My Time at The 6th Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 by Tony Reid

awards6-631x500-featuredAs it has many times before our attempt to get out of Pennsylvania during the winter season was interesting. I followed the weather forecast more in the days leading up to my trip than in the previous 10 years combined. I felt like I was in training to take over for Jim Cantore. But I digress, we were flying out of lovely Harrisburg, PA with Sin City being our final destination for the 6th Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards.

We knew going in that weather was going to be an issue. We just didn’t know how much of an issue. We woke up at 2am Wednesday morning to about 5 to 6 inches of snow already falling with no end in sight. I shoveled and shoveled some more while my wife got ready and (finally) finished packing. I white knuckled the one hour drive that turned in to a two hour drive as we drove through sleet, snow and freezing rain. We rushed through the check in, rushed through security and as I ran over to the gate with no shoes on I sadly learned that the flight was delayed. I should have figured that much!

We sat in Harrisburg for a few hours until we took flight headed toward Chicago. We finally got to the Windy City and it lived up to its moniker. There were 25 to 35 mile an hour gusting winds, so as you can imagine, we were once again delayed.

The next leg of our trip was scheduled for San Francisco. As you might imagine our flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas had already departed before we even hit the ground in Cali. We were lucky enough to get booked for the very next flight out and were only delayed another hour or so. If you are keeping track at home we were scheduled to land in Las Vegas at 10am and touched down around 10pm…but hey, we made it!

As we were idling in Chicago I received a text from Dave Farra, the host of the World MMA Awards pre show, who spoke to the President, CEO and Owner of Fighters Only Rob Hewitt, asking if I would like to join the expert panel for the red carpet pre show. Of course I happily accepted and immediately got the wheels turning.

We finally got out of the last plane for a few days and started to enjoy the city. We stayed on the cheap and went with Harrah’s which is right next to the Venetian, where everything was taking place for us this week. We were like the kids coming from the other side of the tracks.

One of, if not the, first order of business was to get me cleaned up and in a tux for this black tie affair. We reached out to a local shop that actually came right to my room, took my measurements, made alterations back at the shop and dropped the tux off at my room the next morning. It was easier than ordering a pizza! Not only was it easy but this dude had stories! He was telling us about actors, entertainers and athletes that he has worked with over the past 30 plus years. He also gave us some “insight” into how Las Vegas operates.

Through Fighters Only I had an interview with Ben Askren scheduled for Thursday. We were to meet at the Café Presse in the Venetian. We met there and quickly realized it was way too loud to hear ourselves think let alone record an interview. Ben was accompanied by his wife Amy and their young daughter. We decided to find a new location to sit down and we eventually made our way to a lovely waterfall and plant filled wonderland.

It was great to catch up with the Askren’s as Michelle and Amy chatted Ben and I started our interview. Ben was accompanied by Loren Mack, the PR Director for ONEFC. The interview went well. Loren even came bearing gifts of t-shirts, key chains and other items, which is always a good thing. As we were doing our interview Brian Stann came rolling by and we exchanged pleasantries. I have never met Brian before so I said hello in hopes he would recognize my ugly mug the next day in preparation for the show.

After we left the interview we went over to the venue to pick up our golden tickets for the following night’s show. I was extremely excited as we were on the VIP list, which included great seats for the event, access to the VIP pre party, access to the red carpet and all kinds of other cool stuff. We snagged the tickets after being helped by a few of the great staff members on hand.

After interviews and random stuff Thursday we went out and strolled around that night. As we were shopping at the Venetian we bumped into Brian Stann and his wife. We talked for a few minutes about the upcoming show, Pennsylvania and gym ownership cautionary tales. Brian and his wife Teressa are awesome, awesome people and it was great to finally get to meet them in person.

Friday was a big day for me to say the least. I had a number of things on the schedule including a rehearsal at 4pm for the red carpet pre show that I was a panelist on, the red carpet opened at 4pm, the actual pre show went live at 5pm, the cocktail reception was from 5pm to 7pm, the show seating started at 7pm, the show itself went live at 7:30pm and the after party at TAO started after the show. Trust me, I’m not complaining.

I prepped for the show most of the morning while Michelle got her hair did. We went over to the venue about an hour early so I could get my bearings and get ready to roll. When I got to the Venetian Theatre pre show host Dave Farra was already rehearsing. I grabbed a seat in the audience and waited my turn. I was actually the only panelist that showed up for the rehearsal. When I first hit the stage I was a bit out of my element. The bright lights, the audience, the material, the teleprompters, even the little stuff like getting mic’d up was new to me. The very first segment of rehearsal I was a bit off but after that everything was gravy. I was comfortable and ready to go. I don’t know if anyone knew but this was the first time I was on a live television feed, so it took a second to acclimate but after that it was on like Donkey Kong.

