BLOG: Week of UFC 117
From Matt's blog:
Well, I want to thank all of you for the support and on top of that I want to thank all of the forums members for their comments and support. I've received a lot of questions about what it's like the week of the fight and even more so on the day of the fight. So here it goes with my week in Oakland.
Tuesday, August 3rd: I fly out of St. Louis at around 2:30 PM and I arrive in Oakland sometime around 4:30. I get picked up by the UFC and they take me straight to the UFC office at the host hotel. I do all of my paperwork, receive any paperwork that I might need and sign the 100+ posters that they use for PR. Leave there and start to check in for my room. I always try and get an extra room because I bring plenty of corners; so before I left the office Tony told me he squared away another room for me. Matt Pena and Jeremy Horn had already checked in and were in one room, I checked in to my second room. Went to my room and looked at it, it had two beds, then went up to Jeremy and Matt's room, it had one bed. We then decided to change rooms so the cornermen would have both beds. When Robbie got there, he would either stay with me or he could go stay down in the corner's room. Matt and Jeremy are pretty low maintenance, they bring their computers and books and enjoy their time away from their family to do what they want. Robbie is kind of the opposite, he likes to go out and get extra workouts in and is kind of always on the move (but he wouldn't get here until Thursday). Then later on that night, I get a workout in and I'm only about 6 pounds over afterwards. After that I go take a shower and walk down to get some sushi for dinner. Fell asleep watching the TV which didn't have any decent channels at all.
Wednesday, August 4th: Don't know exactly what time I wake up, but I get ahold of the corners and we schedule our morning workout. The typical workouts the week of a fight are three to four rounds of grappling with Jeremy and then three rounds of pads with Matt. When I get done with the workout, I'm only 4 1/2 pounds over. We then grab some lunch and head to the grocery store to pick up some fruit. I'm a big fruit guy and often consider fruit a dessert. When the UFC picked us up from the airport, they told us we were not allowed to walk far from the hotel. So in the grocery store, we decided to see if the UFC would drop us off at a movie theater Pena had found on his iPhone. They said they would, so Wednesday afternoon we decided to go see Inception. I ate a lot of popcorn and didn't realize that the sodium would keep me so heavy for the next 24 hours. Lesson learned. The movie was alright, but you really had to pay attention. We found a taxi for me, Matt and Jeremy to go back to the hotel in. If I remember right, Michelle (MattHughesRocks on the forums) picked up Boomer (Boomer on the forums) from the airport and brought him to the hotel. Boomer is one of those guys that helps me out a lot that last week. He's a lot like my brother in the fact that he'll help out in any way I need and all I have to do is tell him what I need done; but I don't have to tell him how to do it. Scheduled our workout for the night and when it came time, had the workout and found out I was 7 pounds over after the workout. Not great news when I was only 4 1/2 over the night before. If I remember right, I had a protein shake and a couple of pieces of fruit that night to eat. I think I fell asleep watching Fox News.
Thursday, August 5th: Today there were a few more things going on. I know I had an interview sometime in the mid-morning and Robbie gets here today. Got the workout done and if I remember right, I was about 5 1/2 pounds over. This afternoon we went to movies again and watched Dinner for Schmucks. It was a pretty funny movie, but nowhere near top ten or anything. When I came back I had to do an interview for the UFC. This is for the video that you see before I walk out to the fight. I also had to do some posing which is also what you see on that video. Sometimes I don't have to do these before the fights, but they came up with the concept with all the lightbulbs behind the fighters and I have never done that before. Practiced that night with Robbie there, of course Matt and Jeremy. I believe Christie (philips4 on the forums) was there and maybe Michelle again. After practice I was 4 1/2 over, not bad with me weighing in the next day. That night I believe we rented a movie on the TV, The Green Zone. It was an alright movie, worth the money to rent; but I won't be buying it.
Friday, August 6th: First thing in the morning, I go weigh in on the official scale, 3 1/2 pounds over. Also, when I weigh in, I've always got to bring my banner and fight shorts down for the UFC to look at. I have to leave the top 14 inches of the banner free so they can put their logos and the venue across the top. They also check all the sponsorships and make sure they're approved. I had brought both pair of shorts down (light and dark) and they let me choose which one I wanted to wear. I went with the dark. I also get to approve the pair of gloves that I want to wear, they had a new design I have never seen before and I went with a large instead of an extra-large. About 11, the UFC took us over to a 24-Hour Fitness and I cut my 3 1/2 pretty easy. I usually like to bike it off, but this time since I had so little, I felt like just hitting the sauna. It only took me about 40 minutes and the weight was off. Robbie, Boomer and Hoggie (Robbie's long time friend) went with me, but I didn't need any help it was a pretty straight forward weight cut. At 2:00 we had to meet to go over to the venue for weigh-in. I'd been trying to think of a way to give bonuses to my cornermen, Matt Pena had said that he wanted a gun, so the deal was born. If I get a KO, TKO or I knock him down and finish him on the ground, he gets a nice .308. Right after we came up with that, I said if I submit him Jeremy gets a .308. It wasn't long after that that we figured out that there could be a longshot where they would both get a gun.
