My last proper blog was done on Friday evening, shortly before I headed out to meet up with Ireland’s first (and only) BJJ black belt John Kavanagh to go see Joe Rogan’s stand-up gig. I’ve seen Rogan a total of seven times now, but he always does something new and this time was no exception. The gig was at a bar called Rooty’s and was approximately the size of my living room, into which a bunch of people were crammed, so many so that organiser Dave Bishop set up a PA outside so that people (including me and my friends) could watch through the window. It was a bit surreal, kind of like watching a giant TV, but great fun. I said hi to Joe after the show and we briefly discussed beard grooming before I headed off to grab some Chinese food.
Back at the hotel I found John in bed with toilet paper rammed into his ears – literally minutes before I arrived a nearby nightclub had been pumping out hard dance music that shook our room. I laughed at his misery only for the music to start back up at 3.30am, just as I was settling down.
Saturday is fight day, so it always means I get a lie-in. A lazy morning in bed checking emails and making sure everything was up to date preceded a short bout of shopping in Birmingham. I amused myself by trying on lots of hats while John found himself irresistibly drawn to some black tracksuits. Lol, just lol.
Media passes, we love them
We made our way up to the arena and checked in, picking up our passes and being warned not to wear any Fighters Only t-shirts in the press pit due to the rather tight advertising ban. We got online, John did a great job of the play by play while I took my own notes and generally took everything in.
Though the fights were good, the event felt very flat, which was disappointing considering the fight card looked absolutely stacked on paper. The crowd felt listless, didn’t really get into any of the fights except Bisping’s, and seemed pretty indifferent to much of the action.
We headed to the post-fight press conference and as the topic of discussion turned to TUF, I suddenly realised five of the seven fighters on the stage had in fact appeared on the show, with only Bisping actually winning it. Crazy.
Our ‘office’ – this was picture was taken at 1.18am!
Back to the hotel John and I set up an improptu office in the bar and worked until 2am, making our working day a total of approximately 15 hours. Stashing our laptops in the room, we headed out in search of food, finally finding an Indian restaurant near the UFC’s hotel. As we finished our food, we headed up there on a whim to find a whole bunch of people drinking in the lobby and hotel bar. We immediately bumped into Ken Pavia and Wesley Murch and chatted to them for a while before heading into the bar and almost choking at the absurd drink prices.
Lola, Tom and Chris, drinking partners extraordinaire
We chatted with everyone from Dan Henderson to Dave Jackson (Muay Thai coach at the Wolfslair), enjoyed drinks with Chris Zorba, ‘Posh’ Tom Baxter, Lola Bamagbala and my good friend but friendly rival Darragh Creamer (he edits Fightsport magazine).
John and Darragh
It was getting late and we were literally the last people left in the bar – at this point there had been plenty of whiskeys consumed, and furniture was cleared for a brief bout of hotel jiu-jitsu between me and Darragh, which was brought to an abrupt halt by confused and slightly nervous hotel staff – after our tussle John told me that Dan Henderson had been watching and laughing at us from the staircase! As John put it, “one to tell the grandkids!”
On the train home – happy faces!
A grand total of two and a half hours sleep and we were heading back home when the final surprise came. The entire trip has been very cool in terms of making contacts and hooking up with fighters, coaches and other important persons, but we were given a gift by the universe when we spotted TUF8 light heavyweight Krzysztof Soszynski sitting on the table next to us on the train back to Manchester. Krzys may have a name that would give dyslexics nightmares but he is a really cool guy and was more than happy to chat to us for a while.
It’s been a long week, but it’s been pretty damn cool. The fights, although interesting, were actually the low point of the whole experience for us – we got so much good content and made so many great contacts that this trip will be paying for itself for a while to come.