That was 10 years ago tomorrow for the first “Strikeforce: Playboy Mansion” event. It was also my first time really traveling to cover an MMA event for MMAjunkie, which I had co-founded less than a year earlier.
The Sept. 29, 2017 event at the iconic Los Angeles venue proved to be a pivotal moment for me and MMAjunkie. I still didn’t know if MMA – let alone my little fledgling website, UFCjunkie (the UFC was all we were covering at the time back then) – really had a future. Yet, a week earlier, I had quit a job I loved in the Cincinnati Reds front office and devoted myself to MMA full-time.
It was scary, and I didn’t have a good night’s sleep for another few years as I worried about the website and whether MMA would prove little more than a fad.
Following Wednesday’s news of Hefner’s death at age 91, I decided to dig into the MMAjunkie photo archives to look back on that long-ago show. And lo and behold: I had a treasure’s trove of shots from that amazing night at the Playboy Mansion, most of them taken by MMAjunkie co-founder Eric “Performify” Foster.
Here are some of my favorite shots, which also include some of my favorite MMA people (many of whom are still thankfully working in the industry):
This was when it became pretty real. As a red-blooded American male in his 20s, I was actually at the Playboy Mansion. Move over, Scott Baio.
As busloads of media members – and regular Joes who paid $1,000 each for their tickets – filed into backyard, we got our first look at the cage that would host a 12-bout lineup of fights that featured notables such as Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Jorge Masvidal, Joe Riggs and Bobby Southworth. MMAjunkie’s content partner at the time, Yahoo! Sports, streamed the main card.
Not a bad seat in the house, though I don’t remember anyone actually taking a dip (intentionally) that night.
That’s me – 10 years younger, 100 pounds heavier and infinitely more wide-eyed – as I got the lay of the land from MMA photographer/manager Fumi Ishii. I think I was just trying to get the wifi code, honestly.
Once the bunnies showed up, it really started feeling like a Playboy event.
This was also my first time meeting two folks I’d call friends for the next decade: Eric Winter and Dave Doyle. Winter (center, with his wife on the left) was an executive at Yahoo! Sports and brought in MMAjunkie as a content partner very early on. MMA fans, though, may know Winter best as the former head of UFC Fight Pass. Doyle (right), who now writes for MMAFighting.com, was Yahoo! Sports’ MMA editor at the time.
This was also the night I met two future coworkers and good friends: MMAjunkie Radio hosts Brian “Goze” Garcia and “Gorgeous” George Garcia. The Cali natives hosted TAGG Radio (with Frank Trigg) at the time and had an advertising/content partnership with MMAjunkie. We acquired the show and rebranded it MMAjunkie Radio a few years later.
Celebrities – both from Hollywood and the MMA world – were out in full force. Here’s MMA super fan Chuck Zito and former UFC champ Josh Barnett.
Here’s Trigg (and his dinner) with MMA fan favorite Urijah Faber.