Kamaru Usman KOs Jorge Masvidal: UFC 261 cageside footage of main event

p1f443n11q15uj1e5hbola210pff.jpg

UFC 261 marked the first time since last March that a capacity crowd was on hand to witness a card hosted by the promotion. 

COVID-19 restrictions have meant that - with a few rare exceptions - UFC shows have taken place with only essential personnel in attendance since the pandemic struck.

A relaxation of social distancing rules in the state of Florida allowed a total of 15,269 fans to attend Saturday's pay-per-view event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. The event sold out in mere minutes when tickets went on sale last month.

After months of producing shows in empty venues, UFC president Dana White was clearly delighted when he announced at the post-fight press conference that the card had generated $3.3 million in ticket sales revenue.

However, the true value of a live crowd to the UFC is not just financial. The company has grown off the back of the emotional connection between its fighters and their fans - and this dynamic has been noticeable by its absence over the past year.

The main card of UFC 261, in particular, was full of action and will go down as one of the most memorable cards in the promotion's history. Not one of the five fights on the main portion of the show went longer than the second record, giving the evening an unpredictable feel. 

The sense of anticipation from those in attendance could be felt throughout the pay-per-view, with the crowd reacting loudly to every twist-and-turn on the night.

p1f443sregebc1c3j1tit79ukh7l.jpg

Nowhere was the emotion of the evening better captured, though, than by cageside footage of the final seconds of the main event between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal.

Welterweight champion Usman retained his title when he knocked Masvidal out cold with a magnificently-timed right hand. Video of the finish was captured by a fan close to the Octagon - and uploaded to Twitter by The Fight Bubble. The 19-second clip demonstrates the sheer drama of the occasion perfectly.

Usman folds his opponent up with his devastating shot and the crowd - many of which came into the fight as Masvidal supporters - simply erupts. Some are happy, some not, but every person in attendance reacts, caught up in the sort of moment that only live combat sports can provide.

The clip also shows Usman's immediate response to the realisation that he has put an emphatic end to his rivalry with Masvidal. 

The exact same events unfolding inside of an empty arena - as shocking as they were - just would not have had the same impact. Fans are a huge part of sport and, at least this weekend at UFC 261, they were back where they belong.

More of the same, please.

News Now - Sport News