The rehearsal went well and we mingled for a few minutes before the show was to start. I spoke with Travis Browne for a few minutes about his love and my dislike for country music. That is a topic he and I have gone back and forth on a few times recently. It’s a running joke that my wife is trying to get me into country but I just can’t commit to it. About 30 minutes prior to going live I had to head down to the production area to get my makeup…yes, to get my makeup done. This was definitely a first as well. I sat down in front of the bright lights and let a very talented lady do my lips, my eyebrows and airbrush my ugly grill. The other panelists came through and did the same. I felt as if I got a bit of masculinity back when Brian Stann came in and got his makeup done, too.

We, the panelists and Stann were just talking in the hallway waiting to head back upstairs and for the show to start. Some of the nest moments in this sport and with my job are moments like this, off the record stuff that guys talk about when we are just standing around. Let’s just say we had great conversation.

I made my way upstairs and back stage as the show went live. My first on air segment was with Greg Savage of Sherdog. We sat with Dave on stage and talked about a number of the categories. And then later in the show we did the same thing again. As a grand finale all panelists were on stage for the final segment to discuss Fighter of the Year category and a few other topics. If you haven’t seen the show yet you can check it out here…

Overall it was an extremely fun and valuable experience, especially if I am going to consider taking steps toward a career in that area of the sport. I was honored that the people at Fighters Only thought enough of me to include me in this amazing night for the entire sport of mixed martial arts. In between one of our segments I had the opportunity to meet Rob Hewitt in person for the first time. I thanked him for the opportunity he has given me and promised that I would continue to do everything I can to keep the work coming.

After the pre-show Michelle and I made our way to the red carpet. This again, was a first for both of us. We rubbed elbows with Jens Pulver, Tracy Lee, and numerous other MMA celebrities. Walking the red carpet was pretty crazy. There were handlers, people leading you around and numerous photographers (think 30 plus) snapping multiple pictures (think 10 each). It was a cool thing to be able to cross off the bucket list. I know my wife put a ton of time into her wardrobe and looking like a fabulous superstar and she deserved to be on the red carpet. I’m glad we could do that for her. And for the record she was the hottest person there.

After the red carpet we made our way up to the VIP pre party. Man, it was packed. We tried to make our way through all the humanity, past the Kenny Florians and such. We ran into the Akrens again and stopped and had a drink and chatted it up. We also ran into the unmistakable Chumlee from Pawn Stars fame. I asked if he was a big fan of the sport and he said he follows it and likes it but his only obsession are Air Jordan kicks.

I also bumped in to my good buddy Stitch Duran. It’s always great to see him. He is such a legend and icon in the sport and the fact that we talk and interact on such a friendly basis is something that really means a great deal to me. He said when he saw my name on the list that he knew this was going to be a big event, which I take as a huge compliment. We crossed paths once we got into the venue as well and talked for a few minutes. Always, always great seeing Stitch.

After a drink (literally one) we made our way down to the entrance and to our seats for the awards show. The venue was so beautiful and the show Fighters Only put on was amazing. It offered everything you would want or expect in an awards show on the highest level. We had great seats ran into a number of great people and enjoyed the award presentations and the entertainment of the evening. Brain Stann did a fantastic job as the host as did comedian Adam Hunter as a main writer of the show. There were a few skits that played throughout the night that were hilarious. A parody of “What Does the Fox Say?” called “What Does the Wand Say?” was flat out hilarious. Another parody featuring Mark Munoz as the (Filipino) Wrecking Ball was equally as funny. In other entertainment we got to see a sneak peek of Rock of Ages, one of the hottest shows in Vegas right now. They were fantastic. Also we watched the amazing artist from Panda!, a martial arts performing act here in Vegas, perform. There were a number of celebrities in attendance and presenting including Gene Simmons, Mario Lopez, and Terrell Owens among others. The show went off without a hitch and we left extremely happy. It was such an honor to get an invite and be present for such a great night in MMA.

After the show I met Bryan Callen and we talked about working on a few things in the near future. None of which I am going to share with you now though. We briefly hit the after party at TAO in the Venetian until I realized how damn old I am and decided to call it a day and go get some much needed shut eye. We spent the rest of our time in Vegas just shopping, taking in the sights and sounds. (Sounds other than that of people on the street whistling and flicking the paper of naked chicks and strip clubs attempting to get your attention and business at said strip club) We took in a few shows and kept the rest of the trip non MMA…somehow. After all, this trip was all about the celebration of the amazing year our sport had not about working. Wow, did I just say that? I guess there is a first time for everything.