The Rock, Trump watch non-ti­tle UFC 244

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By DAN GEL­STON AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was on his feet for the main event as Jorge Masvi­dal de­feated a blood­ied Nate Diaz via TKO be­fore the fourth round at UFC 244 at Madi­son Square Gar­den on Satur­day night.

Dwayne “The Rock” John­son wrapped a crudely named, made­for-PPV bad­dest man in MMA ti­tle belt around Masvi­dal’s waist as nearly 20,000 fans howled in protest of the quick fin­ish. Masvi­dal dom­i­nated the first three rounds and opened cuts above Diaz’s eyes that turned his face into a crimson mask. The as­signed doc­tor for the New York State Ath­letic Com­mis­sion stopped the fight just be­fore the fourth round. Both fight­ers felt the bout should con­tinue.

“I was hyped, I was ready to go,” Diaz said. “I come in here to fight. It’s not my fault the doc­tor stopped it. We’ll run it back, though.”

John­son walked out hold­ing the $50,000 Bad­dest Mother (Cen­sored!) cham­pi­onship belt to a thun­der­ous ova­tion as his WWE theme mu­sic hit. Trump, who be­came the first pres­i­dent to at­tend a UFC card, clapped for John­son and stayed on his feet for the fu­ri­ous early rounds.

Masvi­dal charged at Diaz once the ini­tial bell rang be­fore he pulled up and smiled, a nod to his UFC-record 5-se­cond KO of Ben Askren in his last fight. Trump and his adult sons stood as Masvi­dal took quick con­trol and pounded on Diaz. Diaz had a gash open over his right eye, his face blood­ied as he lay on his back try­ing to kick away Diaz.

The par­ti­san crowd took turns chant­ing “Diaz!” and “Jorge!” and The Rock sat stone-faced, nod­ding at the big­gest hay­mak­ers. Diaz staked his claim as the BMF — if the B stood for blood­i­est — when he flexed for the crowd to end the se­cond as blood poured down his face.

The doc wouldn’t let the fight go into a fourth and the 170-pound bout was over, though a BMF re­match could be on the hori­zon.

“Let me heal up and let’s go again,” Diaz said.

The pres­i­dent ap­peared pleased with the card, stay­ing for the en­tire 4-plus hour show.

The packed house at the

Gar­den stood and had their phones out, cran­ing their necks to catch a glimpse of the pres­i­dent as he took his ca­ge­side seat. Trump smiled and waved to fans as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” was blasted over the speak­ers shortly be­fore the start of the 10 p.m. event. Trump re­ceived a mixed re­ac­tion, though noth­ing quite as deri­sive as the boos and “Lock him up!” chants he re­ceived last week at the World Se­ries.

Trump hugged box­ing le­gend Roberto Du­ran as they posed for a pic­ture and sat in the same row as UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White. Trump is tight with White, a re­la­tion­ship that dates to UFC’s for­ma­tive years be­fore its rise into a bil­lion dol­lar pro­mo­tion. New Jer­sey was one of the first states that em­braced UFC, and White cred­its cards at the Trump Taj Ma­hal for help­ing the com­pany grow into a heavy­weight in the sports world. White spoke at Trump’s re­quest at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion and they are oc­ca­sional din­ing part­ners.

Trump wore a suit and red tie, and sat with sons Don­ald Jr. and Eric, sev­eral con­gres­sional Re­pub­li­cans and sports per­son­al­i­ties just out of range of po­ten­tial blood splat­ter.

Trump Jr. tweeted White told the fam­ily, “it was the most elec­tri­fy­ing en­trance he seen in 25 years of do­ing this .” The Trump broth­ers sat ca­ge­side in Au­gust in New Jer­sey in sup­port of Trump fan Colby Cov­ing­ton.

Tak­ing a break from an im­peach­ment in­quiry, Trump could only hope the first fight of the pay-per­view wasn’t a sign of things to come — a dev­as­tat­ing KO from the left.

He rose from his seat like the rest of the fans when Kevin Lee knocked out Gre­gor Gille­spie with a left leg kick to the head. Gille­spie bounced off the cage and lay mo­tion­less, out cold on the mat for a minute or so. Trump didn’t re­act as he watched the re­play and ap­plauded just like a reg­u­lar fight fan when Gille­spie fi­nally came around and got to his cor­ner. He did not ap­pear to sing along to Dar­ren Till’s “Sweet Caro­line” walk­out mu­sic.

Der­rick Lewis won his heavy­weight bout and gave Trump a shoutout from in­side the cage, say­ing “I know ev­ery­thing ain’t go­ing so good in the White House. You gotta turn that ... around in 2020.”

Protesters out­side MSG chanted “Dan­ger, dan­ger, there’s a Fas­cist in the White House,” over a bull­horn and held signs that read “Trump/Pence Out Now!” Once the fights started, there were no no­tice­able signs or sus­tained calls of sup­port or protest for Trump. The only jabs were de­liv­ered in­side the fenced-in, 4-foot oc­tagon came from the fight­ers. Lewis was the only win­ner who men­tioned Trump, and the crowd of nearly 20,000 seemed largely un­in­ter­ested in him.

The Rock and the pres­i­dent over­shad­owed a wildly en­ter­tain­ing card that had the Gar­den rock­ing in nearly every bout.

The for­mer WWE champ is the big­gest box of­fice star in Hol­ly­wood, with his “Ju­manji” fol­low up out later this year. John­son also an­nounced his Seven Bucks Pro­duc­tions com­pany is work­ing on a biopic on re­tired MMA star Mark Kerr. Kerr won con­sec­u­tive UFC heavy­weight tour­na­ments in the com­pany’s in­fancy and later bat­tled se­ri­ous ad­dic­tion is­sues. John­son is set to star as the fighter known as the “Smash­ing Ma­chine.”

EVAN VUCCI - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, of Cal­i­for­nia, look on dur­ing UFC 244 at Madi­son Square Gar­den, Satur­day, Nov. 2, 2019, in New York.

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