As he walked to the ring to the sound of Ozzy Osbourne's cover of Sympathy for the Devil, Derek Daku realized just what he'd gotten himself into.
For starters, the crowd was louder than the music.
But that was nothing compared to the roar that erupted when the local fighter defeated Justin Schmit by technical knockout a few minutes later.
Daku's victory in his first career fight was among the most memorable moments from Saturday's Hard Knocks Fighting Championship mixed martial arts card at Spectra Place.
"It was totally awesome. When the music came on to walk out, I didn't realize there was going to be that much fan support and they were going pretty wild. It was a little bit overwhelming," said Daku, 45.
Daku went after Schmit, a former Estevan Bruins enforcer, right away and, before the end of the first round, knocked him to the ground with a glancing punch to the head. After landing several more blows, the referee stopped the fight.
Daku had taken a knee to the face a few moments earlier and said it "snapped me back to reality that I was actually in a fight."
He said the moment of victory surpassed his wildest expectations.
"I knew exactly what was going on in the ring, but it was sort of a blur after the fact. As soon as the ref laid his hands on me to get off, I heard everything then and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is over.'
"I've been to a lot of amateur fights before and the crowd never seems to get into it as much as they did here."
Hard Knocks owner Ari Taub said Daku was "a crowd favourite."
Daku's fight was followed by a bout between Estevan's Wade Baldwin and Devon Smith, the other co-main event.
Smith knocked out Baldwin with a devastating punch just eight seconds into the fight.
"Baldwin got knocked out right away, unfortunate for him, but I'm sure he'll be back to redeem himself," said Taub.
He said the shortness of both co-main events didn't concern him.
"I want guys to get competition and experience and I want the fans to have a good time. I don't particularly care who wins or loses at this level or how long the fights go."
There were three other local fighters on the card. Kurt Bailey's fight against Evander Masukapoe was the only one to go the distance, and Bailey earned a unanimous decision.
Ryan Feere defeated local fighter Craig Gaudry by tapout at the 1:13 mark of the first round in the fourth bout of the evening. In the night's first contest, Estevan's Felix Jimenez lost to former SJHL enforcer Derek Parker by technical knockout at the 2:25 mark of the second round. The fight ended when Parker pinned Jimenez and landed a flurry of punches.
The card also included a title fight, with Keith MacDuff taking on Rod Busler for the Hard Knocks featherweight title in the eighth bout. After a solid showing by Busler in the first round, including one moment when he dropped MacDuff on his head, MacDuff won by verbal tapout at 1:29 of the second round to run his career record to 5-0.
In other fights, Andy Jack defeated Ryan O'Kurly by submission, Zamir Safi won against Dillon Adam by submission, Leo Shoji triumphed over Travis Favel by verbal tapout and David Swanson bested Angus Deschambeault by tapout.
Taub said he felt the MacDuff-Busler tilt was the best technical fight of the event. Hard Knocks has confirmed a second card at Spectra Place for March 3, 2012 and Taub said holding the events at Spectra Place is a major incentive.
"It's a world-class venue. We'll be back as often as the community wants us.
"I want Hard Knocks to be developing MMA in the Estevan community," he added. "We've got some Estevan guys on the card. We're going to have more on the card. My hope is that this event generates some memberships and some participation (in local clubs)."
Daku said he was impressed by the presentation of the event and plans to fight again in the March 3 card.
"It's a professional look. They're really modelling it after the UFC and I think they're doing a really good job of it," he said.
Taub said the card was a showcase of just how good amateur MMA can be, particularly the featherweight title fight.
"That's the future of the sport. The amateurs have a lot of skills right now. They're better than a lot of the pros we have right now," he said.