October has been a roller coaster ride for me with beautiful highs, moments of frustration and absolute confusion, but Gooden's glass likes to be half full and October has been marked with a whacking great big tick! On a personal level I feel I have moved forward with my ambitions in MMA by getting together a podcast and consolidating relationships within the sport. Bigger still, the introduction of SAFE MMA is such positive progression for UK MMA and to be involved fills me with pride and purpose. I will be blogging about SAFE MMA after the launch on November 1st.
Just as an aside, as I write this I am being slightly put off by a middle aged lady sitting opposite me on the train that has rocked up and is currently using the table as a beauty salon. That's ok as it actually smells pretty good, but she has definitely over done it on the moisturiser and has been rubbing her wrinkly face since we left Newport...we are now in Bristol and she still looks like a clown. Whatsmore, the excess cream is being worked at so furiously that the back of my ipad is starting to resemble a plasterer's radio!
Anyways, so about my (very raw) podcast; its nearly cost me a PC and a door after repeatedly crashing and thus creating an inner rage that hasn't consumed me since Willy B clocked me in the back of the head with a rock hit by a hurling stick- upon reflection great tekkers, but you don't shoot your pals in the back ;o). After failed attempts to upload to soundcloud, youtube etc, I managed to get episode 1 uploaded via videopress on this here site. I have plans to educate myself in better ways of delivering this so thats its downloadable, so bear with me! I'd like to think my podcast is a little bit different to the others out there as it quite simply stitches together interviews that I would normally conduct with fighters, coaches, promoters, referees, managers etc. I hope it will give access to these people to help with honest insights into the true lives of these individuals. Thanks to all those that have lent their time to feature. I am now set for episode 4 with the first 3 covering Shock n Awe 12, Rosi Sexton's VADA experience and Cage Warriors 49.
Shock n Awe 12 then. I loved working with the whole crew at this show. From everything around the show and man love with Gareth Johnson, commentating with Ben Cartlidge, the fighters, Addicted MMA, Ricky Wright, Little Red, David Swann, the guys at Boom Boom productions and of course Brian Adams- that straight talking big hunk of a man! Consistent with my misdemeanour trends I arrived at Portsmouth and realised I had no belt for my trousers. This might not seem too terrible to most, but I have a ridiculous ape-like structure with short legs, massive arse and no waist. I therefore end up buying 36 inch trousers that require a handful of material to be lost around the waist. My successful Paul Chek/ wholefoods diet has accentuated this and I could be seen mostly walking around the venue like a yoot wearing his strides around his arse or generally holding up my trousers with a hand constantly in my pocket which always arouses suspicions when you are in the company of beautiful rings girls!! The biggest problem was the worry of being mid flow of a post fight interview, celebrating with a fighter fresh from a hard fought victory only for me take a breath between questions and causing a trouser slippage to reveal my milky white pins to a sell out crowd! Thankfully my worst fears were never realised and David Swanny Swann came to the rescue after the show by lending me a spare belt. Now thats an organised man right there- cheers buddy!
Highlights of the show were being cageside to commentate Luke Dalmedo's fight. I've trained with Luke since he was 15 and its great to see him realise his talent in cage competition. Well done bro! Also seeing Jack Mason and Mike Ling turn a corner in their careers was great particularly after spectating their fights from close quarters at Cage Warriors and obviously being a big fan of theirs. I'd also like to shout out Sam Ford and Jack Currell, 2 young semi pro fights who have bright futures ahead. It was a great contest!
Another memorable moment was being heckled as I entered the cage to interview UFC fighter Phil Harris and TUF contestant Brad Scott. As I stepped onto the Shock N Awe apron, wearing my light grey shoes with contrasting brown soles, tweed style jacket, bow tie and slightly fierce quiff I'm happy to say I was greeted by what I can only assume is a fan by a loud cry of 'GAY'. Brilliant! It put a bigger skip in my step as I pranced to my position in front of the camera.
Onwards to Cage Warriors. Another podcast and a speed typing exercise explaining and defending SAFE MMA. The Welsh MMA fans seemed really excited to be hosting CW which is such a great feeling for anyone associated with the promotion. We are all so committed to doing the very best job that we can for the good of the show and positive reaction like that is great for the team. St Davids Hall is a great venue right in the heart of the shopping district in Cardiff. The layout is also really good for MMA and the noise in the hall was excellent when the Welsh fighters appeared to start their ring walk. In all, it wasn't the best night in terms of results for the Welsh contingent and perhaps a little bit of the gloss was taken off of Tim Newman's win with the arguments over the tap. There was much debate over the tap and its terrible for all concerned when a situation like this arises. Lots of angles have been examined from different cameras and Marc Goddard got it right. I have so much respect and admiration for Greg Loughran and I eagerly await his return. Congrats to Tim, I know that this win will mean so much to him.
