Anyone who’s seen a UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) walkout knows that “walk” is the wrong word to apply to the entrance ritual. “Strut,” “stalk,” “dance,” “bounce” or “stride” would all be much better ways to describe the ways in which fighters move down the aisle towards the octagon.
The music that fighters choose varies as much as the physicality of their entrance. From rap tunes that have relate-able stories to metal and hip hop songs that are near battle cries, moods are set, crowds are hyped and a visceral sport becomes spectacular entertainment.
While there are rules governing the fights — everything from length of round, type of mouth guard and the combat itself — there’s very few regulations about walkout music. What inspires the sounds that fighters pick? Hive spoke with six fighters — five fighting in Saturday’s UFC 160 and one from UFC 161 — who shared their thoughts about walk outs, work outs and the music they play-to win.
Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt
Walkout Song: Public Enemy, “Welcome to the Terrordome”
Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt was, literally, sitting on his butt, soles of his feet together and knees akimbo, when Hive reached him on Skype. He was in New Zealand, waiting for a visa mishap to resolve, so he could get to Vegas for the fight. Walkout music, while important, was not at the top of his list of concerns.
“I use all sorts of different music…it depends on where I’m at,” he said. Hunt bases his walkout choice on “What I’m feeling good with … how I’m feeling over the training, what I like listening to in the car at the time.” Right now, Hunt is listening to Eminem and “jammin’” Public Enemy, one of his favorite bands. “I like listening to [“Welcome to the Terrordome”], things like that.” But, he rattles off several other bands ranging from Metallica to Billy Idol as options for training, something that puts him “right into the grind.”
He’s been playing Gospel music while cruising in the car. “I’ve been lately listening to a lot of church.” It keeps him calm, he says, as do smoother songs. “One of my favorite kinds of music is slow jams, you know, I like listening to Guy.”
Walkout Song: Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again”
TJ Grant was not even born when White Snake first released “Here I go Again” in 1982, but, “I’m undefeated with White Snake,” he said. So, “of course”, he said, it’s his walkout. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”
He decided on the song after seeing boxer Micky Ward walk out to it in 2002. Then the movie Old School “really brought it back … but I’ve always liked it.” Unlike many fighters, Grant doesn’t listen to music when he runs. “I’m just kinda too lazy to go and buy the thing to strap my iPod to my arm,” he said, laughing.
He can’t name all the music on his iPod, or the iPods that teammates use to blast songs at the gym. He trains to Metallica, pop, rap, old school. Clearly he spends a lot of time in the gym because the mix, “almost gets boring after a while, ‘cause I hear the same stuff.” In some cases, the repetitiveness crosses the line from boring into annoying. Drake’s “The Motto” is, “unbelievably annoying…because I hear it way too many times a day.” But Grant admits that he still doesn’t plan to bring his own music to the gym. Until he does, the man who has “a thing” for music from the ’70s and ’80s is just going to have to do his reps to rap.
Walkout Song: Tupac, “All Eyes on Me”
KJ Noons likes to switch it up. He’s entered the arena to both reggae and rap and once, when he was boxing, he told the DJ that he “didn’t care, pick something.” The DJ picked country music. Noons just made another switch as well: the Strikeforce fighter recently moved to the UFC.
His walkout song, he said, will be one that’s “pretty cool…gets you pumped up.” He’s thinking Tupac’s “All Eyes on Me,” but wasn’t ready to firmly commit to it for his first UFC fight. In the UFC, “you pick whatever you want” Noons said. And a walkout shows “what kind of story people want to tell about themselves.” For Noons, that holds true with Tupac’s song: “Yeah! All eyes on me, watching me. My fight! My show!” Noons declared over the phone.
At the gym Noons doesn’t wear earphones but the background of hip hop, rap and house music that has a high beat, gets him going, and wakes him up. For running and hitting weights, Noons does like to listen to music but lets Pandora pick for him. Right now, his top pick is 2 Chainz, followed by “Hawaiian reggae,” by J Boog, his “go-to, when I don’t want to hear rap.”
Walkout Song: TBD (Previous choice: Ram Jam, “Black Betty”)
Alexis Davis once had a walkout song composed for her by MikeyRukus. The song, “This is My Time,” opens with the thunderous line, “This is my time, this is my war.” The lyric is even more apt now, with Davis scheduled to fight in UFC 161 — one of the first women on a UFC fight card. But, she’s not ready to pick a walkout song.
Davis likes older songs- she entered to Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”, once, during her time with Strikeforce. Or, she said, maybe something that shows that she can joke around, like “Thrift Shop,” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. “Fans don’t get to see that side of you…I have a fun side.” Davis explained. She’s even considering another crossover rap hit, after hearing it on the radio recently: “I dunno, I think I might want to come out to ’Bust a Move.'”
While training, Davis has specific tastes in tunes. Tool “doesn’t bring it” for cardio, which she’d already done the morning of the interview. But, she added, they’re great for learning a new technique. For running, it’s Rage Against the Machine. Weight and heavy ropes demand a high pace, a faster beat. When she, occasionally, jumps into spin classes she builds her endurance to techno.
Walkout Song: Wale, “Ambition”
Dennis Bermudez likes lyrics. Beat is also important — something that can help him pick up the pace when he’s running, like his current favorite Emarosa, works for his every day training. But, for a walkout, it has to be something he can relate to. Wale’s “Ambition” is that song. “[Wale opens up with, ’I’m doin’ it not for the fame, but I want people to remember me for my ambition,’” Bermudez explained, citing his own surprise introduction to fame this past year.
Lil Wayne gets Bermudez’s mind in the right place. He said he sings along with Lil Wayne, on the way to train, because Wayne rapping about being the best inspires an “I’m a alpha male, I’m gonna crush ya,” mood. After training, he doesn’t want to be “all hyped up” so he listens to something “real, real, mellow.” But, when he comes out for a fight it’s always something that people “get pumped when they hear it” and proclaims, to the fans, his ambitions.
Walkout Song: Juelz Santana, “The Second Coming”
Max Holloway said the lyric, “the family that prays together stays together,” at the beginning of Juelz Santana’s “The Second Coming,” is one reason he’ll use it for his walkout again. “I’m a man of God,” he said. “I believe in that (praying.)” The song also gets him hyped, has no swearing, and was his walkout at UFC 155. He won that night.
Just before being offered a contract with the UFC, Holloway was coming off a loss at the TUF 15 (The Ultimate Fighter, a reality show) finals. Bach then, he said, he went with a song that best fit his situation. In that case, Drake’s “Headlines” pumped him up. At UFC 150, he walked out to “My Time,” by Fabolous, because he wanted to prove that he could stand up to Justin Lawrence’s kickboxing skills. Holloway won his match, fulfilling the prophesy of the song.
At training camp Holloway isn’t much for music, but at the gym “one of the guys that we train with, he always puts in… that kind of fast-beat techno music. If you can’t get in the mood from techno I don’t know what would get you in the mood.” When he’s not training, Holloway enjoys R&B, because, he said, “I’m a lover and fighter.” And, sometimes, he likes listening to Justin Bieber (“He’s the man!”) But Beieber doesn’t work inside the arena. Based on his choice of walkout music, Holloway knows that if Santana and Bieber went toe-to-toe, it would be no contest.