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Fight fans flock to sneak preview

Local MMA diehards soaking up their Super Bowl week

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Canadian lightweight Sam Stout (right) took part in Wednesday's open workout at Portage Place in advance of Saturday's UFC 161.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Canadian lightweight Sam Stout (right) took part in Wednesday's open workout at Portage Place in advance of Saturday's UFC 161. Photo Store

UFC was put on display in the mall Wednesday and fight fans flocked to get a closer look.

Edmonton Court at Portage Place Mall was crowded as fans of the mixed martial arts got their first look at some of the fighters on the card for UFC 161 taking place Saturday at the MTS Centre.

Brett Enquist, a freelance photographer and training in martial arts, was in the front row of the crowd with a camera and a GoPro strapped to his chest. He's documenting the fan experience of UFC 161 this week.

"Having the fighters of this calibre in Winnipeg is a dream come true. I've been watching Dan Henderson fight ever since Pride, I watched Rashad (Evans) on the Ultimate Fighter and it's just awesome."

Enquist and his friend Travis Linski will be soaking in as much UFC action as they can over the next few days, including the weigh-ins, UFC commentator Joe Rogan's stand-up comedy set and of course UFC 161.

'I've heard about the Jets crowd and I know they're pretty wild so I hope they're the same and just as amped up for UFC'

-- UFC fighter Sam Stout

Michael Wynne has been to UFC events in New York and Las Vegas, but having this one so close to home makes it one of the biggest events in a long time. It was so important that he even took time off work so he could take it all in.

"This is like Super Bowl or Grey Cup week for me. You've got to take the time off to enjoy it," Wynne said.

Fellow fan Dean Grywacheski believes it's the determination of the athletes and the dedication of the fans that make the sport so special.

"It's been fun to watch the sport grow into what it's become. It's come full circle into a legit sport and the fastest growing sport in North America. These athletes definitely train harder than any other athlete and that's what makes it exciting seeing them here in Winnipeg," Grywacheski said.

Nine fighters took part in the open workout to showcase their skills, physique and entertain the crowd with left jabs, right hooks and -- in Ryan Jimmo's case -- the robot dance.

In addition to Jimmo, Sam Stout, Yves Jabouin, Alexis Davis, Pat Barry, Mitch Clarke, Shawn Jordan, Sean Pierson and Roland Delorme took part in the workouts and interacted with the diehard UFC fans.

The fan involvement at the open workout even threw off a few of the fighters. UFC heavyweight Pat Barry was not expecting fans to be chanting his name at the event.

"To play the game in Canada is great." he said. "The crowd out here is spectacular and they're different. I've never done an open workout like this. Never ever, ever. Usually it's in a small room with (the media) in there, but this is different."

UFC lightweight Sam Stout, who is from London, Ont.,fought in the first UFC event in Montreal and he will do the same in Winnipeg when he fights James Krause during the preliminary card.

The idea of expanding the Canadian UFC market is nothing but good news according to the Canadian fighter.

"I love fighting on all of these Canadian cards. I get on as many of them as I can. To be at the first one is kind of a landmark for Manitoba and it's pretty cool. It's another landmark for Canada, right?" Stout said.

Stout has heard how loud Winnipeg Jets fans can be, but he's never experienced it himself. He's hoping he'll get a taste of it on Saturday night.

"I've heard about the Jets crowd and I know they're pretty wild so I hope they're the same and just as amped up for UFC," Stout said.

UFC fan Wynne doesn't think Stout has anything to worry about. In fact, he's predicting there might even be some construction that needs to be done on the MTS Centre after UFC 161.

"They're going to have to hire a construction crew to put the roof back on at the MTS centre because we're going to blow it off," he said.

kyle.jahns@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2013 D5

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