John Gooden

Presenter. Commentator. Writer. Producer

John Gooden is an international presenter, sports commentator, voice over artist and writer

An Englishman in Turkmenistan

If Turkmenistan was to feature as a classified, it might be worded something like this:

‘Do you like all-year-round warm temperatures of 30 degrees or higher?

Do you have a penchant for all things white?

Do you subscribe to the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness?

…then Turkmenistan is for you!'


And like many brochures and creatively worded advertisements, it would not technically be wrong.


So you might be asking, what is this place Turkmenistan you speak of and what's with the clean white references?  Well, it just so happened to be my place of work for two weeks in September and boy was it an experience!  Let me tell you more…


I count myself lucky to have a job that I love which allows me to indulge in my passion of martial arts and also travel the world visiting new places and meeting incredible people.  In my work with the UFC, I have stayed in some beautiful hotels in some of the world's greatest cities including the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, The Crown Melbourne in Australia- the list goes on.  All wonderfully cosmopolitan cities, rich in culture and never suggesting a requirement for a hepatitis vaccination.  But before I reached the lofty heights of the world's most prestigious combat sports organisation, I would join a troop of MMA-loving enthusiasts and travel to far less welcoming and much more heavily armed destinations like Beirut, Lebanon, and Grozny in Chechnya.  And you know what, I missed it.  There's nothing quite like departing for a trip, never knowing what lies in wait at the other end.  Will I make it across the border with this folder of stamped paperwork and 3 copies of my passport?  Will my very specific dietary requirements be catered for?  Will my delicate Hertfordshire-born immune system stand up to exotic bacteria? Last, but not least, will I live to write to tell the tale on my personal web site???

The things you are guaranteed on any trip are memories and stories.  From passing armoured vehicles mounted with machine guns in the Beirut rush hour to facing flash lights and Kalashnikovs (I can't be sure they were Kalashnikovs, but it sounded cool, plus they were also weapons of destruction) in the small hours somewhere in Dagestan.  What stories would the Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games give birth to?  Well, read on!

Like any worthwhile destination, there needs to be multiple stop overs. Tick: London to Frankfurt to Baku to Ashgabat.  And then the immigration queue needs to be gnarly and intimidating.  Nope.  My first taste of Turkmenistan was marble, more marble, lots of lights and volunteers in multi-coloured uniforms with what at first appeared to be propeller hats, but then wasn't.  It was late and I was clearly jet-lagged. 

The drive to our Olympic Park residence was more of the same really.  Lots and lots of white buildings and even more lights that changed the colour of the buildings, like a super-charged Griswold's Family Christmas in 30-degree heat.  Just to remind us of the far away world we had just entered, we did experience multiple security checks, scanners, questioned about why we would possess a laptop and were warned to never forget or lose our credentials, which we were to wear around our necks. We were bar coded accordingly and the much desired laminated pendant would determine which doors and gates we could cross.  It would also bear a sought-after code that would allow us to access the internet and even social media, something the Turkmen people were not typically given access to.



My first impressions were that a whole lot of money had been spent on building the airport, roads and Olympic park where the games would shortly commence.  Turkmenistan is a wealthy (although was wealthier until they lost some energy contracts) country with huge natural gas reserves which indirectly explains the lights.  The Turkmen people don't receive electricity bills, so they fiercely indulge in thousands of lights.  Basically, all those moments we spend chasing family members around the house turning lights off and switching off the stand by lights on our television- completely futile when you consider how ‘turned on' Turkmenistan operates 24 hours a day.

On my first day, I was given a quick run-down of local etiquette including the correct hand shaking method (far easier than the masons), no hugging of the local ladies and no public displays of affection.  I was cool with the latter as my producer, Rob, and I had only just met.  Also on the first date agenda was Turkmen tummy; an unfortunate, but amusingly named term to describe frequent loose bowel movements and cramping.  Another important gem of knowledge was that the US dollars I had travelled with were to be changed at the place which sells the cleaning products on the first floor of the mall.  Apparently, they give the best rate, but you have to be discreet, perhaps in the same way you might be if you were trying to procure a little bit of blue off the top shelf!  

My role in Turkmenistan was as an announcer for the Muay Thai and Kickboxing competitions within the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG).  Pretty straight forward right? Well, it was until I saw the names of the athletes.  Thai, Turkem, Tajiki, Chinese and Uzbekistani names had me tripping over myself worse than the first time I drank a bottle of Thunderbird at 15.  After a few days, I started to get a feel for the symbols and patterns.  I began rolling my ‘r's, coughing into my ‘kh's and tuning into my inner Russian!  Some of these pronunciations were actually helped by the onset of a rubbish cold which was just lovely in the 30-degree heat. Even better for my new colleagues who kept slipping past me on my freshly discarded snot-filled tissues.

