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Hill: Olympic skateboarder adds to growing legacy of UFC Apex

Updated May 25, 2024 - 10:21 pm

Nyjah Huston spent Saturday afternoon grinding the rail and kick-flipping on a temporary concrete replica of the famous Los Angeles Library Gap that was constructed at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.

He will most likely be doing many of the same tricks later this summer on a global stage, as he will almost certainly be representing the U.S. at the Olympics in street skateboarding.

While he’s one of the most decorated athletes to ever step on a board, he hopes to better the seventh-place finish he posted in the sport’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games when he heads to Paris to compete July 27.

“It would obviously mean the world to me or any of the guys out there,” Huston said of winning a gold medal. “It is something that’s new to skateboarding, and it’s just a new feeling to be going out there and representing your country and skating for a country. I personally love it.”

He was also enjoying the opportunity to compete in Saturday’s Street League Skateboarding event in Las Vegas at a venue that has quickly staked its claim on some unique territory in the city’s growing sports market.

Pandemic savior

While T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium have become household brands around the globe by hosting some of the biggest sporting events in the world, the Apex has rapidly expanded its footprint far beyond what was originally planned when it opened next to UFC headquarters along the 215 Beltway in 2019.

At the time, UFC officials knew it would be a game-changer in terms of their live-production capabilities and as an ideal host for small-scale events like “Dana White’s Contender Series” and “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Then the pandemic hit, and the foresight of constructing a venue where fights could be held on a weekly basis started to look like a stroke of genius. The organization was able to continue hosting fight cards in a sterile environment with full control over the building and who entered and exited.

Even some major events, such as a massive heavyweight title bout between Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic, took place at the Apex. It became such a successful venture that the UFC elected to continue hosting Fight Night cards there even after venues across the country were fully open again.

Now the expanding sports empire that the UFC orbit has created in Las Vegas has a home base for live events and is taking full advantage of the facility. UFC is under the same corporate umbrella as the WWE, which will host an NXT event at the Apex on June 9.

White’s Power Slap project has found a home at the Apex, which also hosted the XFL draft in 2022.

The venue is capable of hosting more than 1,000 fans depending on configuration, and UFC events at the Apex have become a gathering place for stars and the well-connected.

Street League Skateboarding is operated by Thrill One, in which White and original UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta are heavily invested. Having access to the Apex gave the organization the ability to create a small-scale version of their arena show to stream on Rumble, with a select group of fans having the opportunity for an up-close look at the action.

“The Apex is an incredible state-of-the-art facility,” Thrill One CEO Matt Cohn said. “Everything you need is here from production to catering. All the physical builds, anything we need, they have it. You walk in here tomorrow, it’ll look completely different. You walk in next weekend, there’ll be another event here. You don’t realize this is the UFC Apex and all of a sudden, we’re doing a skateboard event, it’s incredible. I don’t know if they would have predicted this when they built it, but obviously they found incredible success here, and now many others like ourselves are taking advantage.”

‘Las Vegas is everything’

Thrill One, which recently relocated its corporate offices to Las Vegas, also includes Nitro Circus and Nitro Rallycross. The company hopes to continue building its footprint in town, from the Apex to more traditional sports venues.

“Las Vegas is everything for us,” Cohn said. “It just feels like Las Vegas has turned the corner to has become the pre-eminent sports entertainment town, and the more we can take advantage, the better.”

The city was certainly good to Huston, who was in town for the Formula One race and the Super Bowl.

Huston won Saturday’s event comfortably as he continues to build momentum for Paris.

“A lot of greatness has gone down in this building,” Huston said.

That list now includes the show put on by a potential Olympic champion.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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