Issue 204

March 2024

Fighters Only’s E. Spencer Kyte unveils the secret world of UFC entrance music as he interviews MMA's best to explore the deep impact of walkout tunes on athletes and audiences. 

We’ve all spent more time than any of us will openly admit to pondering our personal walkout track and envisioned ourselves warming up in the back, coming through the curtain, and making that trek towards the cage, our chosen anthem echoing through the arena.

Over the years, we’ve all had our favorites — signature tunes that we look forward to hearing and entrances that are guaranteed to get us a little bit more excited for what is about to transpire.

Think Frankie Edgar sprinting to the prep point to the familiar bass notes and brassy lyrics of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Kick in the Door,” the unmistakable energy of “Sandstorm” signaling the arrival of “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva or one of the sport’s more stoic assassins, Mirko Cro Cop, strolling into battle as “Wild Boys” rang through the venue.

But what goes into selecting a walkout track? What happens in the back before the music kicks in and the march into the fray commences? And what is an athlete thinking as they stand in the cage, awaiting their opponent, and their music kicks in?

To answer some of these questions, I reached out to a host of UFC fighters to get their insights on how they choose their walkout music. What I found was the reasons behind selecting certain songs, any pre-fight rituals or superstitions they bring to Fight Night, and their various reactions to the musical selections — or lack thereof — of their opponents.


Some folks open Spotify, pull up their Liked Songs playlist, and hit shuffle. They’re happy to hear whatever rotates into their preferred output device, regardless of whether it’s a Brit-Pop anthem, a classic rock staple, or that track they heard in their favorite show that inspired a dive down a rabbit hole featuring that particular artist.

But others prefer things a little more curated, a little more refined and hand-picked, favoring an assemblage of tracks that fit a similar genre, artist, or region to the randomness of the full playlist shuffle option.

Fighters are the same when selecting the music that provides the soundtrack to their treks to the Octagon.

For every competitor with a song that leads them into battle each time out, there is another that switches things up every time, and the reasons behind each approach can be just as varied.

  • Chris Gutierrez, UFC bantamweight

Signature track: “Bandoleros” by Don Omar ft. Tego Calderon

“The song is about a struggled upbringing, being called a bandit or a criminal, but he thanks God for where he is in life and trying to live for good. Also talks about how people like to judge and criticize him, but he's just living his life like anyone else.”

  • Bryan Barberena, UFC middleweight

“No signature walkout song. My kids choose my walkout song for me. Anyway, my kids can be part of the moment with me makes it that much better. Always interesting what they choose and always a fun walk to the Octagon.”

  • Brandon Marotte, UFC lightweight

“No (signature song); I normally use a select few, but will often change it up if I like certain songs. It’s not necessarily for me. It’s all what I want the dynamic of the crowd to be. I choose my music based on what I feel would get the crowd pumped up and excited to watch me fight.”

  • Youssef Zalal, UFC featherweight

Signature track: “Up All Night” by Drake

“The vibe and emotions made me choose that song.”

  • Julian Erosa, UFC featherweight

“I've had both a signature walkout song and also have decided to change it up from time to time. Since I have 50 fights altogether, I've actually had multiple signature walkout songs that I used for a handful of fights and then decided to switch it up.”

  • Evan Elder, UFC lightweight

“A lot of my career I walked out to “Monster” by Skillet because I love the lyrics, and it got me hyped. Ever since I was young, I wanted to walk out to a packed arena for the UFC to “Run This Town” by Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Rihanna because of an old fight promotional video for Georges St-Pierre and Josh Koscheck that I absolutely loved when I was younger. Plus, Jose Aldo walked out to it, which was amazing.”


We all heard tales of athletes who go through a specific routine before each appearance or streaking competitors who refuse to change their socks to avoid jinxing their run of success.

On Fight Day, athletes are shuttled to the venue on busses departing at different times throughout the day, ferried to the arena where they check in, find their dressing rooms, and begin the process of preparing to venture out in front of a raucous crowd, eager to deliver the kind of performance that gets them on their feet.

While there are some pieces to the experience that everyone has to go through — wrapping their hands, donning their kits — everyone is different when it comes to totems they must have with them. They have their routines in the dressing room before commencing the journey to the cage and how they prepare themselves for what is about to happen. Here’s what some of the best have to say.

  • Michael Chiesa, UFC welterweight

“I have a hat I have to bring with me to every fight. I’ve brought it with me to every single fight the last 16 years. I listen to the same song every time I walk out of my hotel room to head to the arena. I always do a handful of big sprints right before I walk to the curtain. These are all rituals I have had my entire career.”

  • Steve Garcia, UFC lightweight

“I don’t have a ritual walking to the cage, but I will always say a prayer before I step foot in the Octagon. In the back, however, about five minutes before walking, I normally find a mirror and see the man looking back at me. I like to look at myself because it’s really hard to lie to yourself in those types of moments and I always reassure myself how prepared I am for the fight and embrace what’s about to happen.”

