Madison Square Garden is known as "The World's Most Famous Arena." When it hosts UFC 230 on Saturday, an event headlined by a heavyweight title fight between Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis, it will be one of thousands of events the Manhattan building has held since its creation in 1968.
For many of the card's fighters, it holds a special place in their heart. They took the train to Penn Station and immediately saw Madison Square Garden when they reached the top step. They attended sporting events or shows there as a kid. They made it a childhood dream to one day compete inside those doors.
ESPN asked five fighters on this weekend's card who are based in New York or New Jersey what Madison Square Garden means to them.
Chris Weidman, Baldwin, New York
Next to Nassau Coliseum, it's almost like a home to me. I live right by the train tracks on Long Island and I would jump on the train starting in junior high and ride into the city with friends. As soon as you get to Penn Station and walk up those stairs, there's Madison Square Garden. I remember seeing all of the billboards with different fighters and boxers in front of the Garden. For me to be able to be there, and be part of these fights at this historic arena, is definitely an amazing thing.
It's magical walking in there and competing inside Madison Square Garden, with all of the history and all of the people who have performed there from every sport. It's unbelievable. It's surreal.
I was on the first card ever at MSG two years ago. It was unbelievable. I ended up losing the fight, but the whole walkout and being in that arena was like a dream come true. It was ridiculous, being in the middle of Madison Square Garden in a cage with thousands of people looking down on you.
MSG is an amazing arena, but if you focus too much on that, you're going to go crazy. I just try to focus on the fact that it's me and one other guy and we're going to fight. Dumb it down to another sparring session. I'm going to go out there and do my thing.
Shane Burgos, Bronx, New York
It means everything. It's the most iconic arena in the world, so it means the world to me. I was looking forward to fighting in September, but it was taking a little bit long to get matched up, so I opted to wait so I could be on this card. It's huge. I'm pumped for this. It's going to be insane.
MSG is nostalgic. I was in the city all the time growing up in the Bronx. My parents and I would pass by it, and there were always big sporting events going on there. To be competing there? It's pretty wild when you think about it.
I have two other teammates on the card with me. I only live about an hour away, and my other teammates are in the city. I have a bunch of teammates and students who are going to be there. It's going to be electric. If you know anything about Tiger Schulmann, we roll pretty deep and our crowds get pretty crazy. I'm the second fight of the night, so right off the bat the crowd is going to be wild.
David Branch, Brooklyn, New York
It's really cool I get to fight at MSG because a lot of legendary fights have been there. But ultimately, it's about what you do. It's just my time to write my own chapter in the sport's history. That's it. I'm not making it any bigger than that. It's just a f---ing building. The structure is just like any other. There's going to be a whole lot of people there to see some violent s---.
Certain things trigger certain responses in people. For me, I understand the nature of all of this. It doesn't matter what building we're going to be in, what arena. There will be a lot of f---ing people there making a lot of f---ing noise. Ultimately, there's going to be a guy across from me trying to implement his game plan and me implementing mine.
I know that a lot of friends and family will be watching on television. I think there will be a lot of people there who know me. I'm definitely going to feed off that energy when I'm out there doing my work. But it really doesn't matter. I'm pretty numb to it all right now. I'm appreciative that I get to experience something that so many other fighters have. My brothers fought there. Many champions have fought there. I'm just looking forward to getting this done.
Karl Roberson, Neptune, New Jersey
Getting a call to fight there, it was a dream come true. It made me even more hungry. Growing up fighting, especially from the area, you walk past MSG and get the feeling like, "This is the mecca, this is the big show. You make it here, you made it. This is real."
This is going to be completely different from other fights. This is home. This is the big stage. This is your backyard, the mecca of fighting in the world. You don't let anyone come to your house and beat you. So it's time to put all of this extra work in. Time to grind. Time to get this focus right. It's crazy.
It's going to be a calm excitement. You're going to get that tingly feeling or that light weight feeling or that heavy feeling. The mental stress, thinking, "This is MSG, I got to do it." But then you also got to think, "I'm here. It's time to show the world and my hometown what work I put in."
Matt Frevola, Huntington, New York
Ever since I started fighting, and then they legalized fighting in New York, I've wanted to fight at Madison Square Garden. It's pretty much my backyard, and every time I take the Long Island Rail Road to the city, I get off and walk right by Madison Square Garden and visualize fighting there.
I didn't go to too many games but I always liked walking by it and seeing Madison Square Garden. It's the most famous arena around. Whenever I'm talking to people around here and they ask me about my next fight, I say, "I'm fighting at Madison Square Garden." Right off the bat, they are like, "Madison Square Garden!" It's a big deal when you say that around here. I could see it in their eyes.
I always knew that the UFC came to MSG in November, so I was planning to be fight-ready. It was always on the schedule. When my manager called and told me, "MSG," he didn't even have to tell me the opponent. They could have offered me King Kong, and I would have accepted it.