My Time at The 7th Annual World MMA Awards and UFC 183 In Las Vegas

February 20th, 2015 by Tony Reid

After my radio show Tuesday evening I headed home to put the finishing touches on our travel plans (mostly luggage) and got ready for the following morning. We left cold and snowy Central Pennsylvania Wednesday morning and drove to Baltimore for a direct flight out of BWI to Sin City to partake in a five day stretch of awesomeness of red carpets and face punching. We got to the airport and bumped into a few friends that were also heading out to Las Vegas for the big fight weekend. Tim Boetsch’s wife Jade and the crew of our good friends were flying on the same flight as we were. Of course Jade was making the trip to see her husband compete at UFC 183.

After the cross country flight we touched down in Sin City shortly after 4pm Wednesday afternoon Pacific Time. After flying all day we just grabbed our bags, a rental car and headed to the time share we were staying at for the duration of our trip. We chose to stay off the strip this time around. It was a great choice because they place was beautiful. We ate some bad food and I tried to connect with everyone I planned on catching up with while in town. From scheduling meeting and interview times with trainers, coaches and fighters to securing tickets for the same people for the World MMA Awards, Wednesday evening was just about firming up plans. With one exception…

The UFC 183 Silva vs. Diaz card was going down at the MGM. There is nothing like being in Las Vegas during a big fight week. The excitement in the air, the ridiculous level of elite fighters mulling around and the lights and sounds of normal Vegas just add to the fun. I could do without the cigarette smoke and five year old kids being dragged through the casinos though.

We hit the MGM to get our schedule in motion late Wednesday night and as we were hanging out with the Octagon caged MGM lion my wife spotted UFC Flyweight Champion and possibly the best pound for pound fighter on the planet Demetrious Johnson and his wife Destiny. We had planned on meeting up at some point over the weekend so there was no better time than now. DJ and Destiny were literally just getting to the hotel, bags in tow. DJ went to grab the hotel key and invited us up to the room to talk right there on the spot. We initially struggled to find the room and eventually headed up to the cardio wing of the MGM, an interesting and ironic name that was not lost on us. We had a great interview and more so a conversation in which Demetrious Johnson showed he is as exciting outside the cage as he is inside it. I know that’s really saying something but its 100% true. I hope to show that side of him in the material I gathered that day. His wife even went so far to say that people think he has the personality of a coffee mug and that the thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of those mugs have pretty funny sayings on them. I digress. We wrapped it up with the UFC Flyweight Champion of the world, saying our thank yous and goodbyes and made it back to the casino floor of the MGM.

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For those of you that are unaware, the hub, and the hot spot for fighter spotting for the hardcore fan is the fountain area by the hotel elevators in the MGM. Clearly the fighters all must walk by that area to get to the elevators at some point throughout the day. In our comings and goings we saw a few autograph seekers hanging out there, pretty much, the entre five day stretch we were in town. I hope they at least stopped to eat and sleep at some point.

Thursday began with an in room tux fitting for the follow days Fighters Only World MMA Awards. We hit the MGM for an “Ultimate Media Day” open to media and MMA fans alike. On the way we made a must stop pit stop at The Las Vegas Fight Shop in Planet Hollywood on the strip. I love the place because there is so much, almost too much MMA goodness per square foot. For the record I didn’t not purchase an $80 t-shirt, for anyone that is curious.

The Ultimate Media day might have been ultimate for media and the fans in the front row of the hall but for anyone else it was elbows to assholes. I was on the fan side of the fence and decided I would be better suited to reach out to the fighters I had planned on talking to instead of wading through hundreds of people. I reached out to Jimy Hettes who was lounging up in his room with his team playing cards. He invited us to come up and hang out. We did an impromptu interview in the middle of Jimy’s card game. The whole crew of guys were fun and great to talk to and it was good to talk to a guy who could understand our struggle of cold and snow back in PA.

Although it looks like we are going a mile a minute and its non-stop action when we are on a trip like this, truth be told there is a lot of downtime, a lot of hits and just as many misses as far as meeting up, scheduling interviews and even something as simple as stopping to talk for a few minutes.

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Friday was a day that was all about getting ready for the evenings red carpet, pre party, awards ceremony and after party for the 7th Annual World MMA Awards. My wife went to great lengths to prepare for a walk on the red carpet and she did not disappoint. She was the most beautiful person in the building that night. We picked up our tickets earlier in the day and prepared for a great night. We got dressed to the nines and headed over to the Venetian, where the event was being held. We were actually the first to hit the red carpet that night. As you can imagine it was a star studded affair from MMA luminaries to celebrities striking a pose on the carpet from Randy Couture to TV stars such as Joe Fatone and MMA personalities. We met up with Mike Beltran immediately after exiting the red carpet. He was nominated for Referee of the Year. He was one of the nicest and most genuine people I have met in the sport. We introduced each other to our wives and talked for a few minutes.