  • Chris Gutierrez, UFC bantamweight

“I say a prayer and ask God to keep my coaches, myself, and my opponent safe. I also speak to my parents who say a prayer over me. Both of these are very significant to me because it puts me in a clear headspace, and on top of that, the walkout song I choose, “Bandoleros,” puts me in the zone and ready for anything!”

  • Bassil Hafez, UFC welterwieght

“I like to take a nap before I do my warm-up or get ready for the fight. I believe it helps me calm my nerves and build up my energy so I can be ready for what is to come.”

  • Damon Jackson, UFC featherweight

“I do the same warm-up that I used to do when I wrestled: I basically go live for 15 minutes in the back, in certain scenarios.”

  • Brandon Marotte, UFC lightweight

“So, before a fight, I have this habit of watching my favorite anime fight scenes. My favorites include scenes from Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece. I’m a huge fan of anime, and it always gets me in the zone. Lastly, I always spend time before the walkout praying; Christianity is a huge part of who I am, and the prayer makes me feel fearless.”


Professional wrestling is flush with signature entrance music, with the opening bars of some iconic tracks being enough to let you know precisely who is about to march out to the squared circle and handle their business.

While it is sports-entertainment, WWE does it best. Those moments where one performer is interrupted by the breaking of the glass that begins “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s theme or the arena pops when “Cult of Personality” kicks in and CM Punk declares “It’s Clobberin’ Time!” before venturing into the ring are critical moments in every contest. These introductions give us a glimpse into the rivalry between the two parties, the tension between the impending combatants, and a chance to understand how powerful a good walkout theme can be.

But does that apply to mixed martial arts as well?

I asked our assembled collection of competitors about the music their opponents have walked out to in the past and their reactions to it, and the responses were quite varied.

  • Evan Elder, UFC lightweight

“When I fought Nazim Sadykhov, he came out to the Azerbaijan fight song or something like that, and it was weirdly intimidating for some reason.”

  • Bassil Hafez, UFC welterweight

“It never gets in my head in a bad way. If I think their walkout song is corny or I don’t like it, then I just associate that with them and let it add more fuel to the fire. If they have a good walkout, then it excites me even more for the fight. For example, Jack Della Maddalena came out to “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and that instantly hyped me up.”

  • Damon Jackson, UFC featherweight

“I am pretty focused once I walk into the cage, but one time, I had a fighter walk out to nothing, and it caught me off guard. I was like, ‘What a douche bag!’ and then I ended up submitting him with a mounted guillotine. It's the only time I've ever landed that submission during a fight so you can figure out who the fighter was.”

  • Ode Osbourne, UFC flyweight

“As for an opponent walkout song, it doesn’t bother me because by getting into my mental space, nothing can come into my bubble or my thoughts that’s negative.”

  • Michael Chiesa, UFC lightweight

“Rafael Dos Anjos walked out to “Going the Distance” by Bill Conti from the Rocky soundtrack. It gave me extra motivation to embrace a tough fight because I grew up watching the Rocky movies.”

  • Bryan Barberena, UFC middleweight

“There has been one time when I heard an opponent walkout and saw their energy that it gave me chills and just felt more real that this man was coming to take me out. That s*** excited me! I’ll never forget the feeling.”

For the record, Robbie Lawler spent his second run in the UFC walking out to “Hold On (I’m Coming)” by Sam & Dave.


The author of this breakdown lists the tracks that have had the most impact.

  • Jose Aldo: “Run This Town” by Jay-Z ft. Kanye West, Rihanna

The fact that he used it for the first time in Sacramento, the hometown of his opponent, Urijah Faber, before walking into the WEC cage and chopping him down makes it all the more iconic.

  • Max Holloway: “Hawaiian Kickboxer” by Moke Boy

As much as there is an “on the nose” element to a Hawaiian kickboxer walking out to a track of the same name, the energy, and spirit of this song is a perfect representation of Holloway outside of the cage and signals the arrival of a BMF whenever it rings out through the arena.

  • Sean O’Malley: “Superstar” by Lupe Fiasco ft. Matthew Santos

The chorus of this song makes it the perfect track for the UFC bantamweight champion: “If you are what you say you are, a superstar, then have no fear; the camera’s here…”

“Suga Sean” has thus far proven that he is what he has always said he is.

  • Ronda Rousey: “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

This is one of those ones where the first chord signaled the arrival of one of the best to ever do it, and the way Rousey used to march out to the cage with a scowl on her face made it even more perfect.

  • Urijah Faber: “California Love” by 2Pac ft. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman

“The California Kid” bopping to the cage to this track is burned in my memory as a perfect pairing because Faber has always felt like the living embodiment of the California beach life and represents where he comes from.