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All-Star Victorino welcomes UFC to Philadelphia

Las Vegas resident Shane Victorino one of UFC’s biggest fans

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The Associated Press

Las Vegas resident Shane Victorino is looking forward to the UFC bringing its brand to Philadelphia for the first time with UFC 101 on Aug. 8. Victorino is close friends with UFC president Dana White and owner Lorenzo Fertitta as well as a handful of fighters within the organization.

For those who don’t know, Shane Victorino does have an amateur career in mixed martial arts.

He’s 1-0, too. One win by technical knockout over his fiancé, Melissa Smith.

“Our first date consisted of getting the boxing gloves out and boxing each other,” joked Smith, who met Victorino in Las Vegas in 2004. “Except Shane did a kick to my face and almost took my teeth out. I’m not kidding you. I threw my gloves down and said, ‘I’m not playing with you anymore.’

“I thought we were having fun but he took it all serious. I never boxed with him again.”

Victorino isn’t the first professional athlete to admit being a fan of the UFC, but he is probably one of the most dedicated.

After watching some of the organization’s earliest events in 1993, Victorino’s interest went through the roof after meeting UFC President Dana White and owner Lorenzo Fertitta through Smith, who was working as Fertitta’s assistant at the time.

That initial visit has turned into a close friendship between Victorino and the UFC brass, including White throwing his support behind Victorino in this year’s All-Star voting.

“It was a cordial invite when I first met Dana and Lorenzo,” Victorino said. “Now it’s become we talk once in awhile, we’ll text just to say hi. I see them all the time in Las Vegas.

“Sometimes I hear people say that they’re in it for the money, but I see these guys up at 3 a.m. working out. They have a love for the sport. These guys are already wealthy. They love the sport and want to see it taken to the next level.”

Part of that next level has been taking the sport to new cities, with Philadelphia at the top of the list. That goal will come to fruition Saturday when UFC 101 hits the Wachovia Center after the sport was sanctioned by the state’s athletic commission in February.

And nobody is as excited for that event as Victorino, who says he’ll rush to the event immediately following a home game against the Florida Marlins.

“Dana had mentioned awhile ago that they might be coming to Philly, so did (vice president of regulatory affairs) Marc Ratner,” Victorino said. “I was like, ‘Please come, I hope you do it at a time where I’ll be there.’ I think they looked at my schedule and made it happen while I was playing at home.”

Even as a player who has seen the field in his share of big games, Victorino says that even his favorite game of baseball can’t compare to the atmosphere leading up to a UFC fight.

“I don’t think you’ll ever experience something like that,” Victorino said. “Playing in the World Series of course you have the crowd, but when these two gladiators embrace each other and say, ‘Let’s get it on,’ I want to jump off my seat.”

While Victorino can’t even guess how many UFC fights he’s attended, including traveling with Dana White to events located outside of Las Vegas, where he and his fiancé live, his training in the sport has been fairly limited.

Besides a bit of Muay Thai training, Victorino openly admits that a fighter’s workout quickly wears him out.

“After watching some of these guys train I got an understanding of how good they are as athletes,” he said. “Their footwork and their cardio – I know there’s no way that I could do some of the stuff they do. I go in a gym and try to do what they do and I can’t last and I’m what you would consider a top-notch athlete.”

What he didn’t admit is that it took him a training session to find that out. Unfortunately for him, Smith exposed that detail.

“He’s so competitive he’d talk smack like, ‘I could do those workouts easy, no problem,’” she said. “Then we went and worked out with a trainer and he had us running stairs and all kinds of stuff and after that Shane said he found a new respect for their workout.

“He told me, ‘This workout is not for baseball players.’”

That should ease the minds of any Phillies fans worried their All-Star outfielder may suffer an injury from offseason trips to the Octagon.

Apparently, Victorino will retire from MMA with a perfect record -– his career highlight, the win against Smith back in 2004.

“I do a little but no rolling around for me,” he said. “I don’t want to disembark my arm parts. I need them for baseball.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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