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That said, I love a good challenge and I was blessed to be working with a great team in two disciplines of combat sports that I loved.  There was, however, a continuing theme that irked me on a regular basis; barriers.  I have never seen so many barriers and gates in my life!  I think Warren Buffet made another couple of mill out of the steel sector given the metal fabrications supplied to Turkmenistan.  They were everywhere; blocking, funnelling, confusing and frustrating AIMAG attendees every damn minute.  Despite this massive expanse of land whereby you have to cross 12 lanes of carriageways to get from one side of the road to another, you are dropped into an ever-changing maze of galvanised steel and tall white gates, narrowing you into much more modest lanes of human traffic.  It got so bad I once wore my Garmin Forerunner to measure the additional steps I was taking due to what seemed like a human experiment of orientation.  The result- 1,000 extra steps every day, before we even got to the Olympic Park.  Add that to the daily walk of 16,000 steps to just get to and from work.  (I've just realised how much of a geek I sound, but that was how angry I got).  One day the gate nearest my hotel block was open (still meant I was travelling in the opposite direction but it would have saved about 600 steps, as a rough estimate-hee hee) to allow a dust cart through, so I made a bee line for it only to be met by a local security guy imitating Dr Dre in Xzibit's X video. Not one to be intimidated by fake rappers I dropped the shoulder, went the other way, sold him but was quickly faced with his mate…the middle-eastern-looking muscle to the fake rapper. Typically, if I had been in the WD (Watford) postcode for those unawares I would have continued my quest for freedom through the gates, but I was in full view of numerous cameras, in a country which I had recently learned had an appalling record for human rights and had just sentenced a local to life imprisonment for stealing a packet of cigarettes.  So I abandoned the more direct route and continued further in the wrong direction from anywhere in order to abide by the rules and stay out of jail.

I didn't get much free time over the couple of weeks I was there, so I can't report back on the nature of Turkmenistan.  Although, a couple of colleagues had managed to venture out beyond the gates to actual Turkmenistan and checked out The Gates of Hell!  They came back with fascinating photos of huge craters in the earth that were alight after geologists decided to set fire to the natural gas that was emitting from them back in 1971.  They even managed to get back to the compound before the 11pm curfew. Yes, that's right there is a curfew in place.

Photo by darkydoors/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by darkydoors/iStock / Getty Images

What's even more bizarre than a curfew is what takes place when the President decides to leave his residence.  I'm not sure if he is a sociophobe, but it would seem he doesn't like to be seen as we were all ordered to basically lock down in our rooms, close the curtains and do not look out!  I actually heard of people being stuck in subways (lots of them due to the huge roads which have absolutely no traffic on them) for a couple of hours because the President was out and about. Madness!

While we’re on the bizarre, let's talk about significant fines to any car owners if their cars are considered dirty. Any entrepreneurial types reading this might consider importing second-hand vehicles from Turkmenistan as they are kept pristine!  On the same theme, I noted local women scrubbing the white lines on the road each night.  Down on their hands and knees in the middle of the road swashing the hatched lines etc! Maybe less weird, how about serving beer out of teapots and teacups?  I'm still not clear whether this was to hide the fact that alcohol was being consumed or whether this particular establishment was trying to be cool.  A bit like how my wife now drinks from old marmalade jars and through metal straws.   

Another strange bit of info was to learn that the President gives a significant gift to any families that have 8 children or more!  That's right, 8 kids. Apparently, Turkmen folk tend to marry at between 16 and 18 (not arranged), move in with the husband's family and get to work on creating a mini tribe.  The woman who told me this also spoke of her neighbour who has 10 children and was given a new apartment by the President as a reward.  You can imagine her response when I told her I was on my third marriage and had no children!  FYI, that was a lie to get a reaction from her. Definitely worth it too!

Finding vegan food was a bit of a challenge for me.  I'm pretty sure they don't even have a word for it in the Turkmen language, but I was lucky to have Russian friends who could explain the requirements (most Turkmen speak Russian too).  Plain pasta, plain rice and some salad were pretty much my staples for lunch, but that was better than the gluten-free oats I was having in boiled water served in what seemed like infant cups and toy miniature spoons.  Dinner was similar to lunch, but I might find a tomato based sauce for the pasta or some fries.  I actually found a place where they did a pretty good vegan burger (by accident), so you might say I almost had a gastronomic experience!  The biggest challenge for food was that the place was so vast that it was nearly 30 minutes to walk to the supermarket and mall where restaurants would be.  The onsite café had a buffet and very limited options for The Bloody Vegan.   Tough at times and I lost 3 kilos by the time I came home.    


But this trip was made good by all the people I met.  The local people were really lovely.  The volunteers that we worked closely with were so happy and willing to help.  They were all trying to picking up the English language and get something out of the crazy experience of the Olympic Games.  More than that though was the team I worked with.  There’s somethingabout a bond created when you’re really in a bizarre environment.  At one point I actually thought that we might all be trapped in this Truman Show, type world.  One of oppression, routine, limited freedom and cleanliness.  I say cleanliness,  however, I was only given one, triple XL polo shirt for my stay, so my relative cleanliness wasn’t up to my usual standards.  But the roads…well you could eat (and cook) your tofu off them! I should also mention I mentioned UFC fighter Valentina Shevchenko’s mum whilst on a trip to a restaurant to celebrate the end of the Muay Thai competition. What a lovely lady!

From singing Daddy Cool loudly in the back of a cab somewhere in Ashgabat, to gate crashing the posh hotel to use their gym and spa facilities, Team Muay Thai had great Ashgabants (see what we did there, merged Ashgabat with bants).  We laughed, we nearly cried and we sometimes feared for our freedom, but we’re all home safely now to tell the tale. It was a trip I probably wont repeat in a hurry, but I have satisfied my need for a trip to a shady, foreign land.  Rob aptly described Turkmenistan as Dubai meets North Korea. Brilliant assessment.

Oh and before I go, some of you might be interested in the fight results?  Well, I was most impressed with Turkmenistan.  I’d never even heard of the country before going there and they had a very high standard in both Muay Thai and Kickboxing.  Of course the Thai fighters cleaned up in the Muay Thai with the Iranians doing best in the Kickboxing.  The fighters from Kazakhstan were ferocious and did well and the fighting spirit of the Afghan representatives shone through too.  There were also a few stand-out fighters from Iraq.  I’m confident we’ll see more high level fighters transition to MMA from the region.





