So you’ve got the big ticket! UFC 194 in Las Vegas on December 12th Aldo vs McGregor. For many fans, especially the ones hoping over the pond, this is going to be a trip of a lifetime. To help you make the most of your Vegas jaunt here are my top 10 tips for enjoying your trip to Las Vegas.
- Buy tickets for other activities before you get to Vegas. For many, going to Vegas won’t just be about the big fight night. You’ll likely want to go to shows, sample the nightlife, fire a gun in a shooting range and see the Grand Canyon (if only to keep the other half happy!). Do not leave this until the last minute – tickets bought online from the likes of www.Viator.com www.lastminute.com or https://www.boomtownbingo.com/ etc. will save you a ton of $$$ which means you will have more cash to spend when you get there.
- Do not have a total blowout the first night there. Vegas is an unforgiving place both on your body and on your wallet. Many of you will ignore this tip so I won’t go overboard on the preaching here. Trust me, I can’t stress enough how stupid you feel after leaving the casino without your shirt or your dignity for the rest of you trip. Have fun but remember you are there for not just that night … I don’t know why I bothered typing this tip :)
- Get to events like weigh-ins and open workouts HOURS before they start. At UFC 189 hundreds of fans were queuing no fewer than 2 hours before the doors even opened for the open workouts. Lots of fans were left disappointed when they couldn’t get in. So get there early, grab snacks, drinks and just talk away the long ass wait with your fellow fight fans in the queue.
- Be courteous to fighters and their camps. For some guys/girls that fight week is the most important week of their lives and they are focused on one thing and one thing only. 95% of fighters are friendly and approachable but give them space, if they don’t look like they want to talk to you then trust your instincts – oh and for the love of god don’t ever say ‘do you remember that time I tweeted you’.
- Avoid looking like a scalper. I’ve seen many an innocent fan pull out 50 garments of clothing/photos to get signed by their favourite fighter to only be told to take a hike because they look like a scalper. Most fighters really don’t appreciate scalpers making money off their name, especially in a day and age where they are finding it harder to do so themselves with the sponsorship issues. The best advice to avoid being mistaken for one is just get one item signed and to NOT stand by the fountains on the grand floor of the MGM Grand at the lifts (you’ll see all the scalpers hanging there).
- Free drinks in the casino. In some of the casinos (MGM Grand, Bellagio, Venetian etc) there will be drinks ladies working the casino floor offering free drinks whilst you play on the slots and tables. The first time you get offered a drink remember your pleasantries e.g. ask how their night is going etc, order an EASY drink to fetch (no Pina Colada cocktails this time) and then tip them well (anything in the $5-10 is well above average). Trust me you are then set for drinks for the night – it only takes little extra tip and some good manners.
- Free buffet/meal vouchers. When you arrive at your hotel tell them either one of two things: 1) it’s your first time in Vegas 2) it’s the 5th time you’ve been back this year to this hotel. With any luck, programs like Wizard Slot Promotions will allow you to get offered either some credit in the casino or some buffet vouchers.
- Go to the Joe Rogan comedy show. I think only Joe Rogan himself would recommend you go more than I will. As long as you are with a party all over the age of 18+ I encourage you to get tickets to a show of his (normally in the KA theatre at the MGM Grand the night before the ‘Big Fight’). I’ve not met a single person who has been disappointed. Grab a long iced tea cocktail before you go in and prepare to laugh like an idiot for the next 2 hours.
- The first day you arrive buy a big 2L bottle of water. Take that water and stick that in your bedroom in preparation of the night/morning after that awaits you after your first evening there. No doubt you’ve totally ignored tip #2 (don’t have a blowout) and you’ve drank more free cocktails and beer than you could ever of imagined. This leads to only one thing and that’s the Las Vegas desert appearing in your mouth at 5am the next morning only for you to realise you can’t drink the tap water. This will be the tip you totally ignore and then think back to when you wake up in the morning and realise ‘Yep Jim was right’ J
- Give yourself 24 hours before heading back to work. This is a total luxury if you can do it but try not head back to work less than 24 hours after you arrive back on home soil. Vegas takes its toll on you no matter how hard you go. The combination of food, drink, lack of sleep (and time zones if you are from Europe) and trust me your colleagues and boss won’t be all that impressed by your post-Vegas haze and zombie like state. Get back home eat a salad, drink plenty of water, do some yoga and repress the sins of the last week J
So there you have it my top ten tips for visiting Vegas as an MMA fan. If you like these tips or have your own to share please hit me up at @MMA_Jim on twitter using #JimTalk – I’ll retweet the ones I like.
Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224
Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.
The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.
Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).
In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.
UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.
*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224
Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”
In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.
Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.
It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.
In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”
He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.
Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.
When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.
“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.
The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”
“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.
When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.
He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.
UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) February 8, 2018
Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.
This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.
The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.
Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.
For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.
UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.
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