5. Los Angeles, CA, USA
The Golden State, and more specifically the Los Angeles Metropolitan area has always been a hotbed for fights. From the Staples Center to the Microsoft Theater, from the old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to the Honda Center in Anaheim and from The Forum in Inglewood to the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, LA has played host to some of the most memorable combatants and battles in the history of combat sports.
When an MMA (or boxing) card comes to the LA area, these arenas are almost always filled to the brim, celebrities make appearances to catch a fight and the atmosphere is always breathtaking with some of the most supportive and loud fans. They say a crowd can turn even the simplest of fights into a better one or can take the joy right out of the event — for LA, one sees a lot more of the former. And it certainly helps when the entire state is filled with MMA gyms, including Team Alpha Male, the Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy and the American Kickboxing Academy.
The UFC has hosted five events at the Staples Center, including UFC 60, which featured Matt Hughes versus Royce Gracie, and UFC 227, which saw TJ Dillashaw retain the bantamweight championship and Henry Cejudo upset Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title. The Forum has seen two pay-per-view cards — UFC 199, which featured Michael Bisping winning the middleweight title in upset fashion, and UFC 232, an event that not only saw Jon Jones win back the light heavyweight title but saw the arena picked to host the event on six days’ notice.
Anaheim, meanwhile, has seen seven cards — UFC 59, UFC 63, UFC 76, UFC 121, the first UFC on Fox card, UFC 157 and UFC 214. Moments this arena has seen include Cain Velasquez defeating Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight title and Junior dos Santos ending that reign one year later, the first women’s UFC main event featuring Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche, Cris Cyborg claiming UFC gold and the second encounter between Jones and Daniel Cormier.
Bellator typically goes to Temecula or San Jose for its California cards, but The Forum has hosted a January card for each of the past three years. Moments in these events have included Tito Ortiz defeating Chael Sonnen in his then-retirement bout, Rory MacDonald winning the Bellator welterweight title and the start and end of the Heavyweight Grand Prix to determine a new heavyweight champion, which ultimately was Ryan Bader — becoming Bellator’s first champ-champ. In addition, the Honda Center held Bellator 160 in August 2016.