On the dais where Sacramento’s legion of doom were collected for the UFC on FOX 9 press conference, there were oddities all over the place. The first of which was that of all of Sactown’s most brutal warriors, none of them clears 155 pounds soak and wet, nor comes within a moussed cowlick of six feet tall.
The other was Nik Lentz.
Lentz appeared in a coat, sharp plaid dress shirt and turquoise bow tie like a soapbox salesman of yore. He is, after all, the so-called "Carny," and it’s high time he showed it. And even with the odds stacked against him for his bout with perennial No. 1 featherweight contender Chad Mendes -- and, make no mistake, the money is coming in for "Money" Mendes, even at nearly ten cents on the dollar at some books -- Lentz stood in stoically in his first big spot in the UFC.
And you know what? If Lentz’s really in Sacramento so that Mendes can feed while he waits out Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas’ Super Bowl date, he didn’t (totally) show it.
"Obviously I’m very confident, or else I wouldn’t have accepted the fight," he said. "I had a fight scheduled already, so when they gave me the option, if I wanted a way out of this fight, I had a very easy way out. I already had a fight scheduled, and they said, ‘hey, just take it if you want it, these guys are turning down with Mendes,’ and I couldn’t wait to get it. There’s no doubt Mendes is a good fight. But I truly believe I am one of the best fighters in the world. And if I didn’t say that, and I didn’t believe it, then why the hell would I be here?"
"Boom," Dana White said after. Boom.
Where did this Nik Lentz come from? He has never even been so much as a prelims commodity, neither as a lightweight (where the joke was he’d commonly win even in the fights he lost), or as a featherweight (where he’s now 3-0 and dominant). Usually a soft-spoken Minnesotan, the last thing on everybody’s mind heading into a fight card is what Nik Lentz is up to.
But Mike Dolce has chiseled him into 145 pounds of unknown possibility, just as his coaches and mentors have began urging him to speak up. Speak up in the fight game, and hype the damn fight. To be bold, and watch those mighty forces come to his aid, as Goethe sold the Germans on. It’s paid off. Today's Lentz is saying "slow his stroll, sonnyboy" to Conor McGregor, and, in more pressing matters, he's doing a fine job of getting under Mendes’ skin.
As all this stuff is still so new to Lentz, it was pretty clear at the pre-fight presser that he didn’t quite know what to do next in the game of aggravation. So he defaulted to a very basic version of himself, and reminded everyone that all the silly talk leads to a fight, and that soon enough we’d all know if Vegas was criminally insane for making him +600 underdog in a bout he never hesitated to take.
And somehow, with the way this card has shaped up -- with the lightweight title fight between Anthony Pettis and Josh Thomson falling out, and Carlos Condit-Matt Brown following suit, and all the Team Alpha Male members running around in flip-flops like the UFC is throwing a bash at its fraternity house -- Lentz has become a central figure on a big card in a big spot that he is showing up big for.
Can he beat Mendes? Hey, stranger things have happened.
Women make up 46% of the UFC’s demographic?
Dana White, the best fight game promoter of the 21st century, struck a strange (perhaps blasphemous) chord by blowing up an old notion. The UFC has always catered to the surging male demographic between the ages of 18-34. That demographic range has always been accepted as gospel, to the point that we even sing along to the "Bro Hymn" whenever somebody walks out to it with a nodding sense of pride.
But when a sultry-voiced female fan asked White why the UFC doesn’t cater more to women, he dropped some updated percentages on those demographics that were a little surprising.
"We do, ma’am, and actually it has changed drastically over the last several years, especially with the introduction of the women’s division," White said. "We have probably, I’d have to say, 46% of our fan base now is female. Amen."
The "probably" smacks of a guess, but the very specific 46% feels…very specific. Could it be true? Has Ronda Rousey and company lured women to the fight game? Are there girlfriends coaxing their boyfriends to watch the bloodshed of Bigfoot Silva and Mark Hunt?
"There are situations now where I will meet people, and they will say, ‘my wife got me into the UFC,’" White said.
Mac Danzig sponsorless and happy
Mac Danzig has always been one of the UFC’s more rangy fellows. He photographs nature in his spare time, and he does a damn fine job of it. But for all intents and purposes, his fight with Joe Lauzon is a do-or-die situation for his career with Zuffa. He has lost back-to-back fights, and is just 3-7 in his last 10 outings. It might be a time for financial conservation.
Maybe not. Even with Matt Brown pulling out of his fight with Carlos Condit to open up a main card slot for his fight with Lauzon, Danzig isn’t what you'd call an opportunist. At the pre-fight press conference he acknowledged the miles of visibility that comes with fighting on FOX, yet -- as a sort of fight game ascetic who marches to his own drummer -- Danzig will not turn his fight trunks into a canvas for advertisements.
"I’ve kind of flown under the radar with that," he said. "I don’t have a manager, and I’ve kind of done everything on my own. I’m making a statement with this fight, I’m not having any sponsors for this fight other than my gym. That’s more of a personal thing.
"Over the years [I’ve grown] tired of being a billboard for some these companies that don’t really have a vested interest in the individual fighter. They’re just about slapping a logo on your butt and sending you on your way. And I’m not going to play that game this time. We’ll see next time, but I just wanted to do things on my own. Maybe it’s silly to blow off money, but at the same time, I’m happy to be a part of the UFC and that’s the main thing. Rather than supporting someone who doesn’t care about me."
Not that he can’t make out with a small fortune on Saturday night. His opponent Lauzon has 11 different end of the night bonuses, including four fight of the nights, and one fight of the year (that macabre scene with Jim Miller). As Dana White pointed out, "[Danzig's] sponsor is Joe ‘Money’ Lauzon, the winner of every fight of the night bonus ever."