Meal options to EASILY become plant-powered!

The Bloody Vegan lays out a bunch of really easy breakfasts, lunches and dinners to help you eat a more plant based diet. Also check out the accompanying videos on The Bloody Vegan YouTube channel. Oss

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4 GOOD, 4 BAD from my first half iron distance triathlon

Below are my take aways from my first half iron distance (70.3) race at The Marshman in Kent, UK.



Top of the list was having sought out great coaches.  Those who have been checking out my YouTube videos will have heard me mention Helen Hall who has helped me all the way from posture correction to pedal coaching and sprint training.  I have also had 5 swimming lessons with Mike Weedon, a certified Total Immersion Swimming coach.

The theme of the coaching I have been given is efficiency.  I have a background in explosive sports and my nature is typically 100 miles an hour at all times, so longer distance triathlons don’t exactly fit with my natural pacing of life, but life is about challenges and at times becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Helen wears many hats for human performance, being a triathlon coach is one and I’ve been lucky to have enlisted her help for some injury correction, run coaching and pedal coaching.  In short, she helped me unravel some biomechanical issues to reduce joint pain in my knees, back and neck and once that was done (via a combination of ‘geezer walking’ and other reprogramming techniques) I moved onto run coaching (  The most significant aspects have been moving to minimalist/ barefoot running, nose breathing and amplifying the rotation in, well everything during a run.  My times have been coming down, my VO2 max has increased and I spend less time in heart rate zone 4 and 5.  Essentially I have become more efficient and that is so important when aiming for half and full distance triathlons.

The pedal coaching also made a massive difference.  Not only was I taught good posture in tri position (not banana man!), I was introduced to Speedplay pedals which have been kinder to my knees and I now use gravity to my advantage which has seen me go from struggling at the back of the pack to charging past others particularly on hills.

I have really enjoyed my development in swimming.  Last year when I was a triathlon newbie and having a crack at sprint distances, I would get out of the pool or lake looking like I’d just had a full body free-weights workout and sounding like I had performed all of that on a treadmill at 10 mph! 

These days I am fascinated by Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion Swimming technique.  It looks so graceful and effortless.  Although a relative novice I have already reduced my stroke count in a 25m pool from 25 to 19 and my general feeling after a swim is that I’m ready for the bike and run.  I employ a 2 beat kick, using my core as my swim engine and only a small whip of the legs from the hip.  I hold the water with an outstretched arm at about 30 degrees, until I spear with my next stroke with a relaxed forearm and kick/ rotate past my holding arm which cycles past my pocket and then the stroke continues. 

The above has made my journey much more enjoyable.  We all love to learn and having this technical focus has kept me interested when crashing out +100 laps of the local, dirty council swimming pool or pounding the pavements avoiding aggressive dogs and giving me something more than the rain to occupy my mind.

It is of course training that helps you reach your goals, but the correct guidance and focus has allowed me to achieve my goals more efficiently and confidently.



Last year’s foray into triathlon was akin to sniffing a new food to discover whether it was even worth tasting.  With the longer distances planned over a summer of activity, I had to take my first race seriously.  You read all about being prepared and it really is an essential.  There is so much kit to remember, pack, fit, clean, charge and arrange that it needs careful attention.  I made an extensive list in my Evernote app and ticked everything off before I left for the race.  I laid everything out (similar to transition) and mentally walked through the race making sure I had everything from goggle anti-fog spray to electrolyte tablets.

Before you even get to this stage though, it’s worth researching your nutrition plan and perhaps even bike set up for the distance.  I had a GURU bike fit in February and have made some changes along the way due to pedals and saddle changes.  Some people might have a new bike set up for longer/ shorter distances, so something to consider.  A bike service is also a good shout.  I changed my tyres and tubes for more durable items.  I also tightened everything up (or so I thought…more about that later).  Oh, and look at weather reports.  We were forecast rain for the bike and run, but we were lucky.  However, I had a waterproof jacket in case.

In terms of nutrition, I was staying overnight close to the event so I pre-prepared my dinner, breakfast and also some food for re-fuelling.  I worked out that I would need to fill my torpedo bottle and take a spare standard bottle for half iron.  I like the High 5 tablets so I’d need 2 of those.  I also took a combination of 4 torq gels and 2 torq bars and also 1 packet of clif blocks (basically a solid gel and really easy to consume) and clif bars for after the race.  I decided on 3 medjool dates for the run.  Some people tape the gels to their frame, but I bought an x-lab frame mounted pouch to safely store all the necessary gels, oh and a couple of 200mg ibuprofen.  I actually took 1 when the pain in the ass got too much at about the 30 mile mark!

Lastly, I drove the route in my car.  I actually got lost twice, but thankfully didn’t repeat this despite largely riding alone for large parts of the race.  The course was well marshalled and wasn’t confusing.  Maybe because I checked it out first!?

With no stone unturned I was far more relaxed heading down to the race.


This is very important.  I am a super competitive person and even though I was supposed to be using this race as a training session my resting heart rate certainly was not at 50.

One of the main reasons I wasn’t completely at ease stems from last year’s experiences in the water.  My first ever sprint tri was in a pool with competitors starting every 10 seconds.  In my first lap I got punched in the face, dragging my goggles down and cutting my nose.  Someone was trying to overtake in my lane and we collided.  However, coming from a combat sports background it hit an internal switch that changed me from ‘friendly bloke looking forward to a bike ride’, to ‘oh, its like THAT!’  For my next race at Hever Castle I was way more focussed and had a good warm up.  My mate and I entered the lake and the next thing I remember was being dunked, elbowed, pulled and bumped.  I very nearly quit.  I got myself into a bit of a negative state and the memory has stayed with me for this year’s season. 

