So the UFC has been a fixture on screens in our house for a number of years now since my husband first discovered it. I wasn’t keen at first, but I suppose across years of watching bits and pieces coupled with the fact they launched their own reality TV show ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, I suppose that somewhere along the line I learnt a thing or two and became more of a fan than I might like to admit.
So when UFC Fight Night 39 came to Abu Dhabi on 11th April this year, I can’t say I wasn’t excited. It sort of crept up on me really. I don’t remember being as excited when we went to the UFC the first time it came to Abu Dhabi in 2010, despite having won our tickets from a competition on Showtime.
I’ve always worked in media, and I’ve worked in TV, press and radio for years now, so it’s not as though I’m unaccustomed to seeing and meeting famous people on a fairly regular basis, but on this particular occasion something was different. I suppose on seeing the fighters I have watched alongside my husband for so many years, they weren’t just any ‘famous people’ – it suddenly seemed as though as I was in a room full of old friends – albeit ones who had no idea who I was. And it wasn’t just the fighters either, on having the opportunity to speak to well known UFC cut man ‘Stitch’ Duran, I unexpectedly came over all fan girl and despite my best imagined intentions of having a factual and intelligent debate about his life on the road with the UFC and the role of mixed martial arts and expansion of the UFC in recent years, when it came to the crunch, the best I could manage was “You’re Stitch!”, to which he replied “Well, yes I am”. Yeah. Not exactly how I’d imagined that might go. Still, he was very pleasant, and we did manage a brief chat about being excited about the forthcoming events of the evening. Oh, and a photo that I’m really rather proud of.
No matter how long I live in the UAE, I still don’t tire of seeing locals in National Dress, whatever the occasion – there’s something very elegant about it.
Aside from getting to meet ‘Stitch’, one of the other advantages of the location of our seats was getting the chance to line the walkways to and from the octagon for the chance to shout encouragement and congratulations to the fighters as they entered and exited.
John Howard exited the octagon with a pained look after his almost certainly painful (in more ways than one) defeat to Ryan LaFlare. Whilst I was not quick enough to catch Ryan LaFlare’s exit on camera, I was exited to get to congratulate him with a hand slap as he passed. And again, my photography skills were not quick enough to catch Clay ‘The Carpenter’ Guida leaving the octagon, but I did get to high five him on his victory over Tatsuya Kawajiri. Yep, that fan girling thing was still alive and kicking inside me it would seem!
Next up was the main event between Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson and Antonio ‘Minotauro’ Noguiera (Big Nog). In between fights I had run to the bathroom and on my return, due to the imminent entrance of the fighters being expected, I found myself shut off on the wrong side of the ring from my seat. This, I maintain, is how I found myself standing behind Kris Fade from Virgin Radio Dubai and his wife, Maz (but still reeling from my lack of conversational ability with Stitch, I was too shy to say hi).
The rest of the evening played out without further incident involving myself, and I was able to watch the fight from a position even more prime than my allocated seat.
The heavyweight main event was over pretty quickly too – as Big Nog was knocked out, or ‘nogged’ out if you will (you know you love a pun!) by Big Country in the first round.
The UFC event took place at the Du Arena on Yas Island, and, if rumours are to be believed, more UFC events will be coming to Abu Dhabi in the next 12 to 18 months so if you’re a fan like me, keep an eye out. Who knows what might happen next time if Dana White, Joe Rogan, Bruce Buffer and pals come along too?!