By Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino
UFC stars are some of the most approachable and accessible pro athletes in the world -- take the UFC Fan Expo, May 28 and 29 in Las Vegas, a two-day event where you can mingle with more than 30 fighters. There's little more exciting to a fan than getting a picture with their idol (fist clench optional), but there is some unspoken etiquette to asking for one. We asked UFC 111 Sub of the Night winner Kurt Pellegrino for advice.
At an autograph session or some other time when a fighter’s there for that, you can attack him all you want. But there are some other times when it’s not so appropriate.
DO just ask
Most fans do a really good job. They’ll just come up and ask for a picture or want to say hi, they’re awesome. I love the fans.
DON’T ask for a pic when he’s in the eye of the tiger
When a fighter is in the tunnel, when he’s fighting, he’s doing his job and highly focused. As I was walking out for my fight with Fabricio someone asked for a picture – you hear it and think, “Did someone really just ask that?” After my Thiago Tavares fight someone came up to me and my wife in a restaurant and asked if they could sit with us and talk about the fight. Sorry, but I haven’t seen her in two months.
DO cut them some slack at the weigh-in
When a fighter looks like he’s on Star Wars or guest-starring as Skeletor, it’s probably best to leave him alone. One fan cursed me out after my Josh Neer weigh in because I wouldn’t sign an autograph. It’s also pretty safe to not come up right as he’s getting into a taxi after the weigh-in – 1. He’s hungry 2. The meter’s on, so it’s costing money.
DON’T try to break their hands
The World's Strongest Man Handshake – it happens all the time and it hurts. World's Strongest Man Handshake is not required for fighters, and it’s not required when you’re meeting fighters and want to prove you’re tough. I quiver as soon as I see it in somebody’s eyes when they look across the room, like, ‘That’s guy’s a pro fighter… I’m gonna break his hand.”
DO practice good hygiene
When I’m eating a sub, don’t come up and shake my hand, because I’m using it. For that matter, one time I was taking a pee next to some guy and he tried to shake my hand. I had to say, “I’m not going to shake your hand, and for obvious reasons.” The bathroom is for peeing.
We have guys come to the gym all the time and ask “Is that so-and-so?” Just hang out and watch, wait till they’re done with the workout, then we always say hi and take pictures or sign stuff.
DON’T play armchair corner
Fighters all love when people who don'’t fight tells us how to fight. One guy in a crowd actually wanted to fight me. That’s real smart thinking. Then again, he was from Philly so he’s probably an Eagles fan – it can’t be helped.
DO hang out by the elevators
UFC fans hang out by the hotel elevators all week when there’s a fight. It’s the craziest thing – you see the same ones from Tuesday to Saturday. They never leave; they just send their friends to go get food. I don’t know if they bring their sleeping bags and sleep there. I see the same people every time, it’s pretty funny.
DON’T get me in trouble
One girl asked me to sign her boobs in front of my wife, that was weird. At the last fight, a guy came up and said “I don’t want a picture of you, I want a picture of your wife.” Please don’t tell me my wife is hot; I don’t appreciate that. She’s very good-looking, but I’m an Italian man and I have a lot of honor in my wife. I’m not going to put a bag over her head, but common courtesy goes a long way.