We hang around and took it all in for a few minutes, running into Fighters Only President and CEO Rob Hewitt, among others as we made our way back toward the theatre and the VIP cocktail pre show party. There were two levels to the pre party festivities. The top level was VIP but the lower level was VVIP. Before I was told that I didn’t know something like that existed. For what’s its worth we were in the real VIP party last year and had the time of our lives. We were told there were a few minor glitches in the ticket making and organizing process this year. We were not in the VVIP. The horror! We went to the regular old VIP party and struck up conversation with a number of awesome people, including again, Mike Beltran and another referee of the year nominee Jason Herzog. We chatted it up with them for a good while. I decided to head back down toward the lobby and in doing so I bumped in to Ryan Kiser who was an absolute pleasure to deal with all weekend. He was handling a good bit of the event coordination, if you will. Michelle approached him on a few occasions and he was more than helpful and great to talk to. I saw Ryan as I was heading down the steps as I passed the aforementioned VVIP section. He asked me why we weren’t in there and I said I wasn’t sure. He led us by hand into the VVIP party.

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The first person I saw when I got in the room standing to my right was none other than Jose Canseco. Are you kidding me? I knew this was where I needed to be! I politely asked for a picture (contrary to popular belief I don’t ask for many, if any pictures.) He obliged and we began to make our way around the room. It was a who’s who of MMA luminaries. One right after the next. The best part about it was finally seeing people I talk to all year in person. It’s like seeing a long lost friend. From talking to the Askrens (Ben and Amy) to meeting Michael Chandler and his wife and more than I can mention here. We spoke to Chris Beal, who was up for Knockout of the Year at the awards show.  I met Michael Bisping for the first time after all these years. I finally ran into Emanuel Newton after all of our conversations and interactions this year. Bruce Buffer was chilling at the bar with Arianny Celeste. My wife had to go meet Joey Fatone who was at the bar. I met Mr. Fatone but as a grown ass man didn’t want to ask for a picture with him. I did tell him how much I enjoyed his bit on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers, which I think got the biggest reaction out of him all night. He was genuinely excited to talk about the show and his appearance. She also had a nice conversation with former Bellator ring card girl Jade Bryce. Kevin Randleman and crew were in the house. We spoke to all-time great and MMA icon Randy Couture for a minute. It was just a great, great time. It was one of those kinds of parties.

 

 

10961801_10152999529335586_851800836_nSo after enjoying ourselves immensely we made our way to the beautiful Venetian Theatre for the actual awards show. We entered and as I handed my ticket to the usher we made our way down, down, down to our seats. We were seated fourth row from the stage, center stage. I had to ask Ariel Helwani to stand up so I could get to my seat. I actually sat right next to him. We were surrounded by the who’s who in the MMA and entertainment industry. It was an amazing and humbling experience. The show was fantastic. Like I have said many times before it’s like the Oscars of MMA. Black tie, red carpet all class all the way. There is nothing else remotely close to it in our industry and I was happy to be a small part of it.

After the awards show all of these amazing people are filing out of the building at the same time. I congratulated Duane Bang Ludwig on his second consecutive award for Coach of the Year. I also congratulated T.J. Dillashaw on an amazing year. I bumped into UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler just a few moments after he won Fighter of the Year. We agreed to meet the next morning for a quick interview for the magazine.

Saturday morning I met up with Robbie Lawler in the food court of the Venetian for a quick interview. Later in the morning we took the rental car out to Xtreme Couture to meet up with Ryan Couture and the rest of the team. I had a great conversation with Ryan, make that an interview that will be in print in the near future. He is such a fun person to talk to, interview or otherwise. He said to make sure I stop back and take a private lesson as he would turn me into a bunch of knots. I’m sure I will be back and I’m as equally sure he will tie me into a knot.

Saturday night, of course was the actual face punching night of UFC 183. You didn’t read this to hear the results of the fight card. We had a great time watching the fights even if they didn’t play out like many of us had hoped. After the event we met PRIDE icon and MMA Legend Mauricio Shogun Rua and Anthony Johnson, among others.

That pretty much wraps up my little blog of my time in Las Vegas. I hope to get back soon and have another blog as fun and entertaining for everyone to read.