The thing with the swim, is that there will be contact.  You can find a shallow part of the lake and wrestle with the reeds or you can swim among other neoprene clad humans.  For this race I accepted my fate and just relaxed into it.  I went back to the training mentality and even found myself trying to swim off the hips of other racers and battling for position at the buoys.

Anxiety causes physical tension and clouds your mind and judgement.  I was able to happily go about my ride and run with a relaxed mind which made it much easier to relax my body in tri position on the bike and then throughout the run.  I can remember hearing some water sloshing around in my stomach on the run, which was good in that I was clearly relaxed, but I probably water loaded a little bit too much. 

We must accept our present state and environment at every turn of a race.  We must trust in our training and then execute.  Tensing up will only burn useful energy and increase the likelihood of injury, not to mention affect good form and performance.



I feel like I paced the race well.  Although you are among a field of other triathletes for a great many competitors you are focussing on your own race, your own goals.  Sure, use others as targets but only if you feel its not outside of your strategy.  And just an aside, don’t look back.  It’s negative.  Of course check your shoulder on the bike to avoid dangers, but don’t lookback on the run.  You should be aiming forward at all times, with maybe a small exception at the final sprint to the finish line.

I watched a good YouTube video from an experienced Iron Man that suggested holding back a little bit on the bike.  He literally meant riding at 18mph if you wanted to average 20 mph.  Pulling slightly on the reigns will pay dividends and for me, it certainly did.  I was passed by about half a dozen bikes during the first 15-20 miles, but then as the course became a little more challenging I increased the intensity and earned back all of those spots.  I was doing so well until my chain came off and jammed just before the only significant climb on the course.  Dammit!

I also paced the run pretty well too.  I noticed that a lot of us were coming out of transition running 7:30 min miles, which I thought would be too quick for me.  I don’t have much experience of running half marathons.  I ran a 45 minute 10k at a Windsor duathlon and that has been my closest race pace to gauge against.  So, I slowed up.  I wanted to run around 8 minute miles and I definitely wanted to run inside 2 hours.  However, around mile 8 I could feel some of my injuries tormenting me a bit; first my knee, then my ankle and then my hamstring.  The last thing I wanted (or needed for my confidence) was a DNF (did not finish), so I slowed up to about 9 minute miles and came home inside the 2 hours.  Without pacing I might not have finished and I might have closed out my season with a serious ligament injury.



I think this would appear on a lot of novice triathlete’s lists.  The upshot is that I reckon I have an easy couple of minutes to save which would have elevated my final race position.  It’s easiest to illustrate in a mini list.  OK, so T1: 

·      I could have swum closer to the exit point of the lake

·      For some reason I ran out of transition with one cleat cover over my Speedplay cleats.  I have no idea how this happened, but I guess I was in 2 minds when I was setting my kit out as to whether it would be too slippery etc through transition.  I only discovered this whilst trying to clip in.  Obviously a challenging task when you have a solid plastic barrier!


·      Came to dismount the bike as I did last year when I was racing sprints.  For this I would unclip the right shoe, swing it over to the left side as the bike was still moving and then eventually dismount on the left.  I was a little more fatigued this time though so realised that wouldn’t happen without embarrassing incident, so I came to a halt (after unclipping) and tried to swing my leg over the rear of the bike.  However, I had a newly-mounted X Lab wing on the back which meant a little more effort needed to clear with the leg.  A clash with wing ensued but no harm done.  More work needed to decide the correct dismount!

·      For the bike I had worn an extra cycling jersey and an extra pair of shorts.  I have been suffering terrible chafing after the duathlon, so I thought I’d wear an extra pair of shorts which I could remove if in fact it created too much padding and a counter productive effect.  In short, they worked.  But I was half way out of transition before I realised I hadn’t removed them!  So, I went back to my spot, took them off and left transition.  What about your cycling jersey, you ask.  Yeah, I forgot to take it off!  Not too much of a problem, but I did have all my empty gels, my cleat cover and a small bag of 3 dates in the pockets, most of which I didn’t need to carry.  Plus it was warming up and I had double layers on.


It wasn’t long during the ride that I saw a poor fellow tending to a puncture.  Shitty luck when that happens, but it most certainly does happen.  My mechanical issues were a little different to this. 

Now I class myself as fairly handy.  I’m an experienced tradesman and I like to try my hand at practical stuff.  Bicycles are largely simple devices with only a few moving parts, so how hard can it be!?!  Well in the week leading to the race I manage to get hold of some necessary accessories like the front mounted hydration system, a frame mounted bag and a bike post wing which you fix a variety of useful kit to, in my case a bottle holder, a medium sized bag for maintenance tools/ equipment and a nut for speed fill air canisters and adapter.  I largely followed the instructions and thought I was good to go, proud of my new attractive set up.

About 5 miles into the ride I heard a metallic tinging noise…you know, the noise that a CO2 canister makes as it falls from a bike moving at 20 mph on to the unforgiving black tarmac road!  This wasn’t a deal breaker and I still had one canister should I realise the same fate as the poor fellow I had not long passed who was frantically removing a damaged tube from his wheel. 

Fast forward another 10/15 miles and I heard another noise close behind my bike.  This time it was more of a thud followed by a skid…you know, the noise a bottle full of water and electrolytes makes as it magically climbs out of its cage and escapes to freedom!  Not so good for thirsty me.  And also not so good for anyone riding behind- apologies to anyone that recalls this incident, it wasn’t a devious attempt at some kind of Whacky Races advantage!  Fortunately, the aid station at the half-way point allowed me to refill and I was good for the rest of the ride.

