Fight club

Why Bostonians can’t get their smackdown fix
By JONATHAN SEITZ  |  July 23, 2008

Quentin "Rampage" Jackson
It’s Saturday night and I’m looking for a fight. More specifically, I’m looking for the UFC86 pay-per-view, a July 5 Mixed Martial Arts showdown between light-heavyweight champion Quentin “Rampage” Jackson and up-and-comer Forrest Griffin, but it doesn’t seem to be on anywhere. What’s it take to see someone get their ass kicked around here?

The UFC will occasionally broadcast one of its fights on cable — usually on Spike — but most of its live fights are offered exclusively on PPV. While you can purchase those fights from your cable or satellite service for about $45, bars offer an opportunity to see the action at a cheaper price ($5–10 covers are the norm), as well as a group experience that you don’t get with your couch and a bag of Doritos.

For a time, UFC PPV events were shown regularly at Hooters in Boston and at the Good Time Emporium in Somerville. Unfortunately for MMA fans (as well as admirers of skimpy orange short shorts), the Hooters went of business this past year, while the Good Time Emporium’s lease ran out at the end of June. Some bars, like the Sports Depot in Allston, do still occasionally host fights for a $5 cover, but of the scant five locations in Massachusetts that showed UFC86 (according to a list on the UFC Web site), the closest one to Boston was in Malden.

Unlike residential PPV sales, a bar wishing to broadcast a UFC production must deal with Joe Hand Promotions, which handles all commercial UFC sales in the US. A contract with Joe Hand, which provides the right to show the fight as well as materials to promote it, ranges anywhere from around $1000 for most bars, to upward of $10,000 for casinos and other large establishments. Most charge a cover to make up the cost, but even then, some can’t handle that kind of up-front commitment for a fight that takes place on a Saturday.

The fights tend to sell better in suburban areas, rather than in big cities, says Hand. “People aren’t going to sit in a bar [on a Saturday] to watch a sporting event. It’s more of a date night, or a movie night.”

That makes sense. At the Dockside, located near the end of the Orange Line in Malden, UFC events are shown monthly and the crowds have always come out, says manager Larry Dennehy. Even on the barbecue-and-road-trip-heavy Fourth of July weekend, UFC86 actually had the Dockside filled almost to capacity.

“You get the same crowd coming every month,” says Dennehy. “It’s like you know these guys.”

If the UFC starts to cater to more than just a niche market — those same guys showing up every month — you may actually start seeing it all over the city. But until then, can’t those of us diehards living in Boston have just one place nearby? Please?

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