My Time on Set with Daniel Cormier and the CF Athletic Team Commercial Shoot

November 15th, 2014 by Tony Reid

It was a late start for us as we hit the road headed for Columbus, OH Wednesday afternoon. We made it to our lovely room at the Red Roof Inn and got settled. A few hours later we went to Yogi’s a favorite spot of the man behind Cage Fighter, CF Athletic and the founder of MMA Elite, Michael DiSabato. We had great conversation there for a few hours, talking about the sport of wrestling, the pimps and prostitutes of the NCAA, some of the down and dirty secrets of the wrestling world and so much more. Mike D. is a whirling dervish, a ball of excitement, energy and attitude. If he is one thing it’s passionate about wrestling and changing the sport for the better. If you talk to him for more than five minutes that enthusiasm and passion has to rub off on you. You may not agree with his delivery but it is nearly impossible to argue with the message.

 

Thursday morning we met in the parking lot of Hilliard Davidson High School in Dublin. It is a very nice town outside of Columbus. There was an early morning session with Angelo DiSabato, Michael’s nephew as the star of the show, wrestling and grappling with another unnamed wrestler for specific shots for the upcoming commercial. The production level was first class, top notch all the way. I felt like I was on the set of a Nike or Under Armour commercial. There was a large crew filming as well as a few separate photographers capturing images as well. The day went great and a lot of powerful images were captured for the commercial for the upcoming release of CF Athletic’s first wrestling shoe.

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We were invited to dinner at Michael’s beautiful house in a wonderful neighborhood later that evening. The dinner, baked ziti, was cooked by a friend of the family and probably the best I have ever had. I had a great time meeting and getting to know Michael’s family. We came to find out that DC’s flight was delayed and now he wouldn’t be in town until Friday morning and we would begin shooting bright and early.

After flying cross country on a plane held together by tape, after numerous delays and a late baby sitter. Cormier and his fiancé made it to Columbus, (more specifically the suburb of Dublin) Ohio for the CF Athletic photo and commercial shoot for the launch of the new wrestling shoe and clothing line again at Hilliard Davidson High School.

He was there bright and early, shortly after 7am on a very chilly day, with little to no sleep. We were outside near the track and field area and he was carrying logs, flipping tires, shadow boxing, doing dips, running and everything else you could imagine in nearly freezing weather with numerous videographers and cameramen making request after request and wardrobe change after wardrobe change, which he did all with a smile on his face and a quick witted joke or aside, even joking to the photographer to hurry up and take the picture because he had to suck in his gut and could only do it for so long. Mike D. joked that we were doing an interview for a cover story for FO and DC in all seriousness said “I was just on the cover last month, right?” He said that it wouldn’t be necessary to have another cover that a feature would do just fine. He also made it known that he saw the issue the following month and that Jon Jones was the cover boy of that particular issue.

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He was wearing his brand new orange and black signature CF Athletic wrestling shoe. He joked that the shoes need to be redesigned because his actual signature on the shoe was too small. Mike D. assured him the signature was not too small…and also that the shoes would not be redesigned. As he was repeatedly pulling compression shirts and windbreakers over his head and switching out board shorts, track suits and all kinds of other great CF gear DC made note at one point during the wardrobe change that so many guys at light heavyweight, including Jon Jones, are skinny. DC will never be confused with a skinny guy. He is thick, he looks like a throwback to an old 1970’s fullback in the NFL. I stood next to him for most of the day and on a good day I’m 5’10”. DC is no taller than me. He’s an absolute tank of a man. And every ounce of that tank is utilized and used to demolish whoever is standing across from him in an Octagon or on a wrestling mat.

As we walked back indoors for the next session of the commercial shoot DC’s wife showed us all her very nice engagement ring. She mentioned that recently she lost a diamond out of the ring as she was cleaning and doing laundry. She told her soon to be husband the bad news but he took it in stride, knowing the issue would be covered by insurance. A tell that story to tell this one…As we made it indoors we had some down time and I had a nice conversation with DC and I was struck by how mindful he is that this ride doesn’t last forever. “This thing (MMA) will end for me as fast as it stared and I will be back to my regular life and no one will care (about me).” When speaking about Jon Jones he states “I think Jon got too much too soon, he was too young. He was a college dropout. All of a sudden you have everyone telling you that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread… and I’m sure he never dreamed he would be in the position he is in today. Look at guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. They have been groomed from a very young age on how to handle success and attention as they grow and mature. Jon didn’t have anything like that. On top of that I think he is just a weird individual. If you talk to him outside of an interview setting for a few minutes you see how weird he can be. I have known him to go to nice, high end clubs in gym shorts and people let him in! He’s Jon Jones!” I gathered that with all Daniel has been through in his life he feels like he is more mature and much more-well positioned to take the belt and the responsibilities that come with it early next year. He is taking this ride in stride as well.