What wasn’t good however was the position of my chain as I began the only significant climb of the bike section.  I have no idea why it happened, but as it shifted to the small ring that harrowing noise of metal and carbon filled my ears and my crank locked.  A peek down between my feet revealed it was time to get oily.  I was able to free the (luckily undamaged) chain and start my ascent.  I was frustrated though as I had worked really hard to claw back a number of positions and was in a really good rhythm.  I wanted to test my ability climbing the hill against others, but sadly I did it alone.  I might have also meant that I didn’t get caught in the queue at the rail crossing in the final quarter!

Maybe I should have had my bike serviced after all.  It wasn’t perfect after the duathlon in April and I tried to make some small adjustments myself.  It will however be checked into the professional workshop shortly.



I’m a little bit obsessed with hydration.  I drink a lot and I pee a lot.  Staying well hydrated has served me well, but in a competitive environment it seems to be costing me time.  Sure I ran through the water and aid stations but I could have saved a couple of detours which would have reduced the negative effects on my breathing and heart rate, not to mention running form as a result of being loaded on one side which upsets the biomechanics.

Next time I will find out about how many aid/ water stations there are and maybe even their locations and plan this.



Lastly, and it was a rookie error- laces.  So I never got round to weaving speed laces into this season’s running shoes.  In fact the laces in my Merrells had never undone either, so with this not being a sprint, I was quite happy to stick with tying them in transition.  100 metres out of transition and the bloody things came undone!  I hadn’t factored in the numb fingers effect from the bike.  I will buy a new set of speed laces shortly.


That’s my 4 good and 4 bad from my very first half iron distance race.  Please don’t make the same mistakes as me and also reach out with any thoughts or tips.  You can find me the followng ways:

twitter @johngoodenuk or @thebloodyvegan

instagram @johngoodenuk

YouTube The Bloody Vegan

Train hard.  Train safe.  Have fun.








My lasting sentiments from Vegas

mgm It’s funny what some people’s take away are from historic events. I decided to write this sat in the MGM Grand in a fairly open spot to observe all the people recovering from the monumental week that peaked with UFC 194. There are a lot of glazed eyes, lazy feet and hoarse voices. Even on Monday afternoon, there are suited men with green, white and orange cloaks.

I originally thought I’d write this post as a bit of a fight week report, but as I recount the events of the week my hangover is being surpassed by high levels of adrenaline as I recognise and process the unbelievable achievements of my employers, Luke Rockhold and Conor McGregor. Dreams, hard work, smart work and ambition are prevalent in my assessment of the week that has been.

Mixed martial arts is still comparably young to ‘big sports’ and the UFC are the trailblazers. They continue to push boundaries and make huge gains on their mainstream cousins. I work with a lot of these people and I see, first hand, the effort they put in and the results. In fact as a presenter, commentator I see my role as a lucky representative of the many people behind the scenes and a secondary voice for the fighters. If I make errors, I haven’t delivered something that others have worked on for probably a significant time. If a fighter confides in me and I misrepresent their story, I have failed them. For me it’s so much more than calling a 1-2, single leg takedown, pass to side control sequence. I write this because attending as a spectator this week, I took time to watch others at work, considering their styles, pressures and success. I saw the stress, the joy, the effort and the scale of the operation. I have been inspired, I have taken notes and I’m excited to get back in the foxes dojo (my office) to start complimenting these efforts.

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A little about the three events then: After hanging out in a few bars and clubs (for purely research purposes) it quickly became apparent that I was in the company with not necessarily UFC fans, but Conor McGregor fans. It was a little bit like going to a local MMA show- people there probably don’t even know what the event is called, but they are there to support a friend or family member. My hopes in such situations is that they are drawn into our beautiful sport and invest in other athletes. A small side note, a benefactor of the McGregor effect was clearly Uriah Faber. I’ve been a fan of his since his WEC days. I’ve loved his ‘Californian ways’, business acumen and “Hi Mom” shout-out before his introductions (not to mention his fighting ability). The Irish fans like him as he was Conor’s friendly foe on The Ultimate Fighter. Correction, it wasn’t the Irish fans, it was the McGregor fans. They are made up of many different nationalities. I was with a couple of Geordies and also some Americans who were mad about The Notorious one and now Faber.

194 billboard

I am a neutral and I maintain that the best man or woman must win regardless of allegiances. However, it’s no secret that Conor’s success will benefit the European region. In the short term, it will probably cost Dan and I a show as when Conor returns to Ireland, it will of course be a PPV event. (One day, Dan, we will be Octagonside on a hallowed ‘numbered’ event!!).

It has been a pleasure to watch his rise. I wrote an article about this for ( For a fella that hasn’t picked up a degree in communications, Conor really knows how to deliver a message. I’m fascinated to know what his reading list has been over the last 10 years. He has inspired me both professionally and also athletically. Why should we settle with mediocre goals? And in terms of training, I was once told to stick to one thing, not diversify as it will have negative effects on my goals. They were wrong and I’m now enjoying a much more open relationship with my jiu jitsu and MMA!

Shortly, I will leave the desert with another planeload of McGregor fans and Vegas will miss them. Sure, the MGM Grand security staff will sleep well after a week of over time, but the soundtrack of the Irish fans was epic. Their colourful presence was seen up and down the huge strip. They have spent their hard earned on the gambling tables, in the bars and apparently at the mobility scooter hire centre (watching fans race round red perimeter carpets of the MGM like sin city Mario Karts was pure comedy gold). Their stamina for fight week was ridiculous- they most certainly out-worked any of my respective capabilities!

