IMMAE 2009 – A Fans Perspective
By Ricky Nezhoda
I had the opportunity this weekend to attend IMMAE in Los Angeles.The ticket prices were affordable with a single admission ticket as low as $15 and a family of 4 package for $50. I went with the $75 VIP Package which gets you to the front of the autograph lines and full access to the Vip Lounge.
DAY 1: The founders, Promoters, and employees were very hands-on with the show and decided to let the crowd in 10 minutes early since a good crowd had shown. IMMAE seems to be all about pleasing it’s fans. My first thought walking into the show was how thankful I was that someone decided to rent a bigger hall and make the aisles wider to accommodate the number of fans; unlike many other conventions i’ve attended. I thankfully will not be rubbing elbows all day with the buff guy in the sheer shirt. I proceeded to make my way to the Punishment Athletics Booth. Tito Ortiz was going to be there soon.
I found the first of many Great Deals at IMMAE. Tito Ortiz’s Fight shorts for $20! $40 cheaper than usual. Because of how much I saved, I ended up coming home with a signed round 5 figure, 3 pairs of shorts, signed, and a nice 8×11 poster from Tito Ortiz for $75. Tito was his usual friendly self. It’s easy to see that he loves his fans and he showed it by making sure No one left IMMAE without a Signature. For the next couple hours we got pictures, signatures and had a lot of opportunities to chat with fighters such as: Denis Kang, Patrick Cote, Joe Lauzon, Bas Rutten, Jamie Varner, Tony Lopez, Jake Shields, Punkass, Anthony Johnson, Kimo, Cain Velasquez, Cung Le, Dan Hardy, Eddie Alvarez, Jeff Monson, and Josh Barnett. Yes! That’s no exaggeration. IMMAE’s well organized floor plan and the willingness of the fighters to stick around all day meant that every attendee had the chance to meet every fighter.
I found some great deals on merchandise like Dethrone Walkout shirts for $25, Hayabusa Shirts for $5, Bj Penn Shorts for $40, Tapout walkout shirts 2 for $30, and my favorite new clothing line Bulky Boy who instead of going by sizes xxl or xxxl, They go by 2 neck rolls or 3 neck rolls. GENIUS! On my way out I stopped by extreme fight games booth who’s founders; Brett Siciliano and Ashley Terrell, have created MMA’s 1st board game. It’s pre-selling now. I’ve got to tell you I cannot wait to play this game in between the fights and make fight night more entertaining for my friends and mysef.
Saturday night IMMAE set-up the After party/UFC fight party at J’s Lounge. We weren’t expecting much, just a bar where we could watch the fights for $10 but we got plenty more than expected. After about 5 minutes in J’s lounge We were watching Brandon Vera get his career back on track while sitting next to Denis Kang, Patrick Cote, Joe Lauzon, and BJ Penn! No Vip sections like in vegas were they trick you into believing you’re partying with the celebrities as they sneak them out the backdoor. For a MMA fan like myself this was Amazing!
DAY 2: Another great start to the show. Plenty of eager fans ready to meet the top fighters. I headed over to Bj Penn’s Booth and was lucky enough to chit chat with Lorraine Penn, BJ’s Mom. I’m convinced she could sell milk to a cow. Talk about charisma. She raised 4 Black belts and the Greatest Lightweight Champion of the world. She was extremely supportive of BJ’s fans. She made sure anyone who wanted something signed got it signed by B.J.
I noticed BJ was in the VIP Box upstairs waiting for his cue to come down and start his autograph session. I went upstairs and there he was, my favorite Fighter of all time! The man who beat Caol Uno in 11 seconds, Destroyed Sean Sherk to Claim the undisputed Title, and Submitted Kenny Florian with ease. Thanks to IMMAE I was sitting in the VIP room, across from BJ and checking out the free samples from Do or Die, Caged Steel, and Bulky Boy. When one of BJ’s guys noticed I had the new Fathead Bj Penn Vinyl Sticker, he insisted that BJ would be more than happy to sign the Fathead sticker! During the next 10 amazing minutes I got to do a Video Blog on bjpenn.com, got 4 pairs of shorts, a hat and a shirt signed. Best of all I had BJ talk to my wife on the phone. Wow! What a refreshing thought; my favorite fighter is a down to earth, normal guy who just so happens to be a badass! Back downstairs we went to meet Mark Coleman, Both Cyborg’s, Todd Duffee (fresh off his 7 second knockout at UFC 102) and Wanderlei Silva. Again we were able to meet Wanderlei 1 on 1 and got some shorts signed thanks to the IMMAE staff.
Overall for the average MMA fan, this was hands down the best MMA Show I have ever been to. It was so much fun to interact with all the fighters. I was able to actually have a chance to speak with them and get certain things signed instead of being pushed along like cattle and handed pre signed photos after standing in line for 2 hours to meet the fighters. Every man needs a Man Cave and thanks to IMMAE my man cave is a MMA Sanctuary filled with great memorabilia accumulated on a Joe Schmo budget. Check out my pictures! Jealous? Don’t be! Attend The International Mixed Martial Arts Expo!