Craig The sign on the front door of the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion read, "Sold out."
Inside, the air was thick and the anticipation heavy for what the night had in store for a standing room only crowd of more than 500 spectators.
They came from all across Northwest Colorado for the opportunity to witness spin kicks, flying elbows, uppercuts and knees to the face as part of an Ultimate Cage Fighting event.
Twenty-two fighters signed up and weighed in for Saturday's contest, a spectacle of mixed martial arts, boxing and wrestling.
Winners were decided by knock out, tap out and judge's decision.
"I didn't think we would have this big of a turnout," said Josh Magnuson, co-owner of Holistic Health & Fitness in Craig. "It was really exciting to see the support from the community for this."
The Holistic ownership group organized the event with the help of Steve Gatorwolf, a Wyoming resident who has been promoting cage fighting for more than 10 years.
"We are very happy" with the results, Gatorwolf said. "We are going to need to get a bigger venue next time."
The 22 fighters were assigned to their respective weight classes - there were five weight classes in all - and their opponent was chosen a few minutes before each fight.
Fights consisted of three, one-minute rounds.
Leading off the event were heavy weights Johnathon Alexander vs. Ben Osborne.
The fight didn't last long.
Osborne stung Alexander with a right cross, but it only seemed to wake up the sleeping giant inside the Meeker oilrig worker.
"All I do is work and pump iron," Alexander said. "He stunned me and it got me mad."
Osborne had no idea what was coming next. Alexander hit him with a flurry of punches that bloodied his face to the point where his sight was impaired and the fight had to be stopped.
Result - first round TKO victory for Alexander.
"I haven't hurt this much in a long time," Osborne said. "I'm going to keep doing this though. I'm too stubborn to quit."
Alexander was still pumped up after the fight he called "too short". He had taken off six hours of work for this. He wanted more.
"It's awesome baby," he yelled. "I'm representing the 520 (his oilrig). It feels really good to win. This was my first ever cage fight."
Most of the fighters who gave and took punishment Saturday night were in the same boat: First-time fighters who took time out of work, or had to beg their wives or girlfriends for the chance to go a few rounds.
Perhaps the loudest ovation of the evening came when fighter Travis Linsacum, a Craig resident, was introduced. Easily the night's crowd favorite, Linsacum dispatched Carl Futch with a first round TKO.
Linsacum controlled the fight from the onset, taking Futch to the mat and assaulting him with a barrage of blows to the head until the fight was stopped. Linsacum jumped up and grabbed the cage shaking it, almost separating it from its base.
"It ended way to quick," Linsacum said. "I wanted to go longer."
It was the first time Linsacum participated in an event like this. When asked if he would do it again, he thought for a moment and said "If I say yes, my girlfriend will have my behind, so I don't really know. I could retire undefeated right now."
Despite the evening's outcome, most of the fighters insisted they would do it again. It mattered little if they won or lost.
Sam Wiscup and Dustin Ager are roommates who drew each other's name and had to face off in the ring. Ager won in a first round TKO, but the fight wasn't finished in their eyes.
"I didn't want to fight my buddy," Wiscup said, "but he punched me in the face, so it was on."
After the fight, the roommates went out to get a few beers, chat about the night and then head home.
"We're going to get drunk," Ager said. "Then we'll go home and fight again in the living room."
John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or email@example.com.