I'll probably get told off for mentioning this, but its pretty damn obvious if you listen to the commentary...I have no desire to be an MMA judge. I'm not actually in the greatest position to analyse a fight around the MMA scoring system. I personally have to consider certain production items, read notes, listen to my producer and work commentary with my partner. Scoring at the same time is just too difficult. You of course get a flavour from the fight, but that isn't how the 10 point must system works.
On a lighter note and a bit of gossip. I was amused to be told that a flamboyant member of the Cage Warriors crew had a suspicious incident with a glitter bath bomb that caused their Davina McCalls to sparkle like a bit of camp disco furniture. It is not, however, the same team member that enlisted the help of Brooke and her make up. Just sayin! Oh and a big shout out to the 30 or so handsome bow tie wearing fellas that were staying at the same hotel. Its a movement y'know!? Respect ;o)!
The morning after the show there was an alarming complaint surrounding the suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. The complaint was lodged by the Cardiff Central pigeons about their winged counter parts, the sea gulls. The pigeons can get near to the rich picking of the platform food. In fact, even I had politely ask Mr C Gull if i could squeeze past at the top of the platform stairs. WTF are those guys on? I know one thing, Halloween is fricking scary in Cardiff with those raptors on the loose trick or treating!
That's October done. I'm keen to see what happens to the UK and European rankings next week. Thanks for reading.
Oh and for those worried about the lady opposite me on the train, she managed to lose the cream in a couple of her chins and did a much better job with the lippy. Beautiful.
[wpvideo 60pMHjuO] DOWNLOAD HERE: https://soundcloud.com/johngooden-1/cageside-3-podcast-with-john
With Cage Warriors in Cardiff this weekend I speak with main event fighter Cathal Pendred. I quiz Tillery Combat’s Richard Shaky Shore about his coaching methods and his young fighters appearing on the card. Following this is a chat with fighter manager Gary Cross of G4 MMA who have signed a number of Welsh prospects including Tim Newman. And lastly, Wales' own Ricky Wright gives me his thoughts on Cage Warriors visiting Cardiff and the Welsh fighters that will be making a statement.
0 - 21 Cathal Pendred
21 - 47 Richard Shaky Shore
47-1.04 Gary Cross
1.04 - 1.25 Ricky Wright
In the second edition of the Cageside podcast I speak with Rosi Sexton, who learned that her tournament final opponent, Shiela Gaff has been forced to withdraw from the contest.Any conversation with Rosi is always fascinating and in this podcast she speaks about performance enhancing drugs, the testing processes, her feelings about rescheduling a fight with Gaff, fight camp sacrifices and the future.
I must thank Rosi for her time and I hope this podcast helps spread awareness about PEDs and how the sport can move forward in ridding their usage.
[wpvideo qXMnVLva] Well has taken about 15 attempts through various different means to get this out, but we're finally there. Apologies to the guys who featured and were waiting ton hear it back and to Shock n Awe as it would've complimented the show's build up. However, the wider idea of this podcast is to bring you live recordings of fighters, coaches, referees, promoters and many other interesting people from the world of mixed martial arts, so all is still relevant. Episode 1 focuses around top UK show Shock n Awe and welcomes Addicted MMA's Ben Farrelly (1-33), promoter and coach Brian Adams (33-1.04) along with fighters Phil Else (1.04-1.33), Luke 'El Nino' Dalmedo (1.33-1.51) and Alexei 'Boom' Roberts (1.51-2.3).
Ben speaks about Addicted MMA and his take on the SnA card
Brian Adams talk frankly about the South coast scene, Phil Harris at the UFC and his motivation behind SnA
Phil Else gives a very honest account of his worrying injury and how he has prepared for SnA
Luke Dalmedo talks us through his training and his regrets about the aftermath of the Callum Jones fight
Alexei will entertain you with his fine way with words, his confidence and his admiration for his coach. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts Thanks, John
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!
A new season seems like a perfect time for me to start blogging about Arsenal. After cruising the interweb and locking into Sky Sports News, I've heard a great many opinions regarding the mighty Gunners and the obvious activity in the transfer market. Now I'm not at stat man, but I am person of measured opinion and perspective. In writing this entry and hoping to somehow unravel the mixed emotions and point the spotlight in the correct direction.
Let’s get it out of the way then; Robin van Persie. I'm disappointed and yes I was hoping for a 'u' turn even after his statement. Let us consider his statement for a moment. It was brave and clearly in some twisted way it was his vehicle for expressing why he was leaving. Now I like and applaud transparency. I have been involved in many businesses over the years and secrets etc make for uncomfortable working environments. In business, it is also recommended to get the thoughts of those that work for you. Does the board honestly know what it is like for the players that take to the turf each week? Should they know? Of course, and that should be fed back through Mr Wenger (AW). RVP is an intelligent individual and also club captain. He has every right to open dialogue with AW about how he thinks things can be improved. AW doesn't need to agree, but if there are serious issues that could have a negative impact then AW needs to tackle these with the board. We don't know the nuts and bolts of what RVP’s sentiments were, but he has a right to be heard simply as an employee. Money aside, the players are on the shop floor. If there was a problem with the pitch for example, they would know before anyone else and should communicate this. Same principle applies to other aspects. So those making noise about RVP not having a right to try and influence are wrong. To make for a better working environment we all need to share our ideas.
