The music behind the fighter: #1

This blog explores the significance of walkout music. By exploring the songs lyrics, melody and tempo, we can understand what songs say about certain fighters.

When Zuffa acquired ownership of the UFC from Semaphore Entertainment Group nearly thirteen years ago in January 2001, the company’s leading men – Dana White and the Fertitta Brothers – wasted no time making changes to the promotion and its operations.

From a production standpoint, we saw revolutionary camera angles installed to improve the PPV viewer’s experience of MMA. Pretty quickly, the WWE-style stage with big screens and pyro had come down; lowering costs and opening up seat space.

One thing that remained was walkout music. Integral to the show’s atmosphere, the fighter’s mentality and the fan’s entertainment, entrance themes are often overlooked for the value they bring to the product. I would go one step further and say each song offers an insight into a fighter’s very soul and the way they prepare to fight.

That’s why I have created this series – to muse on the track selection of MMA combatants. To speculate on why one anthem stands out to a man/woman as they embark on one of the most physically gruelling and mentally demanding tests of their life.

#1 Eminence Front – The Who (Stephen Bonnar)

This track is a textbook example of how effectively walkout music can capture and advance the personality or character of an MMA fighter.

‘Eminence Front’ depicts a distant and surreal view of the human existence. Its lyrics ridicule the superficial and trivial nature of ‘the high life’, as well as the vices its users abuse; Peter Townshend (writer and singer) even introduced the tune by saying: “This song is about what happens when you take too much white powder.”  In an amusing paradox, “Eminence Front” accuses human people of adopting immoral values; before inviting the listener to indulge in the very same concept. It is provocative; complex; and funny.

The mix of absurdity and indulgence perfectly matches the essence of Patrick Bateman, protagonist of the American Psycho franchise, whose lavish taste, penthouse apartment and drug-fuelled rampages represent the ups and downs of ‘the high life’. This happens to be the same American Psycho that Stephen Bonnar adopted his nickname from. Ah, you see, it comes full circle.

The unpredictability and aggressive temperament of Bateman (particularly Christian Bale’s portrayal of him) are the same qualities that Bonnar exudes on fight night. He comes out to the tune, which sums up the funk rock genre so effectively. An intense stare etched on his face that became something of a signature by the time he retired. By the time that bass line hit around the 30 second mark, you knew a fight was about to happen and someone would be swinging leather.

I thought it was an awesome aesthetic for a fierce fighter. Throughout Bonnar’s career, it didn’t necessarily matter if he won or lost; the MMA fan was confident there would be a fight. There may be exceptions, but I’m talking extensively over a period of seven years. “Eminence Front” played an important part in capturing that aura every time he stepped into the Octagon.

For this stellar music choice, and a memorable career, I commend you Mr. Bonnar. The American Psycho.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TtLCn8T1uI – Audio of “Eminence Front”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXfyzBZzisQ – Stephen Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin, TUF 1 Finale, 2006.

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