It was always going to be the case, as we got deeper into the year my holiday allowance was going to disappear and it was going to make my trip times a little tighter. Gratefully, Pat Vickers (Cage Warriors Head of Talent and co-main event match-maker) managed to arrange a late afternoon flight to Jordan so that I could join my CW MMA brethren for Fight Night 7. Oh, and the middle weight title will be contested- big smiley face!
Heathrow Terminal 3 - so you can polish a turd! This terminal used to be horrible but now there are high-end retailers, posh shops and even minor celebrities- though the celebs were probably just passing through, rather than making an 'appearance'. I wanted to experience some of this high life so I touched some fabrics in Paul Smith, got attacked by at least 4 attractive women all spraying me with various effeminate fragrances (got knows why?) and I even ordered the seared tuna at Yo Sushi- you better believe it!
The 5 hour plane ride was a great opportunity to put in a solid 4 hour shift which really helped get my research notes in order. Even with 4 unruly children playing musical chairs next to me, in front of me and behind me. "Hey kids how do you like the UFC 10 greatest KO's of all time"...yeah, that'll learn ya! Also on the plane was a respectable looking,young Jordanian girl reading an MMA publication. I still find that kinda cool. Evidence that MMA is becoming more mainstream!
After a disappointing wait at the airport I was finally in my hotel room at 2.30am, much to the relief of my on air partner Josh Palmer who was seemingly waiting up for me like a concerned parent! At 8am we took on breakfast and I tried to get round to as many of the fighters as possible. The GYM01 guys are always a laugh, but my stand out encounter was with Pavel Kusch and Combat Dobro. Now I hope the following wont sound too cliche. Kusch and his team are obviously Ukrainian and if you haven't had the pleasure of mixing with Ukrainians they all carry a kind of poker face. Actually, they are all big and scary. I approached their table with caution, introduced myself and was then told off by Kusch's manager for not sending across questions that I had promised- not the best start! "But I am here to make it more personable" was my rebuttal. Kusch and I exchanged our views over the fight, his training and his background. I particularly enjoyed our debate over what is a 'better' discipline; sambo or brazilian jiu jitsu. I'll keep those thoughts to myself for now! I tried to add a flavour of comedy in some parts, but much like a lot of my attempts at comedy, they weren't met with raucous laughter- tough crowd! With all eyes on me and silence that was only broken by the response to my questions, I wrapped up the interview and stood up. At that very moment all of the Ukrainian fellows sprung to their feet, which I had to confess was a little unsettling. But in a twist from my paranoia they all reached for their cameras and I was passed around to have my photo taken. There were smiles n everything! It was a little bit like being snapped at my wedding again, only this time I felt like I was the one who should be wearing a dress! Jokes aside, I think I understand these guys a bit better now. They are proud competitors, deadly serious about their sport, but also very grateful for anyone who is willing to spend time understanding how they do things and they will listen intently. For the remainder of the trip I managed to get returned smiles from all of the Combat Dobro contingent!
It wasn't long before the ironing of the shirt and the tying of the bow tie (well clipping, those self-tie ones are complicated and expensive!). It was the first time for the new production company on foreign soil with CW. I have to say the producer and director really made me feel very relaxed about the new formats etc, however, this was a little different now we were in the Middle East and it soon became clear that technically it was going to be a challenge for us all. Without getting all geeky about production, there are certain tools that are required to help with the cueing and communication with the director and producer. This is particularly important with live TV. We didn't have some of these tools, but then we rarely do unless we are in the UK and Ireland. So for the entire show I had to do a bit of guess work over the timing and also had to cue Joe in the cage...that is perhaps why you might catch me flailing my arms around...i'm not waving to the crowd or dad dancing, it is a crucial, technical indication for the MC and I'm putting it on my CV under skills!!!
The fights were excellent as always. From bright young things to experienced UFC vets. There are very few promotions in the world who offer this package and I'm very grateful to be sitting cage side for these shows. The amateur fights were tuned into by an electric Jordanian crowd. Look out for young Tunisian Karkad who is developing nicely!
I was sorry to see Mike Ling lose the way he did and it was a stomach turning moment. I know he has the qualities, mental toughness and team to get back on track. Equally, Brett Bassett really needed a win to kick start his career on the bigger stage and I know he was struggling being away from his boy. Not everyone can win in a fight! In fact, even the guys who didn't get their hand raised fought like lions and that is all that you can ask of a athlete- 100%. Sometimes, its just not your day, you are beaten by the better man/ woman and certainly in MMA the margin for error is tight.
I'm not proud to say it but the commentators curse struck not once, not twice, but about half a dozen times! I've called hundreds of fights but it just goes to show the unpredictability of MMA. I remember having to change commentary style in the Ptasinski vs Bahari fight as that curse just kept rearing its head. But hey, we all live and learn, mostly by our mistakes.
The main events were very interesting. Its always great to see Jim Alers and his coach Hank Porcher (pronounced Porché- sorry Hank). Jim's confidence and more than that, ability, goes to show why we are all so excited to see him fight Conor McGregor for the belt.
The top of the card was interesting for slightly different reasons. Fields got past the combat sambo without too much hassle and then something happened to Kusch were he looked absolutely desperate, but in a debilitating way. I'll reserve judgement until I find out what happened to him in there, but that aside Fields looked great. He is now a proud champion who is discovering the fruits of his labour. I have noticed increasing improvements in his performances every time at Cage warriors since I first saw him against Mario Stapel. I believe raising the bar each outing will bring the very best out of Chris and I'm looking forward to seeing him defend his belt.
Its always after the fights that the shenanigans take place and Fight Night 7 was no different. After sharing a burger with some of the team in a cafe opposite the hotel, we got involved in a few sherbets and discussed what we had just witnessed and what was next. There are a lot of creative minds in the Cage Warriors group and with a few drinks, its good to hear their thoughts. And whilst I was chewing the fat with Tommy and Brad, a gag was being played on a member of the CW team by members of a certain fight team. The game went down like this: shots of high proof vodka for 1 person racing against shots of no proof water by others. The result - 1 spandoogled vodka drinker and a very well entertained group of pranksters! That is all I am at liberty to say.
The next morning I left Jordan in a little bit of a hurry, the catalyst being a call from Harry Selby telling me I had 5 minutes before the coach left for the airport. My quiff was flat, my breath was stale and my travel bag was empty. However, with the footwork of a western boxer I moved around the hotel bed and other obstacles, collecting my belonging in a big bundle using a gable grip and pretty much suplexing them into my bag as I slipped on an espadrille. I then got back to my feet using a defensive get up whilst reaching for the door handle and escaping to the lift with my luggage. I then had to retreat when I remembered I hadn't given Josh a kiss goodbye...I didn't really...give him a kiss goodbye. Though I did say goodbye. Manners cost nothing!