What’s up fight fans? What a week!

I’ve never been so busy or felt so alive. It took me more than 2 days to recover following a whirlwind week in Vegas during which I covered more events, watched more fights and put more miles on my 44 year-old legs than I had in the last year. Thank GOD for the monorail!

I also saw the sun come up three times, ate at a few of the best restaurants, partied at some of the most amazing clubs, bars and casinos in the world and did it all with the girl of my dreams, who is also my business partner.

We met and got to know some of the most interesting and fun people we’ve ever known, who came in from all over the world for fight week. We interviewed and talked with the biggest names and covered the best stories in the sport. We had a cage side seat for the best MMA action we could ever ask for. And we did it all in VEGAS!

Here’s a quick recap:

I spent five full days shooting video for UMMAF (The US Amateur MMA and Kick Boxing Federation) of Team USA at the IMMAF World Championships- from headquarters at the Westgate Resort to the UFC Fan Expo inside Las Vegas Convention Center and everything in between. We’re putting together a TV pilot documenting the fighters’ experience at this world-class event- both in and out of the cage- as they take on the best fighters from 53 other countries (and growing) from all over the globe.

I spent the whole week running all over the strip covering weigh-ins, press conferences and open workouts for the THREE consecutive UFC fight nights and the UFC Fan Expo.

I went to two different studios to record for the radio show- Thursday I went to  in NW Vegas to interview AZ’s own 2x former UFC Heavyweight Champ Cain Velasquez and Saturday The Drive’s Mike “Jack” Bauer and I went and did our shows at iHeart Radio’s Vegas Headquarters.

And of course I had a cage side seat for all the action at all three UFC events- UFC 200, Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs Alvarez and the TUF 23 Finale. Thursday and Friday night at historic MGM Grand Garden Arena, where I’ve watched more big boxing and UFC events than I can remember. Saturday at the brand-new, awe-inspiring T Mobile Arena, where I hope to cover many, many more.

Shooting video of Team USA's Coaches, "Master" Bob Schirmer and Robert Hulett with Team USA's Silver Medalist Dallas Jennings between rounds. Capturing the human elements of fighting was one of the best experiences of my life. In front of the UFC Fan Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center. At the studios of iHeart Radio Vegas broadcasting live You want some of this? Having some fun during a rare off moment at the UFC Fan Expo

I won’t get too much into what happened when the work was done, but let’s just say it was Vegas, there were fighters, coaches, officials, executives and more there from all over the world and no shortage of opportunities to party like a frat boy on nickel night (I wish) with any and all of them at clubs, bars, concerts, restaurants and more all over Sin City. Of course I did. The candle was eviscerated on both ends for nine days and it never affected our work one bit. You gotta love that Vegas adrenaline! Even at 44, I’m proud top say that I’m still in peak form. Work hard, play hard!

Here are some of the highlights of my week, in no particular order:

