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It’s all in the entrance

When two men get in a cage and fight, the music that signals their entrance is rarely soothing. But there is more than just head-banging to the UFC soundtrack.

When two men get in a cage and fight, the music that signals their entrance is rarely soothing. But there is more than just head-banging to the UFC soundtrack.

Sure bands like Icepick, Godsmack, Disturbed, Manowar, Danzig, Drowning Pool and Rage Against the Machine blare out of arena speakers. At times, a live UFC show can be like having a red-hot poker inserted in your ear. Thankfully there is a little variety - and in some cases, a little bit of thought behind the music.

Some mixed martial arts fighters have a signature song that fires them up as they walk to the cage. Others like to tweak their opponents with their choice of music. Some just don't care, letting the UFC choose their poison.

And the UFC is savvy enough to know that music makes the mood.

At each pay-per-view card, it dims the lights and shows a kickass fight highlight video to the sounds of "Baba O'Riley" by the Who, pumping up the crowd as the main card is about to go to air. Journalists who attend all the shows routinely down tools on press row to watch the video. It's that good.

The fight snippets are timed perfectly to the music, whether it's Matt Hughes slamming Frank Trigg into the canvas or Canadian David (The Crow) Loiseau buckling an opponent with a vicious kick. The UFC lovingly updates the video, just to keep it fresh.

In recent months, it has added a second highlight reel to the tune of Saliva's "Click, Click Boom."

UFC president Dana White, a music buff whose hand is on everything at UFC shows, ranks Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's choice of "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones, Forrest Griffin's "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys and Stephan Bonnar's "Eminence Front" as three of his favourite entrance themes.

Apart from being a classic, "Gimme Shelter" adds just the right amount of menace to the Nogueira walk-in. Griffin's choice is a foot-tapping, Celtic-themed anthem that mirrors the boundless energy of the former light-heavyweight champion. And "Eminence Front" is just a classy, catchy song - the kind of off-the-beat-track choice one would expect from the dry-witted, entertaining Bonnar.

Like many who work out, UFC fighters appreciate a soundtrack to their sweat.

During practice sessions at the outdoor cage at trainer John Hackleman's house near San Luis Obispo, Calif., former champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell arrives packing his iPod and portable speakers. The playlist runs everything from Akon to country and it soon has the Iceman moving to the beat in the cage. Before UFC 65, then welterweight champion Matt Hughes worked out at a local Sacramento gym to the strains of Johnny Cash.

When it comes fight time, UFC fighters all have a song. Their commitment to it varies, however.

At UFC 93 in Dublin on Jan. 17, expect former middleweight champion Rich Franklin to come out to AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock." Former Pride title-holder Dan Henderson - Franklin's opponent - will walk out accompanied by Red Rider's "Lunatic Fringe" if tradition holds true.

Neither fighter chose the music.

"I'm not a big music guy," Henderson said. "It doesn't matter to me what I walk out to. I'm pretty much not even listening to it. I'm just focused on what I'm going to do and going out there and trying to implement my game plan. I believe that Dana White picked out my music a couple of fights ago. I don't know if it's going to be the same or not."

White may well have chosen "For Those About to Rock" as well. Franklin didn't. While the former math teacher admits the song "gets me fired up a little bit," like Henderson he has other things on his mind as he leaves the dressing room.

"When I'm walking to the cage, I'm pretty much focused on what I got to do and all that kind of stuff."

Other fighters want their music to be a statement.

Jeff (The Snowman) Monson came out to John Lennon's "Imagine" when he fought Tim (The Maineiac) Sylvia at UFC 65.

It's more green tea than Jack Daniels - a song more likely to soothe the nerves than make the blood boil - but it somehow made sense for Monson. The muscle-bound tattooed heavyweight, no longer with the UFC, is a deep thinker who has worked as a mental health professional and child-adolescent counsellor and has BA and MA degrees in psychology.

The UFC checks each fighter's musical choice and selects for them if they don't care. For licensing reasons, the organization changes the music to tracks it owns for the DVDs of the shows that are sold later.

Hardcore fans can easily find who entered to what on the Internet, however. MMAfighting.com, for example, keeps track of the musical tracks. Or go into YouTube and type in UFC entrance music.

