Despite distractions, disappointments, Mexican fight fans welcome back UFC

Top-level mixed martial arts is coming to Mexico City with UFC 180 on Saturday, Nov. 15, and nothing – not the civil unrest racking much of the country over 43 missing students or the fact that Mexican-American heavyweight champ, Cain Velasquez, is staying at home with a right knee injury – is dimming the enthusiasm.

Asked about whether security or protests were marring the festivities, Troy Santiago, MMA analyst for Fox Deportes who was in Mexico’s capital for open workout sessions on Thursday, said, “Not at all. I haven’t noticed any difference in terms of security. People are very excited that the UFC is here.”

What about Velasquez’s fight with top challenger Fabrico Werdun, becoming instead Werdum against Mark Hunt in the main event?

“Yes, that was a real loss,” Santiago said, “but there is enough that’s appealing in the fights that are taking place.”

Velasquez-Werdum was supposed to culminate “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America,” in which the two fighters each helped train eight aspiring featherweight and bantamweight contestants.

The finales for the show are on the fight card for UFC 180, with bantamweights Alejandro Pérez and José Alberto Quiñónez, and featherweights Yair Rodríguez and Leonardo Morales facing off in the octagon. All the fighters are Mexican except for Morales, who’s from Nicaragua.

“These guys are ready to fight,” Santiago said. “They are hungry and have been training for it for months.”

While those bouts will be carried by Fox Sports and Fox Deportes, the five principal bouts of the evening are on pay-per-view.

The first two of those are welterweight bouts between Edgar García and Héctor Urbina, and Augusto Montaño and Chris Heatherly.

There’s an intriguing matchup between featherweights Dennis Bermudez of Saugerties, N.Y., and Ricardo Lamas, a Chicago-born fighter who is of Cuban and Mexican extraction.

“It is a little bit enemy territory,” Bermudez told FNL a few weeks ago when asked about being a fighter of Puerto Rican descent and fighting someone who is part Mexican in Mexico City, “given the rivalry in boxing between the two places. Hopefully, they will be rooting for my fighting style instead.”

Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum, two welterweights, duke it out before the main event of the evening, Werdum-Hunt.