Onto RVPs methods. It still astounds me that with all the resources available to clubs, players, agents etc that content released to the press and public (I refer mostly to digital content) if often so poorly written without regard for the reaction. Some is naivety, but that’s not the case here. If RVP wanted to facilitate some sort of collective charge on the board to 'make changes' then he should been more specific. If he was trying to encourage the purchase of quality players to lighten his burden and improve the quality of the team, then he was successful, so why then leave? It is clear this wasn't his motivation. For my mind he opened up a real hornets nest, rocked the boat can only expect a negative reception from the Arsenal fans despite his contributions. I guess there's never a nice way to leave a club, but RVP (and his Father) has muddied the waters with his mixed messages over the last couple of years and I can't see how anyone is happy about the way he left. He is a top class player who has added real quality every time he pulled on an Arsenal shirt, but his conduct has left me reeling. AW secured as good a price as he could and we have to accept his argument that Man U were the offerers of the best deal for AFC. I can't believe he went to a rival and that AFC sold to a rival, but business is at play too.
Some positives then; Giroud, Cazorla, Podolski, Wilshire and the young developing players. So much to look forward to. Due to injuries we should expect a slower start to the campaign, but when all are firing we will be stronger than last season. The chemistry and blend will dictate how successful, but on paper we have improved our options and this is going to be exciting to see. The younger players that have been spending time in the reserves and out on loan will be more complete and should really help bolster a fight for cups and league on all fronts. What's more, the transfer season is still active and there are strong links with several admired players that could firm up our midfield assault and defensive strength.
Another player also recently making the back pages is Alex Song. A fantastic, defensive player with great strength and an eye for a killer ball. When AW first introduced him to the 1st team, he was a weak link, but for my liking he has developed into one of the best Premiership defensive midfielders. He has also been decent cover as a centre half when required. I would therefore be upset to see him leave. We don't need the money, but we do need defensive quality and I'm not sure we have that available for the start of the season. It was the poor start last season that led us to play catch-up and I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to remedy this as it sets in negativity and nerves too early into a campaign. I do however believe he wants to leave. I live close to the AFC training ground and in fact used to pass Song's house everyday. He sold up as soon as the season was over and I was told he went into rented accommodation further from the training ground. Also, if you cast your mind back, his body language and complete lack of gratitude at the last home game of the season suggested his discontent. The fans didn't deserve his mope around the field on his own without his team mates or family. I've been a strong supporter of his but that was poor form. I've no idea why he would want to leave, but if he's replaced then so be it. I'd rather he stayed and showed some love!
I believe this coming season will be fruitful. Arsenal Football Club have put together a fantastic infrastructure upon which to build a winning football team- great training facilities, top pitch, amazing ground and secure business. I was hoping that we would have seen success in the last 2 seasons and we have been competitive on all fronts, but have fallen short for a variety of reasons that have sometimes been out of AFC's control. I question the situation with the AFC medical team and why our players seem to suffer so frequently and for extended periods, but injuries are complicated. I stand by AW, his methods and his style. Arsenal play honest football with less theatrics, less help from authorities and better financial foundation. We're never too find behind and I believe the next few seasons will be massive for Arsenal Football Club. Its good to be a Gooner!
I've always maintained that getting positive recognition for your work is the biggest compliment. For the 2nd year running I have been nominated in the 'Best Commentator' category, which is amazing. All the others will be embarking on their respective self promotion campaigns, so why should I be any different!! So please support my cause so that I can put an award next to my Bronze swimming badge from 1988 and my 3rd place in go karting from Prague. Thanks so much #kissesforvotes ;0)
This show was going to be different for me and for the viewers, as a new production company was responsible for the broadcast. As presenter and commentator, I can’t deny that I was a little nervous, after all producers have their own ideas and I needed to make sure I met expectations. Those nerves however quickly turned to excitement as the new producer, Ian, went out of his way to communicate with me his new vision and way of delivering the show. Couple this with the new Cage Warriors roaming team of Brad Wharton and Tommy Lakes and this show was set to be stacked with the usual action…and lots more! Whilst preparing research I had also managed to help my good friend and coach, Max (Denniston Sutherland) get onto the Cage Warriors bill. How cool would this be; commentating one of your coach’s fights? I was to later learn it can also make you feel quite sick! check out my interview with Max http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5VxF7Rzg_o
On the Saturday I felt unusually relaxed before a CW show. This was surprising given the new dynamics etc, but I was happy for it. Being too nervous is energy sapping and when the main event is after 10pm, there’s no room for slacking! I had managed to get hold of most of the fighters and I particularly enjoyed new introductions like Hardiman, Pariente and Danny Roberts…he signs off his emails Hot Choc- gotta love that! I’ve had quite a few conversations this year about getting across the individual fighter’s message and building characters. I heard an interview with the WWE’s Jim Ross which spoke about how they managed to become mainstream and a lot is spoken about entertainment. When you add to this the real people behind the fighter, Joe Public can relate, follow and support. Cage Warriors recognise this and are trying to get this across. I think Kris Edwards is a really good example of someone with bags of talent and potential, but also is a young dad working a shift job trying to realise his dream. Some will relate to that and those that perhaps don’t can respect that.
