My lasting sentiments from Vegas
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.
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.
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 UFC.com (http://www.ufc.com/news/UFC-194-Aldo-McGregor-conor-championship-mindset). 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!
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.