194 arena

To sign off, I must salute all those involved in this unbelievable fight week. Well done to all the fighters and teams who were involved. Finally, congratulations to Luke Rockhold and Conor McGregor. They deserve all the plaudits they receive. The history have been rewritten.

Becoming competitive again! Part 3

Becoming competitive again! Part 3. The longest part of a triathlon is the bike ride. That means a lot of time in the saddle and cycling is actually pretty damn technical. I made a few rookie errors and some wise decisions.

I was in a bit of hurry to get my ‘bike legs’, so I decided to buy a cheap ‘fixie’ or single speed bike. I bought a Quella single speed and thought this would help me get used to life on 2 wheels until I properly researched the best race bike for my budget. My Quella in baby blue came within a couple of days and after a few minutes work with a spanner and allen key, I was road-ready.

bike 3
bike 3

Now although I looked cool with my funky bike, Bern lid and wild face hair (or at least I thought I did), the realisation hit home pretty quick that I lived on a hill and bikes tend to have numerous gears for a reason! The notion of swapping the car for the bike to pop to the shops was quickly dismissed as my maiden voyage to the shops ended with what felt like an inferno in my lungs and stretched ankle ligaments from poor form and incorrect bike set up. Brilliant. My first set-back and reminder that injuries are always lurking around the corner. Oh and no one looks like cool in any guise when you’re panting in distress, grimacing and barely moving forwards.

I don’t regret buying the Quella and I now enjoy going out on gentle rides in the opposite direction to the nasty hills.

After some decent research and taking advice from an old pal and new GB triathlete, Paul Suett, I bought my race bike. I went for a Specialized Allez Elite. It’s an attractive and slightly aggressive road bike. I was never going to know the difference between this bike and another, but I would certainly notice a hole in my wallet if I had gone shopping for a bike to use in a triathlon. A proper triathlon bike will set you back the cost of a tax’d and MOT’d VW golf with a decent service history! With my wife’s company discount I got kitted out with the bike, lid, gloves, bottle, repair bag/ kit, pedals and triathlon cycling shoes. I opted for cleats as it’s what the pros use and it is the correct choice, though they take some getting used to and things get interesting during transitions!

With a newly purchased 2-piece tri suit in my ruck sack I collected my new bike and accessories and rode back from Hendon, North London down a notoriously fast and, as I nearly discovered, treacherous stretch of road. Apart from my hipster cruises on the Quella I had not been on the open road since I was a teenager and self-titled fastest kid on the block. It was a dicey ride home to say the least. The thin tyres and lightweight frame are not very forgiving and neither is the light padding of a tri suit (proper cycling shorts are far more cushioned but running in them would be like watching a man baby learning to walk again). What are also not very forgiving are other road users. I must apologize to any cyclists that I have not given adequate room to when passing. Now I have been known to get a little hot under the collar when using the road, but my first trip on the bike had my blood boiling. I also realised why cyclists don’t always like to stop at lights etc…it’s those damn cleats. I didn’t exactly fall off when clipping my shoes in and out, but it wasn’t an elegantly executed procedure and had me take to the pavements on a few occasions to get straight before tearing up the tarmac again.

bike 2
bike 2

Once again I learned the lesson of a poorly set up bike. I aggravated my ankle ligaments on both sides. After taking my bike into the Giant store (not just a big establishment, but a bike manufacturer) I had the bike set up including the cleats on the shoes which had been wrongly fitted putting extra force through the outside of my ankles. Money well spent and now I’m happily powering through without injury.

The last and most recent piece of cycling kit I purchased is a turbo trainer. It’s a means of transforming your bike into an exercise bike so you can watch Netflix and get a work out in simultaneously. If Netflix wasn’t worth the subscription before, it sure is now. I think you get what you pay for with these, but they can be noisy, hot and difficult to store so chose well. It’s a tough work out and you get a good sweat on whilst giving you the feel of the bike you’ll race with. Plenty of towels are needed to mop up and make sure those bottles are filled up. I chuck a NUUN tablet in there too in order to replace salts etc.

These days I look forward to riding my bikes. I really want a mountain bike now so that I can go off road and properly hurt myself on uneven surfaces and bang into trees! Bikes are a very eco-friendly way of getting around too, so you’re ticking that box. Peace!

As for biking in triathlons, it gets more technical. The transitions are tricky and the actual motion of peddling needs attention. No longer are you pushing your foot down, you are apparently wiping the shit off the sole of your shoe and trying to transfer equal(ish) power through the 360 degree motion of that big ring. Since being aware of this I have noticed an improvement on the hill climbs, but more work is needed. A watt meter/ wattometer/ wattever…a device that can help you monitor how much power you are pushing through the pedals will help you work this real time. Apparently this should be tried using just one leg (and probably best to stick to the turbo trainer) and then swapping over to the other leg. Then when you have two legs working in perfect balance, you’ll be ready for that yellow jersey!

bike 1
bike 1

As regards the swim to bike transition, I watched lots of YouTube stuff and thought I’d do what the pros do at this early stage of my triathlon journey so that I’m not learning new stuff later on. This involves climbing onto the bike with the cycling shoes already clipped into the pedals and suspended by elastic bands that keep them level rather than grounding out as you run to the mount/ dismount point. On the bike to run transition, once again you leave the shoes clipped in and remove your foot whilst in transit and pedal on top of the shoes to the dismount point. If you are following this, you will understand that you are therefore running barefoot from through the transitions. Now the YouTube clips I watched were in Australia, Hawaii and the States….places where the sun shines and the ground is favourable. Not in the UK where it’s cold, it rains loads, the ground is muddy and then there are lots of stony paths! I should have taken Paul’s advice and got mountain bike cycling shoes (and pedals), which have enough grip to allow you to run in. My experience so far has meant I have tried to squeeze my size 12 foot into a cycling shoe, covered in a cocktail of mud and stones, which renders it a good size 13. This has made for a rough transition and dirty cycling shoes. And lets face it, if you can’t race well at least look the bollocks whilst competing!!