There was definitely an air of anticipation around CWFC48. The fight card was top drawer (of course), it was a remarkable anniversary celebration and a new production team. It made you feel like something really big was about to happen. I had selected an appropriate bow tie and jacket, so all that as left was provide informative commentary! After a quick interview with Brad and Tommy it was time to go to work. It was a great show and although we had pretty significant technical problems the show looked great. Oh the joys of live TV! I managed to hold it together for Max’s fight (just) although I lost a pen whilst flailing my arms and also frightened a cameraman (yes I did, I can be scary y’know…in an unpredictable rather than intimidating sort of way). It was a really good experience working with a new crew and I look forward to getting to know them better in the future.
Now here’s something properly significant… #cwfc48 was the top trend in the UK! Above the UFC!! On a Saturday!!! This is such good news for the sport, let alone the organisation. Its evidence that the sport is growing and that UK MMA is in some way moving in the right direction. Certainly in terms of physical promotion and establishing media links, we are ticking a lot of the boxes. I reserve judgement about the way some shows go about their promotion, but that’s an aside to the point. MMA is out there, being watched, heard and read. Now it’s there, we need to make sure its positive, coherent and representing positively.
Keep stopping by over the next month as I’m hoping to bring some new stuff to this blog including more videos and my new injury blog which will detail my journey back to fitness using an American technique advocated by the awesome, Rener Gracie.
Photos by me and Dolly Clew. Poster from Cage Warriors. Check out the following clips from Brad and Tommy:
Time for the next instalment of my life, cageside! And who needs to jump on a plane when the calendar provides a show in Portsmouth and London in consecutive weeks! First up, Shock n Awe 11. I was honoured to be invited down to commentate this great South Coast show. I obviously follow the UK scene closely and have been impressed by what the SnA team have delivered. It’s run by Gareth Johnson and Brian Adams, who also own the Gym01 team. I have gotten to know Brian (or Jedi Bri to his team) mostly through Cage Warriors and he’s a man that shares many of my principles regarding UK MMA and he’s hugely passionate about his gym and his show. Looking at the card, no one can say that Gareth and Bri were paving an easy road for their fighters, in fact there were some incredibly tough tests ahead for their team. So, on July 14th I aquaplaned the motor down the M3 to get set for a 20-bout fight card.
I love meeting new people and as the ‘new guy’ I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all those involved at SnA. Special mention to David Swann, Ricky Wright and Corin from Boom (production co) who all worked doubley hard on the day, pulling together to make the show a success. Another person that made this ‘special’ for me was the one and only, Ben Cartlidge. The man who I finally got to share a commentary booth with. Despite arriving seconds before the 1st fight due to the awful weather, Ben was his usual calm, collected self. I have commentated and presented with a number of people over the years and there has to be some chemistry or what comes out of the speakers just doesn’t work- think Mark Lawrenson for the BBC covering the Euro 2012 football tournament. I am yet to hear the finished product for the SnA show, but I had a ball working with Ben. He is so full of knowledge and quick witted and I really hope that the fighters, production team and viewers feel that we enhanced the experience!
Those who follow this blog will know that this isn’t an event report, but I would like to say that the talent pool on display was DEEP! Respect needs to be given to the promoters for putting on competitive bouts and also to the fighters and their coaches for accepting them. We have a recent problem in the UK whereby certain fighters are being protected and fed easier opposition so that their records look flattering, which subsequently gets them on the radar of the big International shows and this is where they get found out. This has to stop before fight records look so misleading that the international match-makers select fewer of our athletes. Or, the fighter in question gets found out on paper and never gets those opportunities. The MMA community is becoming more transparent, so hopefully this can be flushed out and intriguing fights like the SnA main event become more common. Every fight delivered, but from memory I can give a quick reflection:
Davey Grant = future world beater
Alexei Roberts = emphatic
Karl Harrison = vicious
Luke Killick = scary
Paddy Moore = tough
Matt Hughes = star
Brett Caswell = technical
A very enjoyable night and further fuelling with a can of Monster I was back in the Shire within a couple of hours to be welcomed by a pickled wife and friends who were discussing the quality of reality TV shows TOWIE and Geordie Shore! A few hours after that and I had my Cage Warriors head on as it was a countdown to the 10th Anniversary of Cage Warriors in London!
