UFC 155 Review Rattling the Cage Style

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 by Tony Reid

Our trip started early Thursday morning in lovely Northumberland, PA and by lovely I mean a snow- sleet and freezing rain-snow sandwich. We hit the dark and windy road at about 2am after a restful night of sleep (read: 2 hours). Instead of me driving my usual pedal to the medal style I was forced to drive between 40 and 50 mph the entire trip. To me, this in and of itself was a small form of torture. We made it to Harrisburg International Airport with no issues and in plenty of time. The connecting flight to Chicago was on time. We were in business. While waiting for the connecting flight our buddy and Barbarian supporter Ryan Matter showed up and it turns out was flying on the same flight we were. Ryan is a nutritionist and strength and conditioning guru and one of Tim’s right hand men, so it is always nice to talk to people that really know what they are doing in any given field. We sat for a good bit of time sharing stories and comparing notes.

We fill up the puddle jumper of a plane and head for Chicago. We touch down and I see a warm and welcoming sight. Chicago Bears tees, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, you name it. Man, I love Chicago. Even though the east coast was getting smashed with snow and ice the usually shitty travel out of Chicago this time of year was actually a dream. Not a drop of snow, ice or any precipitation. Off to Vegas, it was time to get to sinnin’ in Sin City.

We land in Vegas, hit the airport filled with slot machines grab the bags and make our way to pick up the rental car. We hop in the luxurious Ford Focus and make our way to The Strip. Actually, it’s much nicer than my everyday car so win for me! We hit the strip, drive by the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign and all the new brides and grooms outside the Little Wedding Chapel and make our way to our hotel.

We took a minute, literally, to unpack and get comfy in our castle for the week. At that point I reached out to Tim and we headed over to his room at the MGM. We hung out there for a while. He was in good spirits yet, as he said, his head was a little off from being in the process of the weight cut. He was scheduled to take care of a few media obligations downstairs so we let him go do his thing and we went to do ours.

At this point I reached out to all of the people I had confirmed interviews with in the weeks leading up to the trip. Guys like UFC Photographer Josh Hedges, UFC VP of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner, Alan Belcher, Mike Constantino and Jim Miller, Brad Pickett, Mike Brown, Glover Teixeira and…well you get the idea.  We strolled around the MGM, taking in the sights, the elementary school children and kids in strollers mixed in with the hookers, the drinking, the smoking and gambling. I had no idea Las Vegas became such a family friendly vacation destination. Great job parents!

I personally love Las Vegas. I don’t know if it’s the lights, the fact that there is always something going on or if it’s just the fact that it is the MMA capital of the world. It’s probably a combination of all those things and more. I keep telling anyone that will listen that I eventually would like to move here, only half joking. Michelle and I finally sat down to grab a bite to eat as we waited to finalize my interview plans for the day.

The MGM was the unofficial official fighter and team hotel so went spent a good amount of our time there. As a fan if you camped out by the fountain in the elevator area in the hotel you would have bumped into a number of, if not every single fighter and personality in attendance that weekend. In our time there we saw various fighters and team members. Big Nog, Greg Jackson, Daniel Cormier, hell even Cecil Peoples himself rolled through. I actually spoke to Mr. Peoples for a few minutes and how do I say this nicely…I’m not sure if you put a hole in the ground and his rear end next to each other that he could determine which one was which. I don’t know if he was disoriented for some reason or if he had been on a drinking binge but wow, just wow. One of the highlights for me was running into Anthony Bourdain. I stopped him and in full fan mode asked for a picture. He took one, with an extreme look of pain and agony on his face.

Friday got off to a good start. I met up with top bantamweight contender Brad Pickett and former WEC Champion Mike Brown in their room and got a great interview with each guy. They were the best. They joked that we “delivered” by coming right up to the room for the interview. I said we would bring pizza next time. Shortly after that we ran into another Bantamweight contender in Michael McDonald, who is fighting Renan Barao for the Bantamweight Championship soon. We sat down and had a very interesting, in-depth conversation about his religion, his childhood, his comparison to Tim Tebow and a number of other topics. We also saw him in passing a few more times over the course of the weekend, stopping to say “Hi” each time. He was another great guy to talk to. We went to weigh ins in the early afternoon and as we entered the MGM my wife noticed Jacob “Stitch” Duran standing at a distance talking to a few friends. I had interviewed him months prior and our interview finally printed in Ultimate MMA Magazine this month. I actually brought a few copies just in case I happened to run into him. I went over introduced myself (again) and handed him a copy of the magazine. He gave my wife a big hug and kiss and gave me a big hug. He was legitimately excited and happy to see the interview. He commented about how great it turned out, how much he liked the pictures, everything. He introduced me to the guys he was with, who turned out to be his best friends. I bumped into him probably three or four more times over the course of the weekend and he stopped each time to thank me. I was the first media person to have my hands wrapped by him and he even asked where the hand wraps are. I told him that they are in a shadowbox in my office. Once I got home I tweeted him a picture of them. It was a really nice experience. Those are the kind of people in this crazy sport that I really enjoy speaking to.

