So once again I was off to Stockholm, Sweden to watch the UFC, but this time was different, this time I was going not only as a fan. but a fan with Media Credentials. Always looking to make the most of an opportunity I booked into the same hotel as the fighters were staying hoping I would get the opportunity to mingle with the fighters during the build up and after there fights.
I arrived in Sweden on Friday and headed straight for my hotel, I had arranged to meet another MMA journalist, Dan from MMA Torch. As I was running a little late, Dan had left the hotel and headed to the arena, so I made my way there so I could see the weigh ins.
There was some real heat at the weigh ins, McGregor got up close and personal with Brimage and Madadi and Johnson had to be pulled apart. All the Swedish fighters got a great reaction from the crowd as did McGregor from his passionate Irish following.
After the weigh ins I headed back to the hotel, I was eager to meet some of the fighters and introduce myself to the ones I had interviewed. During Friday and Saturday I was lucky enough to meet, shake hands and have pictures taken with Bruce Buffer, Stefan Struve, Matt Mitrione and Chris Lytle. They were all very approachable and very friendly to chat with. I mentioned to Bruce that I had interviewed him a few months ago and I also mentioned to Chris that I had met him and had a drink with him in Dublin after his fight with Marcus Davis.
I also saw a lot of other fighters, trainers and referees in that time. On Saturday afternoon I headed to the arena early so I could get myself set up and ready for all the fights. I got to my work station and got my laptop all set and ready to go.
There was a lot of people criticising the card before the event, especially after Gustafsson pulled out due to injury but this event did not disappoint. There were lots of exciting fights with great finishes, I was especially pleased to be there live to witness the debut of Conor McGregor who is a star in the making.
During the event I had the opportunity to chat with Tom Watson and Brad Pickett, I was able to introduce myself and ask them to be on my show and they both agreed and will be on in the near future. After the event had finished it was time for the Post Fight Press Conference, and after getting the opportunity to talk at Wembley I was already for this one. I raised my had to ask a question and was passed the microphone, I firstly spoke to Conor McGregor and asked him the following question: " You have dominated two weight classes on the European scene, do you intend to stay at featherweight in the UFC" He answered that he doesn't mind which weight class he fights at. I then spoke to Brad Pickett and asked him "We have heard Conor tell us what he is going to spend his bonus on, what will you be spending yours on" He answered that he is getting married soon and his fiance is very expensive.
After leaving the press conference I was able to shake Conor's hand and praise him on such a stunning debut, I also mentioned my show to him and I hope to have him on in the near future.
I then headed back to the hotel hoping to see more fighters there relaxing after there nights work. I saw Phil De Fries and went and introduced myself as I had interviewed him a few weeks ago, he said he had enjoyed being on my show. I then watched Phil walk up to Matt Mitrione who he had fought just hours before, they shook hands and hugged, Matt asked Phil if he was ok and they arranged a night out on the town, it was awesome witnessing this, no bad blood after such a brutal finish, just two classy respectful fighters.
The next morning I parked myself down in the lobby to watch all the comings and goings, I bumped in to Reza Madadi and shook his hand and congratulated him on a great victory, I also bumped into Tor Troeng, I also shook his hand, congratulated him and had a picture with him.
I saw Ross Pearson and spoke briefly with him, he was walking with a nasty limp and looked in a lot of pain after his foot injury. I saw his corner man and good friend Dean Amasinger (TUF 9 contestant and TUF Smashes assistant coach). I shook Dean's hand and set up and interview with Dean, he started to talk about Ross's injury but he said he will save it for the show.
I was then surprised to see MMA pioneer Frank Trigg in the hotel, not one to miss an opportunity I walked over to Frank, shook his hand, told him I was a big fan and after having a photo taken with him I also asked him to come onto my show, he agreed and I am in the process of setting that up.
It was then time for me to leave, as a huge MMA fan (geek) I have to say this was one of my life highlights, to get the opportunity to experience this up close and personal and to get such a great opportunity to meet so many of my idols. I am already looking forward to the next UFC event in Europe, rumoured to be in Manchester in October.