I had no idea I needed to be a part of mixed martial arts until the seventh fight of Saturday's "Extreme Wars: Bay Area Brawl," when the Monster, who stands 6 feet 11 inches and has lats that resemble a wingspan, stepped coolly into the octagon cage. There was a hush, broken by a fan screaming, "Wow!" The earlier bouts had followed a standard formula: Fighters touched gloves, boxed a bit, then scrambled on the mat trying to secure submission holds, like a game of Twister gone to hell. It was pretty great, but the Smith-Carwin contest stirred something new in me. Call it fear.
That fierce bout achieved the promise of this fledging sport at least for half a minute. Too bad hardly anyone witnessed it. The "Brawl" drew a painfully low attendance for the Oakland Arena, despite the night's charms: punishing heavy metal music, a man dressed as a gorilla, four nearly naked ring ladies (who acted like Hooters bikini contest winners, which they were), and the long-haired fight caller Jeff Weller, who, according to his Web site, is "one of the leading authorities on International Heavy Metal music from 1979-2004" (an excellent thing for him to admit). "I'm speechless," he boomed to the crowd after Big Shane dispatched the Monster. He was the only one: The rest of us were going apeshit.