Generally speaking, I have two hats that I wear when I am involved with MMA, a writer’s hat and a fan’s hat.  When it came to UFC 148, the only hat I donned as I stepped on the plane from Logan Airport in Boston en route to Las Vegas was that of a fan.

This fight card was entangled into what was being called “International Fight Week” by the UFC, with the biggest event other than the fights itself coming from the Fan Expo put on by the promotion.

It was my second Fan Expo, as I previously attended the Saturday session of the one held back in Aug. 2010 in my hometown of Boston.  Because of this, I had a relatively good idea of what I was walking into; however, with this event being held in the city that the promotion calls home and the whole International Fight Week build up tied in, I knew that it would be bigger than the Boston edition.

When you first step onto the floor of one of these expos, it is hard to not be overwhelmed with everything going on.  It is almost as if you are walking into a carnival, except rather than waiting in line for roller coasters and rides, you are waiting in line to meet your favorite fighter, take a picture and score an autograph.  This scenario creates an interesting dilemma for fans—wait in line for up to two hours for 30 seconds with a star like Georges St-Pierre, or find a shorter line and spend the same amount of time with a lesser fighter.

Coach Greg Jackson (R) and The MMA Corner's Brian McKenna (Brian McKenna/The MMA Corner)

After arriving and spending the first 15 minutes or so walking around and getting my feet wet, it became extremely clear that if you did not have a fighter or celebrity at your booth, people did not pay any attention to you.  Sure, protein supplement bars and random t-shirt companies that you have never heard of have their place in the sport, but if there wasn’t a fighter at the booth to chat up the fans, there wasn’t much going on.

Personally, I am not up for waiting in line for over an hour even if it means getting an autograph and picture with GSP or Jon Jones, and I was able to get some serious bang for my buck—or for my time in this scenario.  I noticed a quick-moving line to get a picture with The Ultimate Fighter finalist Michael Johnson and then another picture with legendary coach Greg Jackson, which took less than five minutes from when I entered the line.  I found another rapidly-moving line across the aisle after overhearing people at a motorcycle booth saying that Ian McCall would be at their booth at a certain time.  Strategically, I was able to get there right as he did and avoided the rush to land a picture and autograph from “Uncle Creepy.”

UFC flyweight Louis Gaudinot (R) and McKenna (Brian McKenna/The MMA Corner)

But from my experience, the Headrush booth knew exactly what they were doing.  Rather than having one or two people there, they had five.  While the fighters were by no means the best on the planet, they were pretty darn good.  I waited in line for approximately 30 minutes and was able to get a picture and an autograph with Francisco Rivera, Scott Jorgensen, Brad Tavares, Chandella Powell and Louis Gaudinot.

The other big event going on at the Mandalay Bay was the weigh-ins for UFC 148.  I had never attended weigh-ins before, but had seen my fair share of them on YouTube and other video sources.  I was a little disappointed in the organization, as I knew that as a card-carrying member of the UFC Fight Club, I would be able to get priority seating.  Well, due to the volume of people that turned up at the event, these privileges were pretty much null and void.  Only after waiting in a cluster of a line did I finally see a small sign that said that members should go to the right, where I eventually was able to make it in.  It could have been very simple for Fight Club members to receive their privileges, however nobody felt the need to hang several big signs.

UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit (R) and McKenna (Brian McKenna/The MMA Corner)

After the weigh-ins, the Expo was starting to wind down, and due to the 8,000 fans that attended the weigh-ins rather than remaining on the Expo floor, it was time to go back and check out the lines one last time to see what final autograph you could score before the doors closed on the day.  Due to the success I had at the Headrush booth earlier, I returned there and found UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit with a very reasonable line.  After about another half-hour wait, I had my picture and an autograph with the champ, along with the same from Joey Gambino, who was also at the booth.

The UFC only puts on a Fan Expo a couple of times a year, and if you have the ability to get yourself out to one of them, do it.  It is a great way to surround yourself with the buzz of the event, along with hanging out with some nice people.  All of this, and you’re able to land some pictures and autographs with those who you root for and cheer at a very reasonable price.  Tickets for the Expo were just 40 dollars for either just Friday or Saturday, or 60 dollars for the two-day pass.  Considering a lot of the fighters’ autographs can be found on EBay for about that price, the rate for the ticket is more than reasonable considering I was able to walk out of the event with seven fighter autographs and ten pictures.  Overall, it is a fun event, and if you have the opportunity to attend one, you should definitely do so.

Top photo: Fans wait in line for their chance to meet, get an autograph, and take a picture with Wanderlei Silva (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.