bike 4
bike 4

I’m yet to suffer a dreaded puncture during a race (or even a ride for that matter), but I have got a pouch with 2 spare tubes and a CO2 canister to keep me going. There would be nothing worse than not getting to the finish line, so the added weight and even the added time if a puncture occurred are a small price to pay. When looking for self-improvement, you could always pause the stop watch and minus off the repair time to see where you might have come if the universe were more kind on that day.

Becoming competitive again. Part 2

With part 1 describing the why, the following few paragraphs are possibly about the what, how and largely the lessons I learned.  

My mate, Jamie, with whom I have largely been encouraged into this type of training, suggested a triathlon. It sounded challenging enough and much more than ‘just running’ 10k or something. Something that would require training. Oh, and a bike!

Now, Jamie operates on a different time schedule to me. I had slowly started to adjust my body clock to be a little more…nocturnal. The fight game doesn’t tend to get out of bed really early in my experience. In the UK we battle heavy eyelids to watch the finest fighters do battle at 3am. Also, most martial arts classes are in the evening. However, it turns out Jamie has a few friends who also follow the sun rise and on a Saturday morning at 6:30 they descend on various lakes around the country ready for the plunge into the often murky water to grapple with reeds and dodge duck shit.

lake 1
lake 1

So armed with a set of goggles, flip flops and towel, I jumped in Jamie’s car and headed to the lake. Now, I once promised myself that I would only ever get up around the 5am hour to go on holiday. And y’know when you are on the way to the airport really early, but there are quite a few cars on the road? Likelihood is they’re going to the lake! It wasn’t even 7am and the car park was full. A fantastic range of different measured water babies circled the 1000m course. I joined in but not before I squeezed into a hired wet suit (tip: other people have definitely pissed in them- get your own), covered my neck in Vaseline (tip: I later learned not to use Vaseline as the petroleum corrodes the wet suit! Use Glide and apply it to your neck, wrists and calves so you can pull the suit off without looking like you are resisting arrest whilst on speed) and pulled a thin piece of rubber over my carefully coiffured hair.

Despite the early mornings, I actually really enjoyed the swims. It was the summer, so that helped. Also, you can swim the 1000m in about 20 mins and be home with an 8 still showing on the clock. Plenty of time before jiu jitsu at 11am! I didn’t however enjoy swallowing the lake’s water or dealing with leaky goggles. I didn’t particularly enjoy being smoked by old people either, but I was and am getting very used to this. I actually now prefer the open water swim as you can establish a rhythm and you can’t possibly quit after say 20 laps as you’d still be another few hundred metres from the jetty and in the way of super gran and her buddies on their second lap. I just now accept the environment, concentrate on breathing and make sure I look out for traffic ahead every 6 strokes. The next stage is to the tailor the swim for triathlons which means being conservative with the use of your legs as you need them fresh for the bike and run. I am looking to enlist some training for this next season.

I also discovered that lots of cans of Coke are sold at the club house as apparently it kills all the bad stuff you may have just swallowed from the lake (we’ve all seen the video where Coke is used to clean up the chrome car bumpers, right?). I confess I have once partaken in this heathen activity. Jamie telling me about worms, illness, poo and other such things tipped me over the edge whilst I was in a susceptible state i.e. sleep deprived and exhausted. Coca Cola are a frightening, evil company and I can’t recommend this, specially at 8am. It’s a slippery slope, kids! There are concentrated citrus additives that you can get from health stores for cleaning food etc. This could be a better bet.

lake 4
lake 4

I’m yet to do proper interval training for swimming, but I’m keen to give it a go next season. For me, getting into cold water and smashing out 1km will do for this year. I got my own wet suit, but didn’t go mad with the budget. They can be expensive pieces of kit. Also they are not very forgiving in terms of sizing so beware. Mine is still so tight it’s like swimming with a resistance band attached to each arm, but its orange and looks sick!

My recent attempts at writing

In speaking with my colleagues at the UFC, I expressed my desire to tell the story of some fighters in a slightly different way from my usual angle through commentary.  So, I was given the opportunity to set about some writing.  With the UFC embarking on a significant year in Europe, they kicked it off big-style in Stockholm this January with a fight card headlined by Sweden's own Alexander Gustafsson and the revitalised Anthony Johnson: Gustafsson -

Johnson -

Following that, I was lucky to make a couple of trips into Europe and spend some time with two incredibly charismatic and special fighters; Joanna Jedrzejczyk and fighting legend, Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic:



Cro Cop -

I visited Stockholm Sweden this summer and wrote this piece ahead of Gustafsson's title challenge at UFC 192:

I hope you find them insightful.

UFC Berlin highlights

Well I told you I’d be back, so I thought I’d start right away with a personal recap of my Berlin highlights. Now, the fights pretty much take care of themselves and I guess you’ve heard enough from me about them on the night! However, lots goes on during fight week so I thought I’d let you in on a few secrets.

