The Night Everything Changed: UFC Japan

A few days and nights in Tokyo watching UFC fights and wandering through strange alleys.

“I’m sitting in my capsule at Narita’s 9 Hours Hotel nursing an hangover from last night’s post-fight drinking session. It looks like the Matrix and feels like Purgatory. The Japanese thoughtfully created a space that points you in the right direction, with impeccable minimalist design, toward blissful utility and penance in the pod. A space removed, from which I can look back on fight week and wonder what went wrong, and celebrate what went right.”

– “The Night Everything Changed,” Vice: Fightland, Sept. 22, 2014

For a few years, I was “the China guy” for Vice’s mixed martial arts coverage. It was a great gig. I traveled all over China attending regional shows, researched ancient kung fu tomes, and even got to attend big time UFC events in Macao and Tokyo.

The Tokyo event, UFC Fight Night 52: Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson, was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Of any kind – music, art, performance, or whatever. The card was stacked with big names, the fights were super entertaining, and the crowd was a fascinating mix of knowledgeable and focused, yet respectfully quiet. I was in and out of the event space and was able to interview some great people: Miesha Tate and Alex Caceres; Roy Nelson and Rin Nakai.

I also got to hang with “the California Kid” Urijah Faber and Arianny Celeste, which was super fun. It definitely felt like a William Gibson novel there, toward the end, as I found myself wandering through Tokyo at night waiting for the trains to run again …

This was one of the few stories for Fightland that I wrote completely as myself, and not as an “MMA journalist.” This story has my voice, the voice I felt swirling around me those nights, and it was honestly the only story I wrote for Fightland that feels like art to me. It’s an old story, and I look back at the writing sometimes and wish I could have spent more time with it, but I wrote it in one sitting while in a capsule hotel high off no-sleep and many nights of partying, so … it has a special place in my heart.

Click here to read the full story, “The Night Everything Changed.”

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Sascha Matuszak

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