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!!!