Paul Felder says UFC Glasgow crowd was loudest he has heard

Danny, champion of the world. Perhaps one day.

For now, Danny Henry, a 28-year-old mixed martial artist from Edinburgh, will have to make do with winning the fight of the night award as he made his UFC debut at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro.

His victory over Sweden’s Daniel Teymur was the sole Scottish victory on a night of astonishing noise, colour and pure theatre.

Henry’s contest didn’t form part of the main television coverage.

Those that did, however, were the bouts featuring Airdrie’s Paul Craig, Kirkcaldy’s Stevie Ray and Glasgow’s Joanne Calderwood. All three lost, the first two by way of stunning first-round knockouts, straw-weight Calderwood by unanimous decision.

Edinburgh lightweight Danny Henry had a successful UFC debut, defeating the Swede Daniel Teymur

The UFC last visited Glasgow two years ago when the tickets sold out within minutes. This time, again the venue was packed to the rafters, although it took longer to sell the place out.

Some 10,589 MMA fans paid about £915,000 in ticket money to attend.

There were Icelandic fans backing their headlining hero, the welterweight Gunnar Nelson, who was knocked out in the first round by Argentina’s Santiago Ponzinibbio.

A Welsh contingent made themselves heard in the din as they roared on Jack Marshman in his middleweight win over Canada’s Ryan Janes, and English fans urged James Mulheron to do more to repel the victorious American Justin Willis.

But it was the home supporters who created such a special atmosphere that it had two of the winning fighters commenting on it afterwards.

“The crowd was amazing, man. It was something else,” remarked the Icelander Nelson, shaking his head.

As for Philadelphia’s Felder, whose record after his defeat of Ray stands at 14 wins and three losses, he said: “I looked back at my corner when we first got out there… That is the loudest I have ever heard in my life.”

Ray had entered the octagon to the strains of the national anthem, Flower of Scotland. He grinned broadly at the raucous atmosphere he had instigated but, within a few minutes, his dream bout was over.

Paul Craig was attended to by medical staff after his knockout by Khalil Rountree Junior

He had connected with a straight left to the 33-year-old’s chin before the pair engaged in a stand-up clinch.

But Felder’s left knee to Ray’s chin had put the Scot in trouble before a series of elbow strikes to the prone 27-year-old’s head had the referee rushing in to call a halt three minutes and 57 seconds into the first round.

It was another blow for the home fans, who earlier had seen another of their heroes, Craig, take the full force of a left uppercut by Khalil Rountree Junior in a light-heavyweight contest. That preceded a quick finish by the Nevadan for a win in two minutes 56 seconds of the opening round.

Craig relied on low kicks in the early exchanges but they seemed tentative against the formidable, unflustered opponent.

Ray said afterwards that he felt like he had “been in a fight camp for ever” and was looking forward to some time off.

“Obviously it’s gutting that I lost and I think I’ll be gutted for some time,” he said.

The penultimate bout of the night featured 5ft 6in Muay Thai specialist Calderwood, originally from Ayrshire.

She entered the arena with her hood up and a saltire slung over her right shoulder. The place went nuts.

Cynthia Calvillo lands a punch on Joanne Calderwood’s nose on her way to victory, though the unanimous verdict upset many of the Scottish fans

When the MC announced that she had lost by unanimous decision to her opponent from Sacramento the place went crackers again.

Even a few years ago, the notion of thousands of Scottish men paying to see a woman fight would have been unthinkable.

Yet a week ago, boxing promoter Barry McGuigan brought a female fighter from his Cyclone stable, Chantelle Cameron, to feature on the undercard of Josh Taylor’s win over Ohara Davies at Glasgow’s Braehead Arena. She was well received and performed admirably.

And now Calderwood had many more in a frenzied state.

Times, taste and sporting passions have changed and, while boxing is enjoying something of a surge in the UK, it is in MMA, and UFC’s slick production, that the shifts can be seen.

For decades football was the Scottish male’s staple sport.

Yet there were 15 competitive senior Scottish football matches played on Saturday and none of them came close to selling 10,589 tickets.

Of course, the sell-out at the Hydro is fuelled by the rarity of having the UFC come to Scotland.

The action can be brutal and bloody but it would be wrong to paint the crowd as an unthinking baying mob. There are male and female fans, mostly young, very knowledgeable about the technical aspects of what they are watching and they are digitally savvy, keeping abreast of the UFC online.

They follow UFC in the same way as others might follow a favourite band on tour.

They are not horrified at seeing Calderwood and Calvillo punch one another in the face; rather, they might view those who would frown upon it as old-fashioned or sexist.

Glasgow’s Hydro was packed with MMA fans, some paying £170 to be near the Octagon

And they understand that UFC is in the entertainment business, a money-making construct, which primarily serves the US market but which looks to expand its brand.

UFC calls itself “the fastest growing sports organisation in the world”.

Joe Carr, its senior vice-president, told journalists at the media conference afterwards: “The Scottish fans delivered. I’m pretty much convinced they might be the loudest in the world.

“There is an amazing support and fan base here.

“If you look at our business in Europe, if we are doing five or six events a year we have to spread those events around and hit different markets. Glasgow is firmly in the rotation.

“We will definitely be back here but there is no promise that it can be an annual event.”

The UFC rolls on to the next city, the fans are left wanting more. It’s markets, it’s tourism, a thrilling night out, a sub culture moving into the mainstream; blood and thunder, skill and courage.

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