ATLANTIC CITY — New Jersey natives have waited seven years for the Ultimate Fighting Championship to return here.

But no one expected such a return.

Ovation Hall, in the newly built Revel, showcased one of the biggest fights of the year, lightweight contenders Gray Maynard vs. Clay Guida, and area fans couldn’t be happier.

“I think its awesome that it’s back in Jersey. I love it and keep it coming back,” said long-time fan Andrew Cowan, 22, from Avalon.

UFC made its first appearance in Atlantic City since June 4, 2005, when Boardwalk Hall hosted UFC 53.

The first mixed martial arts fight of the night had the audience on the edge of its seats and cheering for UFC newcomers, but the focus was on the New Jersey fighters who had a half-full Ovation Hall on their feet.

“I hear that (New Jersey fighters) are probably some of the best in the United States,” said Michael Anders of Jackson. “I’m pumped to see the UFC come back.”

Welterweight Dan Miller, from Sparta (Sussex County), walked into the octagon and the audience greeted him on its feet, chanting, “Miller, Miller.”

Each time Miller landed a kick, connected a punch or escaped his opponent, Ricardo “The Golden Boy” Funch, the audience came alive.

Miller choked Funch with a guillotine at 3 minutes, 12 seconds of the third round and the audience jumped to its feet in support.

Middleweight Nick “The New Jersey Devil” Catone, of Brick Township, was the crowd favorite among the three-round fights that was evident by the number of red shirts that sported his name on the front.

But his fans were disappointed when Chris Camozzi earned a technical knockout at 1:51 into the third round because a cut had opened over Catone’s left eye.

“Folks like Miller and Catone definitely bring the Jersey crowd,” said Jamie Basilico from Jackson.

As the night wore on, more and more fans piled into the spacious and perfectly laid out Ovation Hall, which can seat up to 5,500 fans.

“The seats are great and it (Revel) is amazing,” said Ryan Page, a Mullica Township native.

When fans were asked if they would return to see another UFC event at Revel, many smiled and said, “Absolutely.”

Contact Hannah Bitzer:

609-272-7261