  • Nothing could top walking into the brand new, sparkling T Mobile Arena for UFC 200. I’ve been to Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals clinchers, HUGE boxing and UFC Pay-Per-Views, you name it. NOTHING has ever topped the feeling I got when I walked into that building and first laid eyes on the octagon on the biggest night in the history of MMA. Like Phil Collins said, I could feel it comin’ in the air that night. It was an unmistakable feeling that I’ll never forget. Absolutely incredible. The show lived up to that feeling, with the UFC putting on a world-class production that was as good as any I’ve ever seen. Props to Phoenix native and resident AL3, the UFC’s official DJ. He ROCKED that house all night on the biggest night of his career. Nice job Albert!
The breathtaking T Mobile Arena on my way out of UFC 200 The UFC's Octagon has never shone brighter than it did at UFC 200
  • Having a very candid one on one chat with Cain during fight week and running it on my show Saturday then watching him absolutely destroy the extremely talented and tough Travis “Hapa” Browne on the biggest stage in the history of the sport. Cain showed off his full arsenal with a barrage of punches, kicks, takedowns and brute strength. I had to ask Cain if his body had worn down from the numerous injuries, if he was a step slower and a little less powerful and most importantly, and painfully, if he was still a world championship caliber fighter. His performance answered all those questions and then some. I should have known better. He’s always come back from his losses stronger than ever. His smile when he glared at me at the press conference said it all. Cain Velasquez is back and ready to wreck everything in his path to get his belt back. Look out Stipe or Overeem. Cain is coming for you, and you better be ready for the fight of your life.
Cain with a devastating right to Travis Browne's chin. Photo by ZUFFA LLC from Fox Sports Velasquez getting his arm raised after demolishing Travis Browne at UFC 200 Cain and "DC" Daniel Cormier having fun at the presser after their wins at UFC 200.
  • Doing my weekly segment with UFC Play-By-Play Voice Mike “Goldie” Goldberg on fight day and hearing the enthusiasm in his voice. Goldie sounded like a Litle Leaguer on opening day when I asked him if this event would be the biggest one of his career and he left no doubt that it was. Remember, this was coming from the longtime UFC voice who has called nearly every huge fight in the promotion’s storied history, and perhaps more importantly, a lifelong hockey addict who has called Stanley Cup Finals clinchers and drank from Lord Stanley’s Cup. As a PBP guy myself, I couldn’t help but feel great for my friend and partner. He’s an awesome dude and a great announcer who doesn’t get anywhere near the credit he deserves for the overall quality of his telecasts because Joe Rogan is such a huge star. Every superstar analyst has to have the perfect partner to steer them in and out and set them up to do what they do. Goldie consistently sacrifices his own shine so Joe can light the world on fire. That isn’t easy at all, trust me.
  • Eddie Alvarez stopping Rafael Dos Anjos to win the Lightweight Championship in the main event at UFC Fight Night on Thursday. Alvarez is an MMA icon who had reached the highest levels of the sport but never won won a true World Championship. Dos Anjos was brutalizing everyone in his path until Eddie came along and snuffed him  out with a hard straight right from off the cage followed by a barrage of punches followed by a missed flying knee that gave Dos Anjos top position. Alavarez quickly reversed and got on top and started pounding away on the Brazilian until Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:49. In his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, the Philly native screamed out “don’t bring the dog out of me” two times, much to the delight of his deliriously screaming fans. They were everywhere and they were LOUD. It was truly a great scene, and I was able to get a few great pics from just feet away as he celebrated his lifelong dream coming true. So cool!
The new champ leaving the cage to greet his boys who were waiting for him just a few feet away. Alvarez hugging his coach just seconds after being presented with his 1st UFC title belt
  • Brock Lesnar’s walkout, win over Mark Hunt and press conference at UFC 200. Say what you want about the polarizing Lesnar, he is as big a superstar as there is in sports entertainment today. I could feel the electricity surging through me as he was about to walk out to the Octagon, and when “Enter Sandman” hit, the place went bananas. Plus at 39 years young, the former UFC Heavyweight Champ took five years off, spent only six weeks training for the #8 heavyweight in the world and DOMINATED the fight. He took down the HUGE Samoan several times and relentlessly pounded his way to this win. He even ate a couple of big shots in the process. How many people on Earth could ever dream of that, let alone do it? Of course he wasn’t as sharp as he needs to be to ever have a chance of reclaiming the belt, but what he did was truly remarkable. And his press conference was the usual mix of funny one liners, jabs at both Dana White and Vince McMahon, and 3rd person bravado, answering the first question (about his future plans) in classic Brock fashion with “Brock Lesnar is gonna do whatever Brock Lesnar wants to do.” I LOVE IT!
Brock pounding away on Mark hunt on his way to victory. Photo from Zuffa LLC from foxsports.com Lesnar's press conference alone was worth the price of admission.
  • Getting to know all the great fighters and people who represented our country at the IMMAF Worlds, especially two-time world champion Will “Soldier of Christ” Starks, who became just the second fighter in US history to win back-to-back titles, joining Titan FC Star Jose “Shorty” Torres. Will is an athletic freak, a very skilled and smart fighter, an intensely focused and dedicated competitor, an amazing teammate, a fun and charismatic personality and a flat-out joy to be around. I love this kid and I believe he will be wearing a lot of belts before his career is done. Looking at Will’s eyes at point blank distance as our national anthem played is something I’ll never forget. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and in this case, they are dead on. He had worked so hard and beaten so many odds- and opponents- to get there, and now he had won the ultimate prize in Amateur MMA on behalf of his country- for the 2nd time! Two words… GOOSE BUMPS!
The 2x World Champ getting his arm raised as the best in the world. Will and I the night of his win. I had just bought him a shot. Cheers! Will on the podium as the national Anthem played. Look at his face. Unreal!
  • My buddy Anthony “El Toro” Birchak outlasting a very tough Delino Lopes at Fight Night in spite of breaking his thumb and tearing the skin open in the first round. “AB” is a great dude and a very tough fighter. This was an awesome win over a quality opponent, and he did it all on the feet with brilliant striking that picked apart the Brazilian from start to finish. He also showed true toughness and a great chin, absorbing several big shots over the three round battle. I’m proud of Anthony. He works as hard as anyone I’ve ever known for everything he has. I can say I called one of his best fights on his way up, a third round finish over Roman “El Galito” Salazar, who would also go on and make it to the UFC.
"AB" getting his arm raised after his hard fought victory! Interviewing "El Toro" at a local weigh-in last year.
  • Watching ASU Wrestling and UFC Legend Don “The Predator” Frye get inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. His speech was classic Don Frye, which means completely unfiltered and funny as hell. At one point he acknowledged being “pissed off” at the big money fighters are making today, “especially that little Irish guy.” He then added, “tell Dana if he pays me that much, I’ll do a damn press conference in-between rounds.” Of course this was a jab at superstar Conor McGregor, who was pulled from the UFC 200 card by UFC President Dana White for refusing to travel and promote his rematch with Nate Diaz. I’ve met the 2x World Champion a couple of times and always enjoyed talking with him. It was nice to see him get what he so richly deserved, a place in history next to the immortals of this sport. His friend and fellow ASU Wrestling Alum Dan “The Beast” Severn gave a great induction speech for Don, telling some classic stories and giving us some true insight into what life was like for these pioneers in the 1990’s. Awesome!
"The Predator" was all smiles during his hilarious induction speech. The crowd erupted when Don held up his trophy. What a moment!

 

Those were just the highlights. There were a lot more amazing memories. I could go on for days. As you can see, it was the week of a lifetime and I’m extremely blessed to do what I do. I believe in chasing my dreams full speed all the time and never letting anything stop me from living my life the way I want to live it. I’ve never done it any other way and I’m proud of it. I always do my best to inspire all of you and everyone I come across to do the same. This blog will constantly reflect that. I hope you enjoy my unique views on this amazing sport from the best seat in the house! Please don’t forget to listen to Cage Side Seat, Saturdays at noon on Fox Sports 910, foxsports910.iheart.com and the iHeart Radio app.

That’s it for now peeps. Until next time, keep your game tight and your mind right.

GRIES