Sherdogs 2021 Walkout Song of the Year –

Only 10 Ultimate Fighting Championship cards went downwith thousands of fans in attendance, and the Bellator MMA quantity totaled even fewer packed-houseevents. Rizin Fighting Federation tamped down itspageantry for the most part in Japan, while tape-delayed dances inOne Championship inside a dark, empty room lostany luster they could hold. Should a fighters entrance at Rizin33 prove truly memorable, however, it will be given its propershine.

The clever choices still made an impression, like TabathaRiccis pick of the theme from the movieJaws composed by John Williams ahead of her first UFC win,which mattered more given her nickname of Baby Shark. In whatcould be called the best walkout song of the UFC this year,TaiTuivasa bucked conventional music selection to go with Wannabe by theSpice Girls before his shellacking of Greg Hardy,and it was bolstered by a considerable percentage of the crowdinside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas singing along. Winning theaudience over proved to be the most valuable determining factor inaward criteria this year, leading to a clear choice by a majorityof Sherdog voting members. First, we should take a quick look atawards gone by.

As if DiegoFerreira wanted to get himself back in contention, the inaugural winner of the Walkout Song of the Year award in2018 walked out to the tune of Footloose by KennyLoggins again in the final UFC event of the year. In 2019, thewinning nominee brought something about as different as a Logginssong as possible, in the form of KronGracies petrifying air raid sirens from the film The Purge. With 2020practically devoid of fans at the shows, it seemed fair thatDarrenTill took home that years award by using silence as his backing ahead of hismatchup with RobertWhittaker. If Tills non-selection seemed emotionless, then itis only fitting that the 2021 Walkout Song of the Year awardclock in as easily the most emotional track heard all year at anycombat sporting event.

For around 30 years in Northern Ireland, a low-scale war calledThe Troubles took place around the country regarding its statusbelonging to the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland.Skirmishes broke out for years as paramilitary groups andnationalist types battled British and local forces, but ultimately,civilians were often caught in the crossfire. In March 1993, a fewbombings took place in Warrington, England, and a pair of childrennamed Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry died as a result. Shortly thereafter, Irish rock band The Cranberries,helmed by frontwoman Dolores ORiordan, penned a protest songtitled Zombie about the bombings, which topped manyinternational charts for quite some time.

Cut to Nov. 5, 2021: Bellator returns to Dublin for the first timein over a year and a half, bringing many Irish fighters to serveunder the Bellator 270 marquee. None proved more significant than itsmain event, pitting Irelands own PeterQueally against PatrickyFreire for the vacant lightweight belt. In this headliner,Queally had the chance to become the first Irish champion in amajor MMA organization since ConorMcGregor. To make matters better, Queally, in front of a homecrowd, took on a man he already defeated six months prior. Eventhough Irish fighters on the card had shown mixed results to thatpoint, Queally still brought hope to theEmerald Isle.

Freire entered first, with Eu Fiz o Jogo Virarby MC Poze do Rodo, Mainstreet & Ajaxx, a nondescript autotunedBrazilian track playing in the 3Arena as he was showered in boosduring his march to the cage. Even though Pitbull may generallybe a popular fighter, he was facing a local, and all bets are offwhen traveling to hostile territory. When he settled in the cageand the lights turned low, few expected how emotional the scene wasabout to become.

Fans were elated simply for Queallys picture appearing on thegiant screen, but when the opening guitar chords of Zombiestrummed over the speakers, the thousands upon thousands inattendance lit up at once as if a switch had been flipped in thebuilding. Their fighter had entered the arena, and he was perhapsminutes away from becoming the first Irish Bellator champion. Asthe song intro floated through the air, Bellator play-by-playcommentator Sean Grande masterfully introduced the song itself onthe broadcast and noted its significance.

It became an anthem for a new generation of Irish, Granderemarked after briefly describing the songs history, and nobetter one with which to serenade their heroes.

At that point, the result ceased to matter. The glory of Irelandwould have undoubtedly swelled to a bursting point had Queallyemerged victorious, but uniting the crowd together in song was abigger triumph than any could have hoped. Even after thecommentators ran out of notes to describe the match itself, themusic played on, with the Irish faithful on their feet belting outthe words as loudly as possible. After allowing the music tocontinue as long as the promotion felt comfortable, it had to moveon with the show. That, as it turned out, did not matter,either.

The song is an anthem for a new generation, Grande repeated, onerepresented here. Not by cowards who bomb innocent children in thestreet, but by warriors like PeterQueally, who fight with respectand for respectfor themselves,their country.

Try as he might, cage announcer Michael C. Williams may have spokenthe words introducing the main event, but the fans completelydrowned him out. Pausing briefly to blast Freire with boos, thecrowd then cheered Queally louder than most crowds have in recentmemory, all before shifting into classic Ole sports chants. Whenthe bout actually began, those in the building remarkably startedsinging the chorus of Zombie again, even as their man began tostart fighting. The Showstopper had done the unthinkable: He hadtruly stopped the show.

Queally was not the first fighter to use Zombie as a walkouttrack, and he may not have even been the first in Bellator or eventhe first in a Bellator card in Dublin to select it. As peopleworldwide crave the return to normalcy after the pandemic, thoseattending live events display ample amounts of relief andenthusiasm at those shows. At the UFCs very first card back in2021, UFC 261 in Florida, the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena waspractically full for the card opener, and ArianeCarnelossi and Na Liangreceived heroes welcomes in the loudest pop curtain-jerkers couldimagine. When Queally fought in the first Dublin card in some time,making it to the stage as the headliner and representing his peoplewas enough. Despite coming up short, he carried his nation on hisback for the duration of his bout and beyond. It is no surprisethat he has already drawn the co-main event billing for Bellatorsnext offering in Dublin in 2022.

As a man that united practically everyone in the 3Arena during hiswalkout, Queally brought relief, joy and, perhaps most importantly,pride to those in the building and watching around his country. Hewas, for a couple moments, the warm little center around which thelife of this world crowded. When 2020s Walkout of the Yearwinner was silence, it is fitting that the 2021 Sherdog.comWalkout Song of the Year is a powerful, enrapturing anthem thatmeant more to Queally and the fans than most can imagine.

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Sherdogs 2021 Walkout Song of the Year -

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