This title is misleading as this is about as far as it goes with any links to mixed martial arts. Well actually, I did find out that Split is the hot-bed of mixed martial arts talent hosting a big annual fight show and that Mirko is less popular than years gone-by. I also found out he has sat in the Croatian Parliament representing all things sport! Aside from discovering a little more about a man that innocently went to battle with gay anthem ‘wild boys’, this was my annual holiday with my wife, in part for our first anniversary. A very important almost sacred occasion which would require lots of thought and planning so that it would be remembered as a very special vacation. When I put my mind to it I'm pretty good at things like this and our island hopping adventure in Croatia looked set to deliver. BUT, as with anything I do, there is always a misdemeanor lurking around the corner however big or small. And this one pretty much topped all others....we missed our flight! We didn't miss it by a few minutes. We weren't even in the airport to hear the 'final call to all remaining passengers'. "No biggie" I hear you say, "just catch the next flight", which we did...2 days later! I'll never forget that sickness feeling and vision of my disappointed wife in tears. The very moment the not-overly-bothered Whizzair rep uttered the words suggesting there are no other flights for 2 days, embarrassment, helplessness and anger consumed my body - not a crowning moment. It wasn't just the flight but the transfers, hotels, excursions etc etc, would all suffer. Anyway, at a significant cost all got rebooked and we enjoyed the Croatian experience very much. It's the new Ibiza for the ravers, but a real haven for those that enjoy beautiful coastlines, clear waters and historical towns. Don't expect the highest level accommodation as these guys are just above African rates for standard of living, even with a combined 28% tax rate! You don't visit Croatia to stay in your room though. For a fiver you can hire a snorkel mask and help a fellow tourist retrieve his sunglasses from the sea bed (I love a holiday challenge). Or for 40 quid you can hire a boat and take an adventure stopping in at various mini-ports and developing boat jealousy...I mean, as if I'm ever going to be in the market for a Sun Seeker! Oh and do be careful not to speed as you will be arrested! There are lots of Scandinavians and Germans in Croatia, which according to my Dad is a good thing as they expect better levels of quality than us Brits. Not sure where he developed that yardstick, but it has served him well avoiding Benidorm. Note that it’s also hot. So hot in fact that it reduced my East-End quiff to a floppy side parting that a Little Britain character would've been proud of.
If you too visit the homeland of Mirko Cro Cop, there are a few essentials one must pack; high factor sun cream for obvious reasons; Vibrams (or similar) as everything is rocky including the sea bed; a copy of YourMMA/ Fighters Only for a good read and a camera as there are plenty of sights, boats and beautiful people to snap. Oh and take Kunas, not Euros as its the preferred currency.
Read on if you are particularly interested in Croatia otherwise stop back next week for more tales of travel, sport and misdemeanors as I sit behind the mic for Shock n Awe and Cage Warriors 48.
So we first visited the party island of Hvar which caters for an eclectic mix of people and nationalities. The harbour at Hvar Town is great for people watching and site seeing but after 11pm it transforms into party central...and still remains a people watchers paradise. Well actually the Hula Hula Bar is the warm up act from 6 and if you sit and eat in the harbour, you too may witness a young English partygoer stagger and fall between some boats and into the sea- nice one lady, proudly flying the flag. More congrats to her fella who stood by laughing whilst she nearly drowned trying to retrieve her shoes. All the same, there is plenty of action throughout the evening. One of the islands hosts the full moon party which is a must for those wanting to get a little wild till 5am. Otherwise, just wander around taking in the endless historic constructions whilst munching on ice creams. By day you can mix your time in Hvar by lazing around the amazing coastline that is lined with pine trees and hiring a boat to explore the neighbouring islands. Word of warning, do not expect sand. There is no sand here! But it really doesn't matter. I actually enjoyed the lack of faffing around rinsing sand from my size 12s. Not sure why but the sea in Hvar becomes your pool. Clear, warm and inviting the actual hotel pool became defunct. We stayed at Hotel Podstine which was located perfectly. A 20 minute walk from the town, it was private and ahead of its competition, particularly in price! More about these islands then...they are tourist destinations themselves so they have their own restaurants, bars, hotels etc. Some are that small that the only inhabitants are the sea gulls. It’s still worth a look though to claim your own bit of rock.
After 5 nights we left for Trogir via Split. Trogir is beautiful and cranky. We stayed at the Princess Derossi hotel where I successfully pulled the toilet seat clean off of the bowl and did a similar thing with the towel rail. But it didn't matter. Everything is tightly packed and intimate here. Trogir oozes character with 14th and 15th century buildings and streets which drown the eyes. The most impressive of which is the cathedral which is riddled with character including the work of a most excellent stone mason lining the doors. Just an hour’s drive away is one of the most incredible natural wonders: waterfalls. Krka National Park is a superb day out where you can climb and descend the route of River Krka through the gorges and canyons. Eventually, you'll find your way to the mini-waterfalls where you can swim in the tumbling water, buy ice cream (again) and devour pancakes. Also at Trogir, you can catch a boat to a number of beaches after you have had your fill of history. We took the 20 minute ride to Okrug which was lined with beach bars and sun beds occupied with many locals and of course the all important Dalmatian Sun and Adriatic waters.