Also during our travels Friday afternoon we stopped by Randy Couture’s Charity Poker Tournament and spoke to him for a minute. He is my favorite fighter of all time. We met him a few years ago in Denver but it’s still always great to stop and talk to him. I, of course, was attempting to set up an interview for the weekend and he told me who to contact but it just never panned out. It will soon though! Michelle had to get a picture so we did just that and went on our merry way.

Shortly after that we were headed to Tim’s room to meet up with him and head out to our favorite spot (in any city) Bucca Di Beppo.  During our jaunt to the room we ran into my good buddy, the former editor of TapouT Magazine and current Sirius Radio Host and writer for FIGHT! and UFC Magazine Mr. RJ Clifford. We have emailed, called, texted and every other form of communication over the past four years but we had never actually met. I ran up to him and gave him a big hug and we chatted like old friends. About this time the Tim Boetsch entourage rolled through and we headed over for some good old Italian food. The table has some pretty big names sitting at it Tim, of course, along with super trainer Matt Hume, Joel Jamieson, Ryan Matter and a few Swole representatives. Dinner included plates of Chicken Parm, piles of Lasagna, Ziti and the like. I was in heaven.

Just like well known bad ass Elton John said Saturday night is a night for fighting. I still can’t get used to heading to the arena for an event in broad daylight but it is what it is. We went over early to make the rounds as I say. We stopped and talked to Skrape for awhile. He is such a nice guy. We were talking about the magazine, its origins, just taking a trip down memory lane. It’s always great to catch up with someone who is so well respected and such a pioneer in this game. Big Black of Rob and Big fame came over to talk to Skrape and at one point after we were all walking away my wife asked if she could take a picture with Big Black. He refused, saying “Right now I’m only taking pictures with kids. Its kids only right now.” Really, kids only in Las Vegas at a casino right before a UFC event? Maybe that’s why no one was taking pictures with him. I did see kids running around everywhere in other parts of Vegas but none were at the fights clamoring for a picture with Big Black.

The early part of the card wasn’t overly exciting, but Tim’s fight had special importance to us, of course. We know how it played out. I won’t go into the gory details here. Needless to say we where extremely disappointed and more than that, feeling for Tim and the family. The co-main event and main event saved the otherwise lackluster card. The Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon fight would be a great late addition to any fight of the year award category. The main event between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos was an exciting one that had the crowd split 50/50. At times I felt like we were in Mexico watching the fight. The support for Cain (in our particular section of the building) was overwhelming.  People were literally going fucking crazy; waving flags screaming obscenities in other languages…it was great.

Sunday was a tough day. We went to Tim’s room about 8am because he was flying out around 10am. He looked as you would expect someone to look who had been in a fist fight mere hours earlier and one in which he was eye poked, head butted, nose broken and had cartilage torn right off his ribs. He and Drew were telling us about how at the hospital the night before they ran into Junior Dos Santos. Tim was getting stitched up in one room when he heard someone calling his name from the other room. It was JDS, who was told that Tim was right next to him. Can you imagine these two talking from room to room as they were getting stitched up after the fights? Of course by now you have probably seen the pictures of them posing together after the handy work done at the hospital. Tim, Drew, Michelle and I sat and talked for awhile and before we knew it was time to go. They needed help getting the bags downstairs and to the awaiting van so we helped them out to the ride, going through the maze of hallways and elevators and side, back and front exits. We said our goodbyes and went back to enjoy our last day in Sin City as much as we could considering the circumstances.

We hit up Pawn Stars and a few other touristy spots and headed home ourselves. The weekend had officially come to an end. The trip home was a smooth one and we walked in the door about 15 minutes before midnight to celebrate the New Year with our kids, just happy to be home and to be able to give them a weeks worth of hugs and kisses, even if they were only semi conscious that late at night. Until next time America.