And when he stood subsequent to Rogan for his interview, Cejudo had greater than the combat on his thoughts.

“Joe, I am proud of my profession,” mentioned the champ. “I’ve accomplished sufficient within the sport. I wish to stroll away. I wish to get pleasure from myself. I am 33 years previous. … Since I used to be 11 years previous, I sacrificed my entire life to get the place I am at in the present day. I am not going to let no person take that from me. So I am retiring tonight, Joe.”

There was no crowd to present Cejudo a sendoff ovation as he exited the cage. He hasn’t all the time been obtained warmly by followers, however after handing Cruz his first profession knockout, Cejudo deserved some noise.

All night time lengthy, the sounds of the occasion produced enjoyable revelations. Do you know {that a} punch to the face and a punch to the physique sound method completely different? You possibly can shut your eyes for a number of seconds, take heed to the thwacks and the thuds, and have a fairly good concept of what was touchdown the place.



Forward of his combat towards Ryan Spann, Sam Alvey heads to the Octagon and pretends to high-five followers who aren’t there.

If you happen to occurred to shut your eyes initially of the Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik heavyweight combat, the crack of thunder you heard was the scariest sound in combined martial arts. Ngannou’s 20-second KO was a sight to behold, too.

We heard fighters respiration, typically not even so closely. We heard coaches teaching, and sometimes heard their fighters reply with a “Sure, sir.”

We even heard the broadcasters teaching, although that was not their intention. Some fighters confessed that they might hear commentary from cageside that proved helpful of their bouts. Amongst them was Greg Hardy, who in a postfight interview within the Octagon attributed a midfight adjustment — checking low leg kicks — to what he heard from Cormier’s TV evaluation.

“Thank God for not having a crowd,” mentioned Hardy, who received a choice over heavyweight Yorgan De Castro. “Shoutout to DC. I heard him inform me I wanted to determine the right way to examine [kicks], so I began making an attempt to examine them. Sport changer.”

Will the UFC transfer the announcers for Wednesday’s and subsequent Saturday’s reveals in the identical empty, hushed enviornment?

There are changes to be made. And earlier than this run of occasions may be deemed a full success, the entire fighters, cornermen, officers and promotion personnel should return house secure and wholesome, with out spreading the virus. However the UFC is again. Sports activities are again.