Gladiator got the axe… welcome to the Evolution!
Fans in the arena will still warm up to The Who’s Baba O’Riley and the fighters will still Face the Pain, but the gladiator man is gone, an entirely new UFC intro making its debut at UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit on Saturday night.
It’s like the passing of an old friend, or the cranky old lady down the street finally moving away, depending on your perspective, but the UFC has finally taken the leap to change its longtime pay-per-view introduction.
“I knew it was time to change the gladiator, but I wasn’t gonna do that until something new and something big happened like this Fox deal came up,” said UFC president Dana White, unveiling the new intro to a flock of media that maybe looked like a bunch of wide-eyed eight-year-olds on Christmas morning more than journalists.
White could barely contain himself when he informed a small group of us in the media that he had a surprise following the UFC 143 Pre-Fight Press Conference. Leading us off to a small, but elegantly catered, room inside the posh Aureole restaurant at Mandalay Bay.
Giddy doesn’t even begin to describe White.
“My staff hasn’t even seen this yet. You guys are the first people to see this. Tell me I don’t love you (expletives),” he said in true Dana White fashion.
I know, I know, you’re saying, “what’s the big deal? It’s just an intro to a sporting event.”
But to White, it is much more than that. It is part of the essence of what engrains UFC fans some of the most rabid fans in the entire sports world.
As with the gladiator intro, the new Evolution intro will reverberate through the arenas, and now stadiums, wherever the UFC goes, not just on the pay-per-view broadcast for fans at home. White wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That is our deal. This place is rocking; it’s so loud here, you can barely even hear yourself think. That’s part of the energy. That’s part of the excitement about being at a UFC event.”
Longtime UFC fans will surely gather more from the new intro than most casual fans. It’s like a timeline of the growth of the company, thus the moniker Evolution.
White & Co. took this project extremely seriously.
Opening with Royce Gracie’s submission of Ken Shamrock, winding it’s way past Chuck Liddell’s throttling of Tito Ortiz into the Georges St-Pierre era, and blowing apart with Anderson Silva’s knockout of Vitor Belfort, Evolution required six months from concept to completion.
It’s difficult to describe Evolution, which starts in a small gym, the floor of which begins crumbling away as actual fight footage shows Shamrock’s hand smacking the floor, cracking it apart, as he taps out to Gracie.
Liddell rushes forth, punishing Ortiz, blasting him through a wall that crumbles to the ground… all the while the Octagon starts to take shape, rising up through the rubble.
As the fights wear on – St-Pierre, Hughes, Rampage, Velasquez, Jones – the building tumbles away, the Octagon emerges, and Silva’s face-crunching kick explodes into the 55,000-seat Rogers Centre in Toronto.
This is more than just a new video intro for White, it’s a memorial of sorts, paying tribute to many of the fighters that have helped build the UFC into the juggernaut it is today.
“Probably the most important thing about this new piece is it pays tribute to all the guys who have helped build this company and helped build this sport over the last 10 years during the Zuffa era.”
He even incurred extra expenses and a further delay in taking the intro live because he realized at the last minute that he had forgotten to include Rich Franklin.
“We were so into this, I left Rich Franklin out. So it cost us a (ton) of money and a bunch of time to fix it and get Rich in there. There was no way I was gonna air this thing without Franklin in there, too.”
The UFC obviously spared no expense. Aside from paying extra to be sure Franklin was included, they hired visual effects giant Digital Domain to create the footage and famed composer Hans Zimmer to score the 60-second spot.
Digital Domain has produced effects for Titanic, Apollo 13, Armageddon, and many, many more films. Zimmer has scored such movies as Gladiator, Inception, The Lion King, and numerous others.
“This cost us some money, but I’m really happy with the end result,” said White.
The devil is in the details, which is a large part of the expense, not just the names that are attached to its creation. All the fights in the footage are cut from actual fight footage; they are not animations.
“These guys had to cut everyone of those images out frame-by-frame and do little things like the shadowing underneath the feet,” he continued. “You can’t imagine the amount of detail and the amount of work that went into this thing.”
Hardcore and longtime fans in particular will want to be sure and save the intro on your DVRs. You’ll be watching and pausing and rewinding, over and over again, to catch all the details, to name the 18 fighters featured in the footage, to identify all seven current champions and six Hall of Famers, to marvel as the old world crumbles into the new.
Yes, many of you will dismiss it as just a new intro, and put into proper perspective, that’s probably all that it is. But to White, it’s homage to those fighters that lay their blood, sweat, and tears out on the mat to be able to call themselves “world champion.”