NEW YORK – Perhaps one of the more undersung elements of having a fight week coincide with Super Bowl week is that it gives media an additional responsibility to ask silly questions. It’s a sad and antiquated day when the dumbest, most preposterous question that can be asked of UFC officials, while hosting an event at Madison Square Garden -- as part of the biggest sports weekend of the year -- becomes "when will MMA be legal in New York?"
That’ll kick you back to the niches in a hurry.
At this point that particular question, which is played out on an annual loop, takes on the form of a joke. The whole thing is a punch line. Dana White’s only response? "This feels like Groundhog Day." Which it does. It certainly does. It’s like Bill Murray waking up each day in the Culinary Union.
But it’s got to be asked, just as all things must be asked when the process of asking is the game. Most of the fighters don’t care who wins the Super Bowl, for instance, but they opine best they can. Urijah Faber likes Denver because it’s geographically closer to his own California beaches, beaches he says he’s currently missing in the 25-degree East Coast weather. You’d be hard-pressed to find a story in that, but it’s good to know.
Most fighters are sports pariahs who are merely suffering Super Bowl stuff. When the UFC asked poor Alistair Overeem to don a bright orange Peyton Manning jersey and play along with a photo-op, it was like he took up a forkful of spoiled horsemeat. A Dutchman who spends time on yachts in Thailand to relax and wind down has no use for American fetishes. He couldn’t get that jersey off fast enough.
And in the subscrums of Thursday’s media day at MSG, each of six fighters from the UFC 169 main card dealt in miniature versions of The Big Media Day going on across the river with the NFL. Naturally, the fight game media descended on Faber like a gang of piranha on a dead duck.
The questions were vitally stupid, which is quintessential for Super Bowl week and makes the fighters feel good. Things like this one to Faber: "Are you going to change ‘California Love,’ or is that going to stay for the rest of the time?" ("California Love" is the 2Pac ode to the West Coast, which happens to be the "California Kid’s" walkout song).
"I tried to change my walkout song a couple of years back," Faber said. "I just tried to switch it up a little bit, but they said it’s not going to go. Which is funny because originally they wouldn’t let me come out to ‘California Love,’ they had me coming out to [Young Jeezy’s] ‘Ballin’’ or something like that for the WEC. And I made a stand. I was like, ‘I’m coming out to 2Pac’s California Love in Sacramento against Jens Pulver,’ and then they were like, ‘that’s your song.’ And I was like, ‘I know!’
"They," Faber confessed, is Dana White. For tabloidists who were openly eavesdropping on this exchange, this was good material; for cynics, it’s just confirmation that Dana White is the autocrat of the breakfast table (media of course is free to extract what they want).
There is talk about "pressure" and "rematches" and "zillions of belt chances," and Faber is good enough to answer them, though most fighters begin to drift off. Renan Barao could be seen rolling his eyes at the litany of sameness. The one question he was begging to be asked but never was was "would you like a NoDoz?" Overeem punched out at the 45-minute mark of the hour-long scrumtastic. He was giving one-word answers by the end and, when asked a TRT question by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, broke the monotony by saying, ‘why don’t you ask your girlfriend about my low TRT levels?’
Testy, testy (but funny as hell). ((And Okamoto is married)).
In trying to steer the questions back towards something relevant from TRT and championship belts, I asked Faber about a subject that has long been pressing on people’s minds, and happens to be in strict accordance with Super Bowl weekend’s vegetable line of question.
With all the speculation and rampant rumors being spread around...just how much does he actually hate mayonnaise? The Metro PCS commercial poses his hatred it runs deep. How deep, Urijah, does it run?
"That was a series of questions asked over a phone interview, things you don’t like, things you do like, who you look up to, stuff like that," he said in perfect earnest. "It’s not that deep. I’m not going to flip out with a little mayonnaise on occasion."
So there you have it. There is your vital story from the communal scrum. The NFL is a million miles across the river, Overeem isn't necessarily a football fan, and reports of Faber’s hatred to mayonnaise has been exaggerated. (Though his admiration of Abraham Lincoln is pretty legit).