AND with one slurred sentence from a swollen mouth, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s most commercial sporting phenomenon, was doused in Scottishness.

“Am away tae get some soup. Ma jaw is sore, man,” exclaimed Edinburgh’s very own Danny Henry with a face as battered and bruised as a Glasgow school playground Mouldmaster. 

Swelling smudged across his face, his nose perhaps not quite pointing the way nature intended it to, the victorious Scotsman’s proclamation about opponent Daniel Teymur was greeted with a rousing response among the 10,000 inside the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, and no doubt bemused looks from the millions sitting across the globe watching on the telly.

Given the response in Glasgow, perhaps the lightweight debutant was speaking the language of love. This was only the second time the UFC had come to Scotland, the first occasion coming in July 2015. 

But the two-year absence has clearly done little to diminish the passion for the sport on the evidence of last night’s fight night.

The saying around these parts is People Make Glasgow, and it really was the spectators that packed out the place last night who made this event in the midst of some quintessential glorious failure.

Organisers had spoken two years ago about the previous event was a triumph, and it was only a matter of time before a return was on the horizon. 

While Glasgow crowds are typically hard to please – memories of Des O’Connor pretending to faint at The Empire sprang to mind as several of the UFC participants hit the deck here – the partisan mob were kept happy on a dreich night.

As well as Henry’s soup request, arguably the biggest cheer of the night from the gallery away from the Scots involved came from Englishman Danny Roberts taking an errant Bobby Nash volley straight to the ‘haw maws’.

A much-needed time out was soon called as the winded Roberts retreated to the side of the octagon to gather himself and start counting.
Of the four Scots in action, it was Kilmarnock’s Joanne Calderwood who drew the most attention as she took on Mexico’s Cynthia Calvillo.

The 31-year-old is by far the most experienced in the UFC among the home quartet, making her UFC debut back in December 2014 after taking part in The Ultimate Fighter competition in the States. 

Scotland’s maiden female professional mixed martial artist, her global popularity was brought home two years ago when she overcame Cortney Casey at the Hydro. One win and a loss later, there was controversy on Saturday involving Calderwood after the 31-year-old failed to make the 116lb strawweight limit, coming in at 2lbs over. It cost her 20 per cent of her prize purse.

Over 24 hours later on the penultimate fight of the night, Calderwood entered the arena with the theme from Braveheart ringing in the ears of her disciples, a single saltire draped over the shoulder of the woman who has sacrificed life in her homeland to train at the renowned TriStar gym in Montreal.

There was little between the two fighters in round one even after Calvillo landed a take down on the Scot. Into the second round Calderwood’s nose ran crimson, her face smeared in blood, as the crowd tried to rouse her. She responded with some strong high kicks while both connected at the same time with what the experts told was a ‘spinning back fist’. 

Going into the third and final round it was still all to play for right until the dying seconds. Calvillo seemed to land a couple of combinations before a trip takedown with 25 seconds to go caught Calderwood. Both women rose on the bell with their hands raised, but it was the 30-year-old Calvillo who would have her arms raised moments later as announcer Bruce Buffer called a unanimous points decision of 30-27, 30-27, 29 28.

Boos echoed around the arena as Calderwood protested her case, but there really could have been little complaint from any objective viewer watching the No.8 ranked strawweight turn in an out-of-sorts performance to take her UFC record to 3-3.

While debutant Henry got things off to a winning start earlier in the night with his points decision over Teymur, the night would get tougher for the Scots in the octagon. In the fight directly before Calderwood, the Celtic love in was properly sparked off when Kirkcaldy’s very own Stevie Ray was piped into the arena ahead of his lightweight bout with American Paul Felder.

The Fifer recorded a TKO win over Leonardo Mafra within two minutes 30 seconds here two years ago. To a backdrop of rippling saltires in the stands and echoes of Flower of Scotland reverberating around the Hydro, the man in blue shorts was unable to repeat his heroics as he was knocked out in the first round.

It was a similar story for Airdrie’s Paul Craig who, on his homecoming debut, was also knocked out in the first round by American Khalil Rountree.

HeraldScotland | Sport

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