If I was forced to complain, my only gripe (and its only a small one) was the 'smoking allowed' rule which affected my mouthfuls of grilled tuna and Dalmatian pizzas. Oh, ok, while we're at it the 4 hour delay on Whizzair sucked #**$ too. You do not want to be stuck in Split's airport as it lacks anything decent to eat or even a newsstand. Also, I’ve always struggled to get my head around delays that are longer than scheduled flight! Needless to say, I will not be selecting Whizzair as my carrier next time. The pilot and crew were less than sympathetic to us and more interested in telling the passengers that they wouldn’t get home till 5am. What they didn’t consider was that the UFC prelims were due to start in 3 hours and we hadn’t left Croatia yet! #priorities! This took the gloss off an amazing trip, but I’ll get over it. Thanks to Alison at Completely Croatia for sorting everything…twice. She has restored my faith in travel agents (other than my friend Nadine at Lear Travel who is amazing too).
Hvar Restaurants to eat in: Dalmatino and Divino. Don't eat at Bounty or Amo. According to others, Bonjour les Bains didn't deliver either, but Macondo gets good reviews.
Palmizana restaurant to eat in: Zori
Trogir restaurants to eat in: Varanja. Trogar is supposed to be good but we never tried it.
The young people of today have found another use of mobile phones: they are mobile sound systems. If you really wanna annoy people, download the top ten 'grime' tracks (probably illegally, through one of those file sharing means), upload onto your mobile phone and whilst your waiting to get served your Big Mac meal at McDonalds, play it at full, tinny volume so that all the other hungry customers can hear that shizzle. When did this become socially acceptable? My tinnitus is bad enough without that angry music in street-speak shrieking out of some bad-boy's pocket. What’s wrong with headphones and an iPod? I've also noticed that the very same groups try to engage in conversation whilst that crap is spitting out of their phones. I blame the parents.
Mobile phones themselves are a essential part of today's lifestyle, though has anybody thought that the concept is also a little ill-mannered. By switching your mobile phone on you are giving someone, in fact anyone, the opportunity to climb into your pocket, car, onto your desk etc and shout ANSWER ME NOW. ANSWER ME. NOW! When someone contacts you, you could be in throws of passion with someone you love and some bastard on the other end of the phone is demanding your attention. That person wants you to stop the beautiful moment you are enjoying. Its possibly the moment that you sow your seed to bring about the birth of your child. They want you to stop and talk about bloody phone insurance. Yes you can press the silence button, but you have still had to break the rhythm. If it was on silent, it will probably be vibrating against the glass of water on the bedside table. If not then it will be flashing like an SOS signal "STOP SCREWING AND ANSWER ME!". Wrong, very wrong. And what about those who aren’t satisfied with calling just the once and listening to “sorry I can’t come phone right now I'm having a liver transplant in a bid to save my life, but I'll get back to you asap". No, they call again, just in case that surgery finished ahead of schedule. Afterall, it is ringing!
I have a few issues with mobile phones. OK, so we pretty much all own a mobile phone. They are no longer luxury items as there were in the 90s with the yuppies. I've had one since I was 17 and now kids of 7 are putting them on their Christmas lists. Old people have them too, I know this as my gran sent me an x-rated joke from hers only the other day! So now that we've established we all have mobiles, young and old, rich and poor, why is it that there's always someone on the train that has to let every other passenger know that he has a phone?? They're not exclusive, mate. It’s not impressive anymore that you are communicating with someone that you cannot see or that possibly isn't in the same country. So have a little thought and whisper into the phone or shut the hell up.
Y'see, no one speaks into a mobile phone at a normal speech volume. It seems people forget all etiquette and force their conversations on other people. Take for example this situation: You are sat around a table with 6 friends and you are enjoying their company. You are discussing the finer points of why UK summer festivals are so damn expensive, then 2 fellas dressed in suits come flying through air, smash down into the middle of the table and talk over you about a marketing meeting in Birmingham next week and the fact they hope Claire will be there cos her assets are the best in the company. Would this annoy you? Yes it would, and why is that so different from some pleb forcing the same sentiments around carriage number 4 of the London St Pancras to Bedford? Its simple, tell them you'll phone them back. Don't tell the caller you are on a train and carry on regardless. This may in fact find you choking on your Blackberry Pearl after an annoyed passenger, who may share my moan, takes it upon themselves to silence you.
In Japan, it is socially irresponsible to make or take a call on public transport. If they do, because somebody has died or their mistress has just pissed on a stick and its turned blue, they whisper. More than this they cup their hand over their mouth and phone receiver and whisper. Nobody need know they were communicating...much better.
