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LFA and Virtual Reality: A Work In Progress

Virtual reality is coming, like it or not. Last night, UFC FightPass debuted it’s first VR event with Meta. The event marked an MMA first as FightPass was the first to air a fight on Oculus live. Today, we’re going to talk the experience I had as a viewer!

Getting The Oculus On

So I don’t own an Oculus Quest although I am considering getting one now that more and more events are going to be on the Oculus. Instead, my 10 year old son is away on a camping trip and I decided I would nab his. Easy peasy, right? Wrong.

If any of you have a child you will know if something doesn’t work and they are having problems, they just put the problem to the side. So after I got off work, I got the Oculus out to watch some of this VR event. My wife gets home before me so I asked her to charge it for me to make sure I had a full charge on the headset.

I gave myself 15 minutes to get started on the event. I re-purchased FightPass (I had let it lapse) and bought a year. I was prepared. I booted up the Oculus and was ready to go into the Metaverse to get my fight fix.

Instead of the controllers, my son has hand tracking on. The hand tracking on the Oculus is absolutely terrible and not very intuitive. Weird that he would want this on, right? So I tried to turn the controllers on. Battery’s dead. Great.

I didn’t want to get up and look for batteries beforehand so I would just use hand tracking. In the meantime, I updated Horizons so I could get in the app. Then I try to rob my remote control for batteries (I’m a 90’s baby, I’m an expert battery scavenger). But those didn’t work. I saw something that gave me pause but didn’t take much from it. The batteries in there had exploded. Yuck but no biggie.

The remote batteries didn’t work either. So now, frustrated, I had to go down the road to Family Dollar to get new batteries. Begrudgingly, I get in my wife’s mini-van (it was first in the driveway, I’m looking for efficiency here, not style) and speed off out of the neighborhood to find some AA batteries. I go in and I’m out in 2 minutes. It’s now 8 PM and the card is starting.

Once I go to put the new batteries in the controller, I soon realize why my son hasn’t been playing his Oculus all that much. You see, the batteries were dead in the controllers. Very dead. If you leave a bad and cheap battery in a controller for too long, they explode. These batteries did just that. The problem was that the contacts had corrosion on them, like a car battery that is old and needs cleaning. So I do just that. Viola! With a quick buzz I know that the controllers are fixed. I am the ultimate handy man.

It is 2022, why is this a issue?

So my first gripe with the Oculus experience is the batteries. Why are we putting AA batteries in the controllers in 2022? Everything in this day and age is rechargeable with a charging cable. Why aren’t these Oculus Quest controllers using batteries? Cheap, Meta, cheap.

So I am prepared to watch fights now. The first one is on but I can still make the main event, which is a title fight. I go back to the living room and put the headset on and it reboots. Then, we have a system update. Great, just update, but make it snappy. What’s this? Oh now I have to create a Meta Horizons profile? Kill me now. My wife set up my son’s account on there and to set up the Horizons profile you need to log into her Facebook account. The only thing is my wife is in the tub relaxing (she’s 8 and a half months pregnant, don’t poke that bear). I have to talk through the door and ask her to sign in to her account. After she’s done (luckily I still have my head attached), it’s asking for a code. Yet another sign in. But we get it done. Fights time.

I get into Horizons with a sparkly new Horizons account and fresh batteries in the controllers and a full headset charge. I look around and see UFC FightPass, big and bright. Metaphorically I hear angel choruses and make my way there. But now, there’s this weird jumping puzzle between me and LFA. After making it to the crossing I fall in and it sends me back to start. Are you kidding me, Zuckerberg? I’m not trying to play a puzzle, I just want to watch some damn fights in virtual reality. Eventually I get across the puzzle and into FightPass I go. Finally.

My experience with live virtual reality

After the entire debacle getting to my virtual destination, I finally get to watch live MMA in virtual reality. Now I am not a total n00b when it comes to VR. I’ve watched the 360 video presentations featuring Canelo-GGG and Demetious Johnson on FOX. I’ve watched ONE Championship re-broadcast their events on Horizons. I have some experience in the field.

LFA put on a decent event, in all honesty. But the camerawork and production for this is a bit lacking. A couple times we saw the fight against the fence and the camera crew didn’t change views in time so I was suck looking at the top rail of the cage. Another time the normal broadcast cameraman was right in the way and the virtual reality camera was staring at his back instead of the fights.

But I will chalk this up to a test run. They didn’t have many camera angles or graphics to look at, something virtual reality fights require. ONE Championship does a fantastic job of this and has a really great product, albeit not live. But doing what they do probably is resource intensive and costly. Maybe it’s not been figured out just yet. Part of it is also this wasn’t the UFC or even ONE Championship. We aren’t pulling out all the stops. I’m sure the product when this goes live with the UFC and ESPN, we will get an entirely top not production.

If you’re interested in how a VR fight looks, check out the great caposa’s post on Twitter below. He’s the mastermind when it comes to fight clips and he came through with the virtual reality clip too!

If you’ve never been there, the experience of watching fights is very cool. You get to walk in to the arena, meet people, and talk about fights. I highly recommend trying it.

Some things that I don’t like about Horizons are as follows. First of all, the headset is bulky. It pulls your head down and puts a strain on your neck slightly over the multi-hour event. One of those things that technology getting smaller will have to fix. Next, people don’t really know what to do with their hands. With the controllers being what your virtual hands are controlled by, during the fights, people put the controllers down putting their arms in awkward, broken-looking positions. It’s odd and ugly. There needs to be an “emote” of sorts crossing your arms or with your arms at your side. It’s not game breaking, but it is butt ugly and sign of a poor product.

LFA really hit the virtual reality stride soon after I joined in. Renato Valente landed a beautiful right cross on Jared Revel and seeing Revel falling like the proverbial tree in the forest which may or may not make a sound in VR was fantastic. Seeing Juan Puerta out grappling Yuma Horiuchi only to see Horiuchi come back in the third to get a rear naked choke was insane! Jordan Heiderman was a goliath of a heavyweight and he handed Daiqwon Buckley his first loss. Watching the actual fights in virtual reality was a glimpse into the future.

The Main Event: Time for a title fight in VR

Every fight card is about the main event. For LFA, they put on a who’s-who of the future of MMA for the UFC. This night featured a great bantamweight bout. Muin Gafurov hails from Tajikistan and his opponent was Brazil’s Diego Silva. Silva is the 4th ranked bantamweight in the United States that’s not in a major promotion. Gafurov is number five. This was a banger of the matchup.

After the walkouts start, my son’s Oculus warns me the battery is low on the headset. Great, I think it can make it through the main event. Gafurov is walking out and next thing you know, I’m looking at the Meta logo and the headset is powering down. The battery had died and so had my hopes of seeing this fantastic title fight of future UFC talent. That just about sums up my night.

All jokes aside, this is the future of entertainment, not just combat sports. This event was just the beginning of the UFC’s foray into the new and unexplored (er? un-programmed) great beyond. If you have an Oculus, I recommend it. It is fun, it is new, and you feel like Wade Watts from Ready Player One.

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