I also always take a deck of cards with me. Pena and I enjoyed a one-sided game of gin rummy. It's funny as tired as I was, I could still put my teacher's hat on and show Matt a thing or two about gin. Before we left for the venue, I jumped on a scale and found out I was a pound under. I asked Robbie if he thinks I ought to eat and apple and he said "Shoot, I would eat the apple and the banana." Well I just ate the apple, sometimes I like to play it safe and I'm glad I did, because when I got on the scale later on I was only half a pound under. The boys are hungry, so we walk back to the sushi joint. When we are leaving the hotel, Danny (Silverback on the forums) pulls in, so he and his friend Tim go with us. It's nice to see familiar faces when you are out in unfamiliar territory. So the boys get to sit down with some nice sushi and I just watch. When we get to the venue, I have to get in front of the commission, go through some paperwork and see a doctor. As I said before, I got on the scale and was only a half under. Right after we all weigh in, we have a private meeting with Dana. This is where Dana goes over the bonuses and also the commission talked about some rules. Then we're allowed to leave to go back to the hotel and within walking distance, Boomer had secured us a reservation at an Italian place. We went there and ate and the food was terrible. Not Boomer's fault though. I left the restaurant early and walked back to the hotel to hurry up and do my urine test, so we could catch the movie <em>The Other Guys</em>. Well, this is the first time I've had the problem that I couldn't fill the pee cup. So it took me an hour to get done with the test so we missed the movie. We then found a different theater with a different time and watched the movie. When we got back to the hotel, Mark (Mark on the forums) and Emily were there and also my accountant, David, was there with his secretary, Marie, along with David's family. I didn't meet up with David or his family, but did see Marie from time to time. Some other friends were supposed to be there that night, but they got delayed and weren't going to be there until Saturday afternoon. Ate again that evening and then went to bed, trying to get some sleep for the next day.
Saturday, August 7th, Fight Day: Woke up earlier than I wanted to, there was a 2-hour time difference, so I never really got to sleep in. Had no real commitments with the UFC before my scheduled departure time of 4:30. I woke up and had breakfast somewhere but I can't even tell you where it was at. Mostly sat around with my buddies and gave out the tickets to my friends for the event. I was hungry in the afternoon and thought back to the boys eating sushi the day before. I'm not big on eating raw fish the day of the event, but that's what I wanted and usually what I want is what I do (remember my wife was at home, so there was nobody there to tell me 'no'). So sushi it was with a big crowd and we all had a good time. One thing I always say is my crew and I always have a good time. One thing I will always take away from this career is all the memories.
We go back to the hotel, relax and pack. The two that were delayed from the night before show up, which is nice, because now everybody has arrived that I need to give tickets to. I had met a lady in the sauna the day before that was a big fan. I had some extra tickets and told her I would see if I could get her a few. Boomer took care of that for me, so now all of my tickets were accounted for. When I originally asked this lady if she was going to the event, she had said that with the economy the way it is, they just couldn't do it. I've had a lot of people say that to me, which always makes me thank God for how He provides for me. Well, my bags are packed so I call my corner as it's getting close to 4:30 and we meet up. Forgot who grabs my bag and banner because it's always customary that a fighter never carries his bag. The fights actually started at 4:20. Jeremy, being the big fight fan he is, had left early; so at 4:30 Matt and Jeremy escort me to the rendezvous point. Hoggie also gets a ride to the venue with us.
Finally head over to the venue and go straight to the locker room. I start unpacking my bag because I know that I'm going to have time to shower since I'm the second fight on the main card. All locker rooms have a TV so we get to see what the pay-per-view sees. In our locker room with us is Clay Guida and his corner. Chael Sonnen and his team are in an attached room. My locker rooms are always very easy going, my guys know we joke around. I believe they are like me when I corner. I always try and read the fighter, if he wants it to be easy going, that's what I give him; but if he wants to be serious, I tell him how he's going to win, his strengths and his opponent's weaknesses. Of course, Matt Pena brings up the fact that he wants a gun (a conversation we'd had many times since the agreement), Robbie seems more serious this time which makes me think he was a little worried. The prelim fights go on, Matt Pena thinks that I need to get my hands wrapped, so Robbie goes out to find the UFC to get somebody. The whole time we're in the locker room, we have commissioners standing and watching. They just make sure we don't drink something we shouldn't, eat something we shouldn't, or maybe alter our gloves. I've not had the best luck with the California commissioners, but this time they were really easy going and great to work with. Don House comes in to tape my hands, who I believe is one of the best. At this time I get serious. While he is taping my hands I start running the fight through my head and, as I'm watching my hands getting taped, it just makes me realize why I am there. When they get done taping my hands, I grapple a little bit with Jeremy to get warmed up. I even think I hit pads with Matt before PPV starts. My guys know it's serious and while the first fight is going on, they're talking to me as I warm up. After the first fight is over, I heard Burt in the hallway yelling "5 minutes!" Burt is one of those guys who's been in the UFC for a little while and is very good at what he does. When I first got around Burt, I started calling him "Elmer." I call Burt "Elmer" because I believe he is the glue that holds the UFC together.