Cage Warriors 47 was always going to be massive; 2 title fights, 1 womens mma tournament fight as well as the usual top level match making. Wow! For this one, Mrs G was coming along too! I have to say at this point that my wife is not an MMA fan. She used to see me as her kind of Rocky, when I would roll home sporting all manner of bruising and swelling, but it all changed for reasons I wont go into right now. It was therefore a pretty big thing. As we were over in Dublin, she was going to pick up a travel guide and explore whatever it is ladies like to explore. Unfortunately, we were staying in a hotel in the middle of nowhere and that put paid to that plan!
After arriving at the hotel, the usual madness set in as the weigh ins were now done and I had to interview the fighters for the VTs. I actually really enjoy this part. I would have pretty much interviewed all of these guys before and this gives me an insight into their responses. There was a real variation of responses in these interviews; on the one hand you had Dave Hill dropping the 'f' bomb quite frequently and on the other David Bielkheden was pretty cagey. Sitting down with Rosi Sexton was good fun though...she's such an intelligent person and really considers every responses and certainly will not be led- I really like that.
Show morning brought about my first Irish incident just before breakfast. A couple of the crew advised me there was a short cut back to the main building through some bushes (we were quite bizarrely staying in shared houses a few minutes walk from the hotel). With time of the essence I thought I'd use this short cut, but I wished I never did. Y'see at 8am on showday I'm a little preoccupied and sensitive, so skidding on the dead corpse of a cat was not a great start. The smell will stay with me for a very long time- nasssssty! Despite this unfortunate incident I was able to hold down some food and get going on the voice overs for the VTs.
There are too many stand out points to this show, but I have to mention the 'commentary position'. Josh and I have really struggled with the commentary set ups recently. Overseas they have been a night mare and we were finally back in the neighbourhood where all would be perfect! It was so good to see we had volume controls, commentary mics, ear pieces and an english-speaking sound man who had a good sense of humour (that helps in live TV!). Things were going so well too until Cathal The Punisher Pendred started a take down from about 10m away and drove UFC vet- David Bielkheden, all the way across to our position which knocked one of the screens clean off the table! After our very nice sound man fellow put us back together we were good to go. The only thing that could upset our table for technical goodies would be me knocking over a can of Monster or fidgeting so bad I could kick a cable out of a socket. Well not quite. What could also happen is that after winning the featherweight world title, Notorious Conor McGregor could be so overcome with emotion he could climb the cage wall just above where we are sat and free fall onto our commentary set up en-route to celebrate with his loyal following. And, he did! In fact I took a head shot which knocked my cans off my head and more frustrating; my valuable caffeine based energy drink was hugely depleted after being shared across the commentary mixer! I wouldn't however change this moment for the world. What a true expression of someone's feelings after they have achieved their piece of history. And actually if Conor hadn't joined us in the commentary booth, I'm fairly confident a few of his enthusiastic supporters would have tried to get in the cage, which might not have been so cool! Congrats to Conor and DJ Linderman on their title wins, and a special mention has to go out to Aisling Daly, Rosi Sexton and Cathal Pendred who all made for an incredible night of action.
Travelling to Bahrain came as a real surprise. Cage Warriors were originally scheduled to go to Qatar if I remember rightly, which looked very cool, but this changed and Manama was set. I had previously hinted to the CW man in the Middle East that we should go to Bahrain as its where my gran is from. In fact she only recently passed away and visiting her homeland really did stir some emotions. Much like most of the CW trips I would be there for 2 nights and returning home so there was no time to visit what family we have left. That aside, it was very cool (and surreal) to stay in my gran’s country. Actually, cool is not the word…its very hot…too hot. I think it was 45 degree the day before we landed and we were filming outside in the high 30s. There was also this incredible sand storm that resembled fog in the UK, but dry and, well…hot!
The first day I was there we were out filming the VTs and I did the interviewing. I had spoken and met a few of the guys before. One guy I had chatted to via the various social media was Jay Mortimore, but I’d never had the pleasure of meeting him. What a top man! We travelled back to the UK together and had a bit of a giggle with his coach and all round good guy, Dave Matthews. I’ll get a little ahead of myself and mention Jay’s unfortunate loss to ‘Mothers Milk’. Now I’ve come under criticism both from inside and outside the CW camp for using this term, but it’s what my coach Dave Lee uses to describe the smothering technique Jay suffered. After having recently watched an Erik Paulson documentary, I can see it’s a technique he uses, but I’m not sure if he describes it the same way. Anywho, it caused a little stir and to Jay I’m sorry for that as I understand he took some stick.