  • Now this is a bit of a ‘sick in the mouth’ moment, but I gotta start by saying joining up with the team is a huge highlight. I’ve never been part of a team like the one we have at the UFC. To feel supported, inspired and creative are all really important. To also work with essentially a bunch of mates is very cool indeed.
  • The Guest fighter Q&A was a little different this time. It was media only and was set in a brand new and very cool cafe which was adjoined to the cross fit gym where the open-work outs were being held. So in much more intimate surroundings I sat down with Brad Pickett, Alexander Gustafsson, Ramsey Nijem and Luke Rockhold. It was the first time I had met Luke and he was a very cool guy. Getting to chat with these athletes and seeing them interact with one another is rare as the UFC is such a big international organisation and their paths don't always cross.
  • I met Georges Saint Pierre for the first time.  I've always been such a fan of his inside and outside of the Octagon, so to meet the man was brilliant.
  • Interviewing the fighters is always interesting and enjoyable, but sitting down and chatting to Mark Munoz was a special one. The man is so much more than a world-class mixed martial artist. He already has a career as a motivational speaker and he will continue to be very successful at that. I took a lot from our conversation and felt really inspired. Mark does so much for the sport and he is one of the world selfless human being…the type we need more of.
  • A slightly weird one, but during breakfast I introduced myself to Magnus Cedenblad, his team-mate and UFC debutant, Niklas Backstrom. I had actually commentated a Backstrom fight so used that to kick off the conversation, which kind of back fired. You see, a lot of fighters are avid students of the game and really assess every detail of their own performances. It would seem Niklas is one of them after he recounted the exact words I used in commentary when he fought Adam Edwards a log time ago. Apparently when he took Edwards down (a BJJ brown belt), I might have suggested it was a questionable strategy. Well it transpired that Niklas was a bit of a good grappler and took the win that night. Niklas playfully reminded me not to doubt him again! I immediately liked the guy.
  • Meeting Sean Shelby.  I'd had a couple of email exchanges, but I finally got to meet Sean.  I have so much respect for the top match makers.  These guys have to know the world scene in detail and on top of that they are the guys that the fighters speak with about their careers etc.  I imagine its a very emotional job at times, so it was good to sit down with Sean and get the inside track.
  • Getting a hand shake and message of good luck from Dana White. Enough said!
  • The last highlight is a bit self-indulgent. On my way to gather my stuff after the show I was walking past Gegard Mousasi, so went to congratulate him on his win. Whilst doing so he congratulated me on what a great job I was doing with Dan in commentary! It was totally unexpected. Apparently, he had been listening throughout the evening. I get a real sense of pride when fighters support my commentary. And when a truly world-class athlete gives you a thumbs up, its great reassurance that you are along the right lines.
  • Special mention highlight - great iron and ironing board at the hotel.  Friends of mine that I have traveled with will know I stress over quite a few things, but a good quality ironing board and iron is right up there.  I mean...we're going on camera and no matter how good your hair is, no matter how well you tie the tie or arrange the pocket square...if your shirt looks like Iggy Pop's torso, then the look turns to sh*t!  So thank you Hilton Hotels.

Berlin was a great event and it was good to connect and re-connect with some great people. Can’t wait for UFC Dublin, it's going to be off the bleedin’ hook!!!


2014, a defining year

Wow, so 2014 has been a bit of a journey and we're not even half way through!  I feel like I have realised a few dreams, learned a great deal and all together made a lot of personal progress on many levels.  There have been a lot of sacrifices, which is consistent with anything that is worth doing, and one of those is this blog.  I really enjoy writing and I have many plans to become more active with this, but more about that another time. This post therefore is a reminder that I still have ambitions to develop, but in order to fulfil my work and family obligations, I've frustratingly not had the time.

Excuses aside I will reconnect with this very soon and describe some of the new surroundings I have found myself in.  As a taster, these are becoming a vegan, overcoming chronic pain, travelling and above all joining the most fantastic team that I have ever had the opportunity to work with.  It's one thing working with the World's biggest combat sports promotion, but quite another to be supported and inspired by your colleagues and seniors.  The team in the UK and US are brilliant and working alongside Dan Hardy and Andy Friedlander is incredible.  Not only have I taken much from this experience in a professional capacity, I have also been introduced to new ideas and thoughts that have and will benefit me in other ways.

Back to the preparations for UFC Berlin...

BT Sport UFC Blog - TUF Cut

BT Sport Home Seeings as I haven't been in front of a camera and a mic for a couple of weeks, it was great to get back to a bit of writing...and for BT Sport!  Give it a little read here:

I'll be back blogging for them in about a month!

Cageside Podcast 6 BONUS : Cage Warriors 57 - Jack Mason

I managed to catch up with fan favourite and one of the most active and talent mixed martial artist on the scene, Jack Mason.  We spoke about how he juggles the many aspects to his life and also some specifics about this camp.  Little hint; he doesn't sound happy!!

Cageside Podcast 6 - Cage Warriors 57

Ahead of Cage Warriors 57 at Liverpool's Echo Arena, I caught up with some of the fighters:I found out about  Dan Rushworth's love for golf (1.25 to 27.17) Mr Social Media, Leeroy Barnes and I spoke about his new motivation and aspirations (27.15 to 1.08.00) WolverDean Reilly or is it Hurricane Dean Reilly?  We talked mental preparations and renewed love for fighting (1.08.00 to 1.47.00) International star Ronnie 'Iron' Mann talked about his career highlights and getting the job done on Saturday (1.47.00...)

Let me know your thoughts and who you'd like me to speak with next time.


My night out at Too Much Talent 2 for Addicted MMA

Check out this little movie courtesy of Indigo Fox Production and Addicted MMA.  It was great to given the opportunity to report on the show and I'm really pleased with the final results.  Let me know what you think: