“What will you choose for your walkout song?” Asked of practically every fighter before a bout, this question means much more than most let on. Some gravitate towards a specific song to remember someone; others make their selection to get pumped up; many choose a song they love; and others opt for a surprise or a pick based on intimidation purposes. Diego Ferreira danced his way to the Octagon with the 2018 Walkout Song of the Year—“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins—and knocked out Jared Gordon at UFC Fight Night 126. His creativity and originality set him apart from the pack, strutting out while playing air guitar before engaging in gladiatorial-style unarmed combat with another man whose sole reason for existence at that moment was to crush, kill and destroy him.
Many entertaining, offbeat or unusual selections came throughout the calendar year, including Colby Covington embracing his inner professional wrestler by walking out twice to “Medal” by Jim Johnston, also known as the theme song for Kurt Angle. Fans delighted in the ability to shout “You Suck!” between beats as the controversial fighter made his way to the cage. In keeping with the theme of professional wrestling, Tito Ortiz and Billy Quarantillo on Dec. 7 made their walks with “Real American” by Rick Derringer, made famous as the theme for legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan, playing behind them. Both won in dominant fashion.
In an unprecedented choice of walkout music, Bryan Barberena went with “Baby Shark” by PinkFong before facing Vicente Luque, picking the tune for his children to hear and think of him. Perhaps in an effort to pursue the award this year, multiple Bellator MMA fighters walked out to “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, and several, like Matt Probin and Ricky Furar, emerged victorious. As she did the year before, only with family and friends singing alongside her on stage, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane defended her flyweight title at Bellator 236 in Hawaii, again belting it out to “All Hawaii Stand Together” by Liko Martin.
Over in One Championship, muay Thai ex-pat Nong Stamp danced her way into fight fans’ hearts with “Boombayah” by Blackpink. In Japan, Jake Heun put on not one but two shows when first reenacting the dance of Star-Lord from “Guardians of the Galaxy” with “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone and later the disco favorite “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, both with appropriate apparel for the occasions. Although these songs each were effective for their own reasons, one fighter’s choice in music set him above the rest.
Released in 2013, the film “The Purge” envisioned a future America where its citizens participate in a yearly tradition that sees all crimes legalized for the day. As expected, the horror film spawned a number of sequels, as moviegoers watched everyday people slaughter one another or try to survive the fears of the night in dramatic fashion. The sequences would ceremoniously begin with an announcement that The Purge had commenced, with the sound of this klaxon blaring all the while. Pulled directly from the film, this looped clip of the siren was the only sound the audience heard amid nervous conversation and confusion as Kron Gracie made his first trip to the Octagon at UFC on ESPN 1 on Feb. 17.
For historical context, we should go back to 1988, when a youthful wrecking machine in Mike Tyson was set to defend his heavyweight belts and vie for a few more, including the coveted “lineal” title against Michael Spinks. As the undefeated challenger, Spinks made his way to the ring with an upbeat tune that could have been eligible for “Walkout Song of the Year” if used in 2018: “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins. What followed was nothing short of abject terror, as Tyson ominously trudged to the ring. Playing on the loudspeakers was not music—at least not in the traditional sense—but instead a deafening, droning sound with the occasional clash of chains, as if pulled from a track in the libraries of experimental groups Coil or Throbbing Gristle.
Nearly at a loss for words, commentator Bob Sheridan attempted to describe what he was hearing: “It’s interesting to note that Mike Tyson selected his pre-fight music … just noise. Every once in a while, you hear the clanging of chains. I think that’s what he’s got in mind to do to Mike Spinks’ head, but we’ll wait and see. Everything that Tyson does is intimidating.” Less than a dozen lethal punches and about 90 seconds later, Spinks was down on the canvas before falling through the ropes. “Jinx” never again returned to the ring, taking his first and only defeat after one of the most terrifying walkouts in combat sports history.
Unlike Tyson, Gracie holds a diametrically opposed set of skills, traditionally preferring not to slug it out—his battle with Cub Swanson notwithstanding—but instead working towards getting the fight to the ground in order to snap limbs or render his opponent unconscious via submission. In his organizational debut, Gracie sported a young but spotless record of 4-0, with four tapouts to his credit. The submission specialist was set to face off against a zestful Alex Caceres. As the Brazilian walked out first, Caceres was not subjected to waiting in the cage for impending doom and instead grooved and sang his way out with a relatively more upbeat but thematically dark “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones.
A smiling Caceres bowed and looked towards a stone-faced Gracie before coming out of the gate to greet the newcomer with a salvo of varied and flashy strikes. Gracie ignored the unorthodox offense, opting to clinch before wrenching down the UFC veteran and taking his back merely 90 seconds into the fight. Barely two minutes elapsed before Gracie elicited the tap, with “Bruce Leeroy” succumbing to a rear-naked choke. Commentator Dominick Cruz even remarked that the methodical submission attack was “Demian Maia-esque,” as Gracie locked in the choke “like a boa constrictor.”
The first member of his family to prevail inside the Las Vegas-based promotion since UFC 4 in 1994, Gracie struck fear in the heart of fans and prospective opponents with his walkout music. While his skills and abilities led him to victory, his pre-fight aural assault appeared to give him an early advantage, as if to say, “Watch out, Kron is coming.” If fear had a certain sound, it would be the repeating siren from “The Purge.” As such, it has been selected as Sherdog.com’s 2019 “Walkout Song of the Year.”