Another standout point for me was my various conversations with Jim Alers and his coach Hank Porcher. Firstly, Jim is a bad-ass MMA fighter with the best personality. The kind of personality that I love to see in this sport and one that I think we need to take the sport mainstream. He’s a primary school teacher with a big smile and a kids sense of fashion- on his way to the venue to fight, he dressed in a comedy hat, Simpsons pyjamas and possible some comfy bedtime footwear. He was so respectful and humble taking time out for anyone that spoke with him whilst also being just as interested in other people. His coach Hank is a crazy, alligator hunting, wrestling expert who very kindly sent me a full description of the various forms of US wrestling and the different levels e.g. all American, div 1 etc (I’ll post that for all to see). It’s meeting guys like this that really encourages me.
I now feel bad for not mentioning all the other fighters- shout out to Big Daddy Mike Ling who is a gent outside the cage and a warriors inside; Gael Grimaud and Anthony Rea with whom I exercised my French language skills; Matteus Lahdesmaki who tried his very best with limited English (crazy little dude…wish we spoke the same language as I reckon he’s a real laugh) and of course Jesse JT Money.
Now, it wasn’t so much myself who suffered an incident, but more those around me. To protect identities, I will not name anyone apart from JT Money and Mitch the producer. After the show, things got a little messy. Due to the flight home being early hours, it’s not worth the risk in going to sleep in case you don’t hear the alarm, so that’s my excuse to have a beer! About 10 of us ended up in a very suspect bar, with some of us being very drunk. I don’t really get ‘drunk’, so watching the shenanigans was entertaining. JT Money tried his best with his poetry and general tomfoolery, whilst another unnamed party pulled a very sly ol’ trick to make a swift exit. Beyond this someone missed the plane home even after I persuaded them to stick with me in the lobby so to not miss the coach, and someone else was never really physically present even on the plane home after JT (no) Money had cleared them out and clearly aided their over-indulgence. I never saw Producer Mitch return and hope he’s ok!!!
End of February in Kiev and just a couple of days before my birthday. I'm still recovering form the strong local beers that were taken on after the show, but I think I have clarity to write a few words:
So Kiev is grey. The sky was always grey, the buildings were grey and the people were miserable. Scary looking miserable. Worse than that was the breakfast! CW match maker and Oracle of MMA, Ian Wikideania Dean warned everyone that the food was not great and he most definitely got that right with the brekkie. I couldn't sleep so I was early to breakfast. I thought I was really early as everything before me was most certainly dinner menu bites; curried stuff...everywhere and just stuff that my weak-ass stomach would not be able to deal with. They did have some cereal and fruit, so my mind was made up.
Outside it was well below zero, but better than the -30 from the previous week. I had actually bought special boots (oh and I mean special, special looking), socks and thermal accessories. They weren't really necessary and I had thankfully kept all receipts. I had some good fun trying to get my tongue around the names on this card. I remember sitting in Comedy Paul's (show editor) hotel room trying to record the voice overs, but failing miserably. On the night it wasn't too bad, but trying to interview fighters via a translator who didn't understand ground and pound, submission or head kick in her mother tongue, made for a lengthy process. It wasn't an easy card to commentate either. I would never be disrespectful to a fighter as I feel it takes huge cahoonas to compete in MMA, but too many fighters just didn't want to engage. That left a fairly quiet crowd and Josh and I having to create some energy. The main card was a whole lot better and I think this is where i started my thing for Gym 01! James Brum and Phil Harris were fighting and were a joy to interview. Over and above that they are super talented and have become 2 of my favourite fighters in their respective divisions. Also on tour with them was Callum Jones who will be taking on my good friend Luke Dalmedo in a few weeks, so we had some fun discussing that one. The Gym 01 guys have a really good bond and that's alot to do with their coach Brian Adams who is a real entertainer.
Part 2 of 'Operation February' was a little closer to home in London. With 1 week to prepare however, that week was fraught. Amateur, semi pro or professional, I will always try my best to research each individual as they are just that. Everyone makes a sacrifice to fight so I make it my responsibility to learn about it and try to portray it in the commentary or show opener. That make for about 30 fighters to connect with as well as watching fights, writing the script for the top of the show and also the script for all the VTs that are broadcast for the main card. I'll make no secret that I check out the Big Shows in the US and get an idea of tempo and content to help write these. At about 10pm after the weigh ins we set up in the corner of the MMA Clinic where we recorded them.
I always love the London show. It gives me the chance to invite some friends along and I normally get to commentate a team mates fight. This time Shah Hussain was up against the MMA Clinic's Jacek Toczydlowski. Shah never takes an easy fight and it was tough night for him as Jacek out wrestled him and took a points victory.
I wasn't feeling great before this show...a huge argument with the wife and no bow tie around my neck wasn't the best preparation and it wasn't my finest hour. The show however, was again, excellent. It had knock outs, high level submissions and text book wrestling...what more could you ask for?!
I was really pleased I dropped into the after party where I had a drink with the SBG guys following Conor McGregor's win and also some of the finest UKMMA people, where I was advised about the game, some of the people and the pitfalls of the sport- and to that person i am grateful.