As you step past the bouncers and ticket takers, the thump of the speakers and the flash of the lights overwhelm your senses. The anticipation in the air is palpable. After ordering a drink at the bar, you slip through the crowd and find a place to relax as you await the start of the event. Looking around at the status of most of the crowd, it’s hard to believe that you are in Managua and even harder to believe that they have all come to something like this.
Suddenly, the lights dim, the music fades, and a spotlight centers on a well-dressed man with a microphone in the center of the cage. After welcoming the crowd, he announces the first contender as music starts to build. You feel a vicarious rush of adrenaline as a hooded figure, surrounded by a group of men, makes his way through the crowd towards the cage. The scene repeats itself from the other side of the room. The referee announces the rules, the men touch gloves and the fight is on.
The caliber of the fighters is as surprisingly high as the level of production of the event. You are immediately swept up in the cheers from the crowd. After three rounds of punches, kicks, takedowns, and submission attempts, the fight is over and the judges make a decision. You revel in the excitement and grab another drink at the bar as you await the beginning of the next fight.
Five Fights Later
After a total of five fights the night comes to a close. It’s late, but as you grab a taxi outside of the discoteque your adrenaline is still high. Overall, the experience was fantastic. Between entertaining fights, conversations with interesting people from all over the world, an exciting atmosphere, and delicious drinks from an open bar, you head back to your hotel looking forward to your next opportunity to do it all over again.
The Hidden Gem of Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is still a young sport in Nicaragua, but it is growing rapidly. Professional fights are held in casinos, discoteques, and stadiums throughout Managua, the country’s capital city. And they are surprisingly well produced, high level events given the city’s less than stellar reputation relative other capital cities throughout Latin America. When tourists come to Nicaragua, they generally flock to San Juan del Sur, a renowned surfing town or Granada and Leon, two beautiful colonial cities, with Spanish architecture and design. However, Managua is too often overlooked. And fight nights are one of its hidden gems.
Famous People & Top Notch Venues
Fights in Managua are not at all what you would expect. It often conjures up images of two brutes duking it out in a dark, dirty room surrounded by illicit betting and shady characters. In reality, however, they are well-planned, high-class events that bring out some of the country’s movers and shakers. Many times you can catch a glimpse of famous Nicaraguan actors, actresses, or models, not to mention influential businessmen and foreign nationals.
Beyond the people, the event space is equally impressive. Fights are generally hosted at one of the country’s finest clubs or casinos. The venues often include well-stocked bars, food, and professional wait staffs. Finally, for the true MMA fan, the fights will not disappoint. In a developing country like Nicaragua, you likely wouldn’t expect professionally trained, high level fighters. But, that is exactly what you get. With up and coming fight schools and teams, such as the Wesley Team out of San Juan del Sur Nicaraguan, fighters are quite good. One fight even featured former Nicaraguan boxing champion Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga, Further, fights often feature fighters from other countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and the United States making for exciting fights that generate national pride.
Fan or Not, It's A Must Try
Given the stature and overall feel of these events, many people expect the price to be quite high. However, admission prices are one of the most appealing aspects. General admission is typically only $10 and ringside seating is usually available for $20. Prices also often include an open bar making it a great value that is easy accessible for the casual traveler.
All in all, fight nights in Nicaragua are one of the country’s best-kept secrets. They are exciting, high-energy events that are sure to make for an entertaining night, even for those who aren’t necessarily MMA fans. They offer a rare glimpse into the country’s higher end culture while still be accessible to the general public. And if you are fortunate enough to make it to one, be sure to stick around for a few minutes after the fights. Fighters often hang around in the crowd and love to talk to fans, which is a great opportunity to meet new people, practice your Spanish, and get an autograph on your ticket stub to take home as a souvenir.