There's even a song about cage fighting - Adema's "Enter the Cage."

Sometimes fighters groove along to the beat, even if it is not theirs. A loosey-goosey Rashad Evans danced and clapped his hands as Liddell made his entrance to "Intro" by DMX at UFC 88. Then he knocked the Iceman out.

Some fighters go for quirky rather than berserk, when it comes to music.

At the recent live card to mark the finale of Season 8 of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV show, Dave Kaplan showed a sense of humour when he came out to "Tenderness" by General Public.

Amir Sadollah came out to the Season 7 finale to the haunting sounds of "To Forgive But Not Forget" by Outside, at the suggestion of a fan forum.

UFC execs got a hint of the English appetite for MMA when local favourite Michael Bisping walked in to Blur's "Song 2" at UFC 70 in Manchester in April 2007, the UFC's first show in the United Kingdom in almost five years. The sellout crowd of 14,921 at the MEN Arena went wild, screaming "woo-hoo" along with the song. Bisping was so pumped he ran to the cage and had to be reminded to take off his T-shirt and running shoes.

"It was incredible," Bisping recalled.

Bisping has also waved the flag by entering to "London Calling" by the Clash, but the catchy Blur song has become his signature music.

"Now it just brings me back to that moment (in Manchester)," he said. "It's very special.

"When I just have it on my iPod and I'm out running and stuff and it comes on, it sounds cheesy but it gives me that little tingle down the spine and I step on the gas a little bit and pick up the pace. It's nice the fans know what tune you're going to come out to, so from now on I'll be sticking with that."

American Chris (The Crippler) Leben tweaked Bisping's heritage at UFC 89 in Birmingham, England, when he entered to "God Save the Queen," by the Sex Pistols.

At the same show, English welterweight Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy chose "England Belongs to Me" from punk rockers Cock Sparrer as his entrance music. But he had already lost the pre-fight antics. Japanese opponent Akihiro Gono came out in a wig and shades, pausing for a nifty dance routine complete with two backup dancers en route to the cage.

"Interesting," said a bemused White, asked to rate the pre-fight show.

Thomas (The Tank) Egan, the lone local fighter on the upcoming Dublin card, should ensure Irish eyes are smiling when he walks out to "Patience" by Damien Dempsey.

"A good Irish song," Egan said.

Canadian middleweight Denis Kang will enter to the sounds of "Molotov 4" by French rapper Sefyu.

Fellow Canadian and Kang training partner Georges St. Pierre, the current UFC welterweight champion, also has a penchant for French rap. He walked into "Boulbi" by Booba at UFC 87 and Sans Pression's "Numero Uno" at UFC 83.

Canadian middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald has opted for "Turn the Page" by Metallica.

Randy (The Natural) Couture was all-American when he entered the arena to Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" both times he came out of retirement - at UFC 68 and UFC 91 - flashing a big smile as singer Steven Tyler screamed "I'm back" over the speakers.

Croatian heavyweight Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic turned heads when he made his debut at UFC 67 to the signature tune from his former employer, Pride Fighting Championships.

"Whatever fires you up, man," said White, who approved the music. "If it's the Pride theme, go for it."

Filipovic, no longer in the UFC, returned to his signature song of "Wild Boys" by Duran Duran next time out.

On the signature song front, Hughes, the former champion and fighting farmer from Hillsboro, Ill., likes to make his entrance to Hank Williams Jr.'s "Country Boy Can Survive." Marcus (The Irish Hand Grenade) Davis bops into the cage to "Jump Around" by House of Pain.

And yes, someone (Tyson Griffin) has to come into the cage to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger."

A look at some of the entrance songs for UFC fighters:


THE GOOD


"Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones. Heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

"Eminence Front" by the Who. Light-heavyweight Stephan Bonnar.

"I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys. Light-heavyweight Forrest Griffin.

"Country Boy Can Survive" by Hank Williams Jr. Welterweight Matt Hughes.

GUILTY PLEASURES


"Shout at the Devil" by Motley Crue. Heavyweight Brock Lesnar.

"Mother" by Danzig. Heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga

"Bawitdaba" by Kid Rock. Light-heavyweight Houston (The Assassin) Alexander.

"Ladies and Gentlemen" by Saliva. Middleweight Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann.

 
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