Shane Victorino is one of the most avid UFC fans among professional athletes. The Boston Red Sox outfielder and two-time World Series champion is a regular at events and even does some MMA crosstraining in the offseason himself.
FOX Sports caught up with Victorino in New York before a game with the rival Yankees to talk his love for MMA and where he sees the sport in the future.
FOX Sports: What makes you love the sport so much?
Shane Victorino: It’s just the fighters. It’s amazing what they do, what they do to their bodies in the gym. How hard they work. I train [in MMA] a little bit and it’s tough, but it’s nothing compared to what these guys do. I think they’re some of the best athletes, best conditioned athletes in the world. I would never ever step into the cage myself (laughs). I respect these guys so much.
Shane Victorino takes in the action at UFC 140.
And knowing Lorenzo [Fertitta] and Dana [White], what impresses me so much about the UFC is how much passion they have for it. They really are fans of the sport, they love it so much. Just knowing them and talking to them, it’s made me like the sport even more, because it’s like contagious. It’s made me a bigger fan. The passion they have is incredible and they really want to make it the best sport in the world.
FS: Have you made some of the other guy fans?
SV: Nah, man. They already were. Almost all of [the Red Sox players] love the UFC. It’s hard to watch every single event when you’re on the road, because they do so many now. But I still do. I watch as many as I can.
FS: I think I already know the answer, but who’s your favorite fighter?
SV: Man, I’d have to say Chuck Liddell. Me and my wife are friends with him and his wife. He’s a great guy.
FS: I thought for sure you’d say B.J. Penn.
Shane Victorino hanging out with fellow Hawaiian B.J. Penn before UFC 101.
SV: Yeah, I mean, growing up in Hawaii, of course I love B.J. How can you not love B.J.? But it’s just the personal relationship I have with Chuck. And just the way he fought. He was a great fighter. There aren’t as many guys like him now. Those fights between Chuck and Randy Couture were the best ones I remember.
FS: How about a current fighter?
SV: It’s hard to say. There are so many good guys out there now and the crazy thing is everyone is getting better. When you look at a guy like Jon "Bones" Jones, you know I think he probably could have played any sport. He’s so athletic. Guys like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva. And when you think about it now, kids are growing up doing this. Instead of going to play Little League or going to play soccer or basketball, they’re in the gym [training in MMA]. So just think about 20 years from now the kind of athletes that will be in the UFC. They’ll have started from when they were 5, 6 years old. It’s good right now, but I think in a few years it’s going to reach even another level.
When I was a little kid, UFC wasn’t really around. We didn’t have that when we were growing up. For me, I see this sport in the next five or 10 years going to the next step. I think that this sport has just touched the surface.
For me, I see this sport in the next five or 10 years going to the next step. I think that this sport has just touched the surface.
FS: Favorite fight?
SV: Again, it has to be Chuck vs. Randy. Any one of them. I’m telling you, when you were at one of those fights, when it started there wasn’t a single person in the entire place sitting down. Everyone was standing up from the beginning right until the end. It was just a huge event. Fights now, it doesn’t seem to be like that anymore. When it was Chuck and Randy, Tito Ortiz, guys like that, to me, those were the best fights, because everyone was paying attention. You had to.
But I get it. I talk to Lorenzo all the time. I know what they’re doing. They’re doing what’s best for them and the sport. It makes sense. They’re trying to expand all over the world. They’re setting up the sport for the future. And it’s definitely a bright future. It’s only going to get bigger and better.