They come in and get me and walk to my staging point. Of course, my cornermen are talking to me, giving me support. Ricardo walks in, I can hear his music. They bring me up a little closer and I'm actually out standing where people can see me. I hear my music and then they tell me to walk. The walk to the octagon is very emotional, there is so much going through my head I feel like I want to cry, but I don't. Now I'm to the point where anybody watching the TV sees what's going on. First thing they do is have me take my clothes off. I always give my cornermen a hug, actually I think I came up with that concept. I was going to do it after they put Vaseline on, but as soon as I took my clothes off and went to turn towards the cut-man, Robbie grabbed me and turned me around. I knew exactly what was going on, he wasn't going to let me walk up to the octagon without his hug. When he spun me around, I had a smile on my face and he lit one up too. They all three got their hugs and I told each one of them in their ear to talk to me, I'd hear them. Turned around got my Vaseline on, then another cut man checks me for any extra Vaseline or lotion. I really felt good this time when I hopped up the stairs and got in the octagon, I stayed that way. I'm talking the day of, backstage and in the octagon now, I just felt good. And the whole day I'd been telling myself that.
One of the first things I always do in the octagon is find my crowd. So I did, I shot them a smile and a quick point to let them know that I see them. I always look at my opponent, I don't shoot him a dirty look, but more of a serious expression. I also will always try and look at his sponsors and I realized that Ricardo didn't have a lot. The whole time the boys are talking to me, giving me support. When they finally announce me, I always take a couple of steps forward, with my hand in the air, turn around and I give my section one last look and a point. Before the fight started, I thought the ref would bring us to the middle and give us quick rules, but that didn't happen. He just started the fight. Well you all know what happens here, but I will say I didn't know that hook hurt him until I saw him. I could hear my corners as well and they were telling me the hook was there. Punches are numbers and if you listen to the tape you will hear them say "three," that's the number for a hook. I did think I would be in the front headlock position with Ricardo, I thought he would try and take me down, that I would be able to stuff his shot and end up there. There were two submissions that I had thought I could use against Ricardo, this is one of them. When the match was over I was not surprised. Like I said this submission I knew well and thought I could catch him with it. So when I stand up and face my corner, the first person I see is Matt Pena and he yelling at me. It's like he was talking in slow motion with his two fingers up he is yelling "Two guns! Two guns!" I started to laugh and knew exactly what he is talking about. Jeremy and Matt hit the long shot and both get guns. So I quickly try and get my sponsor shirt on and do "the switch." And good times are now had. Like I said before, we always have a good time. Another thing I want to say is that I've got the best corner out there. Jeremy and Robbie have been there and know all aspects of the game. Jeremy is slick with submissions and Robbie comes from a great wrestling background. Matt Pena with his stand up evens it all out. I really believe with those three, whoever I fight is at a disadvantage when it comes to coming up with a game plan, preparing for a fight, and listening to their corner during a fight. After the fight, I walk back. I have to do a few things with the commission and the UFC. Here is a picture of me and my corner and a video of right after the fight:
After the fight, I have security walk me to where my brother is sitting, which is kind of out of the way; but hey I'm the guy who just got done competing and I think they will do anything for me that they can. Well wouldn't you know it he's not there, he's off getting some nachos or something. So Donna says they'll bring him back to the locker room so I can give him a hug. After I do my second urine test and the interviews for the UFC, I finally get to watch the ending fights. We come up with the idea to send Hoggie after some sushi and have it in the room for us. So Robbie gets ahold of him and makes sure that's going to happen. The UFC then comes in and tells me that they want me to go to the press conference, which doesn't really make me happy, but I have to do it. I only field about three or four questions and it's an hour out of my evening, when I want to hurry up and get to my family and friends. So I end out my evening eating my sushi with my buddies and family. I say thanks and goodbye to my corners. Of course, a lot is talked about the guns and good times are had as we celebrate. I lay in bed and try and sleep that night, but as always it just doesn't happen. Robbie's in the roll-a-way at the foot of the bed and Hoggie's got an early flight so he sets his alarm and what seems like ten minutes after I fall asleep, I get up and wake Hoggie and shut his alarm off. The one thing I hate about my body is if I fall asleep and get woken up, I'm awake.
Sunday: August 8th: I've got a 7:20 AM flight to go home. The flight seems like it's forever, but I finally get home.
I want to thank everybody for the support, I can't say it enough. Like I said in a few interviews, I'm going to take the fall off to do some hunting and be with the family. One thing bad about fighting at the end of summer is the kids got neglected, so I've got to make that up to them. I'll still be here every week with the blogs and always checking in to the forums.
Here is the Bible verse for this week:
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. (Psalm 18: 32-36)