One by one, they stepped up to the mic and peppered Dana White with questions. The president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Las Vegas-based MMA fight promotions company, enjoyed swatting the questions over the fence like a big-leaguer in a tee-ball league.
Little Cody Hilderbrandt from South Carolina told the UFC president he chose attending today’s Ultimate Fighting Championship show over going to Disneyland. Then, the 11-year-old popped the big question: “How old do you have to be to get a UFC contract?”
Like the rest of the big crowd of tattooed hard bodies at the UFC Fan Expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on Friday, White loved the boy’s questions.
“You can always go to Disneyland,” White, who is a dad himself, told the youngster.
And White informed the kid he has a few years to go before fighting in the octagon.
Then, there was 39-year-old Sean Shannon of Seattle, who asked White whether UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva would be a No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division if he loses today against Chris Weidman.
“Are you busting my balls?” White countered to the Seattle man. The audience roared with laughter.
There was Matt Sifford, a 24-year-old car seat factory worker from the Nashville, Tenn., area who asked White whether he could arrange a meeting with Sifford’s favorite UFC fighter, Stephan Bonnar. Sifford said he was leaving Las Vegas on a 3:15 p.m. flight and needed White’s help.
“Come up here,” White said, and Sifford joined the UFC president on stage for a impromptu photo opp.
White said he would make the meeting with Bonnar happen.
The Fan Expo was UFC shifting its powerful marketing and promotion machine into fifth gear, while vendors pitched muscle-building drinks and combat sport apparel.
The engine of the UFC promotions is the hyperenergetic, in-your-face White, who calls every breathing male UFC fan, “a brother.”
Thousands of MMA fans from cross the country attended and are stoked for today’s UFC 162 event at MGM Grand Garden arena. The headliner is the Silva-Weidman cage match.
UFC fans treated their favorite fighters like rock stars. Long lines of fans waiting hours to meet mixed martial arts stars like Georges St.-Pierre and Ronda Rousey snaked their way between ropes.
Victoria de la Cruz, 26, traveled from San Antonio to meet St.-Pierre. When she finally stood toe-to-toe with the UFC superstar, she asked, “Can I have a hug?”
Only one problem. De la Cruz may have drawn the hug, but she forgot to ask for an autograph.
The day’s longest line may have been for Rousey, the charismatic women’s bantamweight champ.
“She’s the queen of MMA,” said Mayra Gomes, 25, a Brazilian native living in Los Angeles with green-highlighted blond hair. “She’s my inspiration.”
Craig Capurso, a muscular fitness athlete at the Cellucor Sports Nutrition table, observed the adoring fans hot on the trail of their favorite UFC fighters.
“I wouldn’t do it, but fans are crazy,” Capurso said. “They want to see their idols.”
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273.