[Written by Wes DeBow]
Sin City was electric with all things badass the first weekend of February. World-class MMA practitioners and fresh American steel both let it all hang out.
The good folks at Harley-Davidson knew where it was at when they rolled into Vegas to partake of the carnage and premier two sick new rides, the Softail Slim and the 72. Both are iconic examples of the adage: "everything that's old is new again." Harley has done a fine job reinterpreting the past and repackaging it for the present. These are two sexy steel beasts that will give the guys in your crew a serious case of bike envy when they see you back in and drop kickstand at your local watering hole.
A diverse group gathered to soak up all that Las Vegas had to offer. We got right to business, and Harley-Davidson provided us with front-row seats at the UFC 143 weigh-ins. The fighters were gaunt and dehydrated, no doubt at their physical and mental limit after the sacrifices necessary to make weight. You could have cut the tension in the air with a judo chop.
After the weigh-ins, we bounced to the Las Vegas Harley-Davidson dealership. The Octagon Nation was set up in the parking lot—a mobile UFC museum filled with memorabilia and interactive gaming. You can test your skills at the new UFC Undisputed 3 game, or show your stuff by measuring your punching power on a bag. We met UFC stud Gray Maynard, Strikeforce’s women's 135-pound world champ Miesha Tate, and undefeated contender Ronda Rousey. You know all the dudes felt silly when Ronda peeled off her shirt and punched the speed bag harder than all of them.
From there, we slipped into the shop to experience Harley's Boot Camp. As if making the dopest production rides on two wheels wasn’t enough to ask of Harley, H-D also makes it easy to live the dream. Harley delivers V.I.P. treatment after hours at local Harley-Davidson dealers. You can even fire up a dyno-mounted Harley and shift through the gears, so beginning riders can feel the power in a safe environment.
The night rolled on and claimed its victims as our group disbanded and chose their poison. Some lost money, some lost their hair. We all lost sleep, brain cells, and some hearing at the clubs. Viva Las Vegas, baby.
The next day, noon came too soon, but we were eager to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the UFC at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The stadium was empty, but alive, as all the audio/video guys were scrambling to make sure the show was going to rock, in 3D no less. We got the low-down on the rules, scoring, and referees, but the highlight was climbing into the octagon. I've been following this show since UFC 1, but stepping into that cage elevated my understanding beyond what I had expected of what a fighter is mentally going through just before a fight. Feeling the spring of the floor under my feet and the links of the fence with my back pressed into the cage got my testosterone peaking. It was hard to resist taking somebody down.
As we left the Events Center, we got a good look at Harley's new rides prominently displayed in the entryway of the fight. No punches were pulled when the team at Harley set out to recapture the flavor of a 1950's classic home-built custom bobber, the Softail Slim. The attention to detail is unmatched, while proportions are voluptuous: a Softail void of anything unnecessary, streamlined essentials, and a focus on the power plant. Harley left just enough room between the seat and tank to afford a view of the rigid mounted, twin cam 103 cubic-inch, home-grown monster that lurks below. If by some miracle, a twist of the throttle and the sweet exhaust note aren't enough to form a perma-grin on your face, a frequent glance down at that baby should do the trick as you're owning the open road.
The 72 is Milwaukee's mash-up of a modern, custom-built bike and the '70s American chopper scene. This is arguably the most stylish production sportster to date: a stripped-down model with ape-hanger handle bars, skinny white wall tires, and a metal-flake paint job that's so deep it's hard to believe the gas tank is hollow. It's awesome how Harley-Davidson, at more than 100 years old, continues to remain relevant.
We had a couple hours to chill and get our bearings before the fight began. It was agreed that a burger and a milk shake was the best thing for body and mind before we made our way to amazing seats right next to where the fighters walked into the venue. The energy in the room built as the seats filled with each passing minute, and with each fight leading up to what would be seen in 3D for the first time, in select theaters across the country. Dana White announced the Hometown Throwdown—some lucky soul will win a custom Harley and have a UFC fight in his hometown.
Next thing everybody knew, Bruce Buffer was saying, "It's time!" and it was on. UFC 143 had a card stacked with ridiculously talented fighters from around the globe, along with an interim world title up for grabs. Even the preliminary fights were off the hook. Frabricio Werdum gave me a high-five as he took the stage and went on to win his bout against Roy "Big Country" Nelson, the fight of the night.
Against the odds, we all made it back to the hotel in one piece. Exhilarated and exhausted, I dreamed that night of ass-whippings and the open road.