UFC Denver Open Workouts Rich With Hometown History

Almost 25 years to the day, the cultural force we now know as the UFC kicked off its meteoric rise here in Denver, Colorado. Fast-forward a quarter of a century and 455 events, and the promotion returns to its Mile High birthplace to celebrate the impressive milestone.

Fight week often feels like it’s finally kicked off with the official open workouts, and Colorado was certainly no different. With the first crack of the glove against the mitt ringing through the crisp mountain air, the celebration was underway from Denver’s EXDO Event Center.

“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung was the first to the stage, and despite some time away from the game, was greeted a raucous applause you’d sooner expect in his native land. Looking as relaxed as if he lived down the street, Zombie and his sizable entourage basked in the Western welcome.

Looking particularly strong and shredded, co-main competitor Mike Perry was next to feel the adulation…save for a lone, vocal heckler who routinely shouted praise for his opponent, Cowboy Cerrone. Perry, however, handled it with good humor; dropping a freestyle rhyme, showing the move he would use to knock out Cowboy, and cracking back as he left the stage “I appreciate you Denver, thank you very much…except for that guy!”

In the stuff that dreams are made of, 20-year old Maycee Barber got to perform her first UFC open workout in front of her local brethren, and will make her promotional debut on the historic 25th Anniversary card on Saturday. Unable to contain her beaming smile throughout, the gravity of the moment was not lost on her. ”This is where I belong,” she explained. “I’m so excited to be able to do it here in Colorado, because this is my home.”

Colorado native Raquel Pennington was next, and of all the world-class athletes of the afternoon, appeared the most at ease in the thin air that results from such steep elevation. Her movements looked crisp and her demeanor relaxed. She concluded the workout giving a striking and kicking clinic to two children from the audience along with fiancée Tecia Torres.

Another fighter who has been gone too long, Yair Rodriguez, was greeted with the same warm welcome of his main event opponent. Radiating an almost uncharacteristic calm, EL Pantera’s time on the stage was as much a celebration as it was a workout.

“I really appreciate you guys, honestly. I know its been a long wait. A lot of stuff has happened in my life and my career lately, but I promise you, I’m a new guy.”

One fighter who was less acclimated to working out in the thin air was Donald Cerrone, who opted to spend his allotted time mingling with fans, taking pictures and having fun. For other fighters, this might be regarded as anticlimactic, but this is Cowboy, and when he entered the room, it was clear which fighter had the most fans in the room. Splitting his time between New Mexico and Colorado, the local fans claim him as their own.

As the lights came up and the stage came down, Cowboy waited for each and every patient fan in the line snaking around the room of those hoping for a little face time with one of the most storied veterans of the promotion. In a fight week teeming with history, it seemed blissfully appropriate.

Steve Latrell is a writer and producer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheUFSteve



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