Friday, 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.
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.
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.
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.
So 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.