I showed him pictures of the recent interviews we have done with him for FO and the Latin American version of the magazine. He was very excited to get copies of each, which I promised him. “There was a time when we would try to keep all of the magazines I was on or in. It got to the point where it was too much and too fast to keep up.”

It was great watching him interact will all of the CF guys in attendance. He was goofing around like the guys were all back in high school or college locker room again. He made sure to tell Mike D. that he had gained a lot of weight since he saw him last and he was cracking jokes with all of the filming crew in attendance.

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Once the on the mat filming stared DC flat out put on a show. He was shadow wrestling to start to the point if working up a sweat. A wrestler near his size was brought in to go live with him to film segments of the commercial. DC was executing takedowns and throws at will and right on cue, in the direction of the cameras just as he was directed. On the set we would stop every so often to check out the recently captured footage, at one point DC’s wife caught a glimpse and her reaction to the slow-mo shots was great. She mentioned how Cormier wants to show their son exactly what daddy does and also how Daniel is already teaching him certain wrestling techniques.

As there was a short break in the action when the guys went to get lunch, we were sitting by the set and DC began talking about his children and raising them in sunny California and how tough and hard kids can be in Louisiana. He said he would much rather raise his kids in California and give them a better upbringing than he had rather than raise them in the more rough area and neighborhoods he grew up in, saying that the kids down south are pretty hard. He mentioned details of his ambitions to further his media career after his fighting career is over. He is one of the few mixed martial artists that realize this ride of being an active fighter is extremely short and he is getting his ducks in a row for his post-fight life.

DC headed into the weight room for the next round of the photo shoot but more importantly, maybe, he was hoping to get a legit workout in. He went hard and again didn’t disappoint. He was doing some bench press work, curls, 21’s, squats, medicine ball pushups and anything else that he could manage with the space allotted and with so many people in attendance in the weight room. He was literally dripping with sweat by the time the workout was over. He made sure to make it a point that he wanted a rematch with Mike D.’s son in a previous football video game that DC lost. He wanted to guys to go buy the new UFC game so he could play with the kids and get his revenge later that day.

We broke for lunch and the man himself the Godfather of Ground and Pound, UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman made an appearance for a later scheduled interview with me. Mark was very talkative and even went so far to pose with the kids that approached him for pictures and he made sure to show them how to properly do the all-important post weigh in stare down.

Then we headed upstairs to the mat room for another round of the photo shoot. After spending most of the day with DC I could see he was dragging. He said that last Red Bull didn’t do the trick. He was running on fumes. He swung ropes, ran at a camera as if he was executing a takedown and a number of other shots and poses. Toward the end of the shoot Mark Coleman began yelling words of encouragement to DC, and make no mistake about it, he was the only person in the room that had the right to do so.

After the session Coleman and Cormier sat with me for more than 30 minutes to talk about a wide array of topics. Even after that interview DC sat with me for another 20 minutes to do a follow up of sorts. I couldn’t help but be impressed with how professional he was in every way throughout the entire day. I must have tanked him ten times and hugged him a few more as we parted ways for the day.

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From there we went indoors and he spent at least an hour (probably two) wrestling hard while putting on a great show for all in attendance. He was just as entertaining off the mats while interacting the friends, crew members and fans. I think it was about this time when he first stopped for as much as a drink of water all morning.

Then we went into the weight room where he got a legitimate workout in all while being photographed and recorded for the commercial. His workout was inspiring and left the adults and especially the young men in the room in awe.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then right back at it. We went upstairs to the wrestling room and DC proceeded to run, jump, swing ropes and do everything else that was asked of him. It was clear after spending most of the day with him that he was running on empty but he didn’t show it or slow down for a minute.

After that session, by then he was going on, I don’t know how long with no sleep, he sat down for an interview with Mark Coleman and myself. After that 30 minute session he sat with me as long as I needed him to for another interview.

I must have thanked him ten times because I could see how much he needed food and sleep but he fulfilled his obligations and carried himself in a manner that calling him a professional would be an understatement.

