Mixed martial arts and post punk are perhaps the unlikeliest pairing since CM Punk and Mickey Gall. But with the Octagon set up in Manchester, England for UFC 204, it’s only fitting to explore the musical roots of the city that brought the world Joy Division, New Order, and the Buzzcocks.
It was just a few days ago that I was reminded of the irony that incumbent UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, who calls Manchester home, walks out to Blur’s “Song 2.” A ripping track indeed, but anyone who followed British music in the nineties knows that it’s a bit of a sacrilege for a Mancunian to walk out to a London band.
Starting in the late seventies, Manchester and its bands made a massive cultural imprint on the musical world, largely in part due to Tony Wilson’s Factory Records and the Hacienda, a venue that served as ground zero for an emerging rave and dance scene. And while Happy Monday’s frontman Shaun Ryder would never even come close to passing a USADA drug test, he penned plenty of tracks that could guide Bisping from the tunnel to the Octagon.
One Mancunian artist who could deliver a clean USADA sample, Morrissey, rose to fame with The Smiths. Their “How Soon Is Now?” is perhaps one of the finest tracks of the eighties, complete with Johnny Marr’s tremolo-driven guitar tone. It'd be a fine selection for Bisping as he approaches the Octagon and adversary Dan Henderson.
Like UFC 204 headliner Michael Bisping, The Fall’s Mark E. Smith is a perennial bad guy. But damn can that dude write a subversive post punk jam. And if Bisping can’t race out of the tunnel to “Totally Wired,” the Chemical Brothers’ “Block Rockin Beats” is an amazing selection for the arena DJ. One can only imagine the roof straight blowing off Manchester Arena once this track drops.
Not every Manchester song and band would be a prime UFC walkout. “Blue Monday,” while brilliant, is a little too poppy for mixed martial arts, Slaughter & The Dogs are perhaps too niche garage punk, and The Outfield doesn’t have heavy enough chops or a muscular enough beat to drive energy into the arena. But if Bisping wants nineties Brit Pop, he really ought to give Oasis, Manchester’s last great rock band, some love come October 8 because Damon Albarn, while one of thee finest artists of the last 25 years, can never take top billing over the Gallagher brothers in their own hometown.
What's your UFC 204 Manchester walkout song?
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