So often we hear all the negative stories and the negative side of athletes and sports so I feel like I needed to share this positive story of a guy who deserves your applause. Nothing but respect for DC.

tarted bright and early in nearly freezing weather throwing logs, flipping tires, running, shadowboxing, doing dips and anything else a number of cameramen and photographers asked him to do all while doing a number of wardrobe changes.I’m pretty sure he would never share this story or say this himself so I will. After a few delays and a baby sitter back out, Daniel Cormier flew cross country on a plane that was basically held together with masking tape, arrived a day later than expected and with little to no sleep got out to an early morning photo shoot and grinded through an entire days work with a smile on his face, great stories, quick wit and a level of professionalism that you had to appreciate.

He started bright and early in nearly freezing weather throwing logs, flipping tires, running, shadowboxing, doing dips and anything else a number of cameramen and photographers asked him to do all while doing a number of wardrobe changes.

From there we went indoors and he spent at least an hour (probably two) wrestling hard while putting on a great show for all in attendance. He was just as entertaining off the mats while interacting the friends, crew members and fans. I think it was about this time when he first stopped for as much as a drink of water all morning.

Then we went into the weight room where he got a legitimate workout in all while being photographed and recorded for the commercial. His workout was inspiring and left the adults and especially the young men in the room in awe.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then right back at it. We went upstairs to the wrestling room and DC proceeded to run, jump, swing ropes and do everything else that was asked of him. It was clear after spending most of the day with him that he was running on empty but he didn’t show it or slow down for a minute.

After that session, by then he was going on, I don’t know how long with no sleep, he sat down for an interview with Mark Coleman and myself. After that 30 minute session he sat with me as long as I needed him to for another interview.

I must have thanked him ten times because I could see how much he needed food and sleep but he fulfilled his obligations and carried himself in a manner that calling him a professional would be an understatement.

So often we hear all the negative stories and the negative side of athletes and sports so I feel like I needed to share this positive story of a guy who deserves your applause. Nothing but respect for DC.

Rattling the Cage Book Review: “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It”

August 22nd, 2014 by Tony Reid

untitled (18)As a huge fan of the early days of NHB, (pre) MMA and the UFC I was very much looking forward to reading “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It” by one of the founders of the UFC himself, Mr. Art Davie.

The book is a great nuts and bolts, blow by blow of the day to day trials and tribulations leading up to the historical night of November 12, 1993 when the world changed forever as UFC 1 was held in the McNichols Area in Denver Colorado. Davie shares in great detail the contract snafus, the back and forth with Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) and of course his ever growing relationships with Campbell McLaren, Rorion Grace and other members of the Gracie Family.

The story Davie tells is as much of an idea coming to fruition (one that just may have started when the young boxer Davie was first in a scrap and taken down by a thick necked wrestler so many years ago) through hard work, dedication and a never say die attitude.

As with any great idea comes great pushback from those with short sight and other hang-ups and many of these oppositions are detailed in the book as well, including the great pushback from members of the traditional martial arts community as they were quick to shoot down the idea of mixed fights, generally for business related reasons and egotistical concerns.

Davie takes us behind the scenes and behind closed doors as he touches on the Gracie Family beef between the eldest son Rorion and the brother who was seemingly in line to take the reins of the Gracie Family into the next generation, Rickson.  Davie sheds some light on just how much Rorion wanted to please his father and family patriarch Helio as well as honor the Gracie name, Gracie Jiu Jitsu and the Gracie Diet.

Dave also details the fighter’s colorful personalities, their actions and mindset leading up to the event. Great insights about just how batshit crazy Pat Smith really was (not surprising), how guarded the Gracie Family was of Royce leading up to the event (again not a shocker) and how much an out of shape and overweight Kevin Rosier enjoyed Snickers washed down with a Dr. Pepper as staples of his diet leading up to UFC 1.

Another great story shared in the book (and one Art had shared with me on my radio show) was that of Royce breaking down in the hours leading up to the event, right there in the center of the Octagon as Rickson cradled him and helped him through that impossible moment.

Davie details how he went from an advertising professional and a low level Gracie Jiu Jitsu student under Rorion to becoming one of his trusted partners, a confidant and co-creator of an entirely new sport, the sport of mixed martial arts in general and specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand.

I may be a bit partial, as I am one who can’t get enough information on the early days of the sport but I feel that this is a great (and quick) read for the hardcore fan (as some juicy information is shared about the Gracie Family and the early pioneers of UFC 1) to the casual observer that may not be aware of much of the information Davie shares in the pages of the book. Go out and pick this book up and get schooled on the early days and origin of the sport you watch today.