It was my fourth UFC event of 2011. Twice in Vegas, one in Philly and now five minutes from home in San Jose, California. It would be another action packed weekend of fights, family, friends, changing plans, chaos and unexpected thrills. Little did I know when plans were made and tickets purchased months in advance, that I would be treated to fight of the year and the best card of 2011. I would see 4 legends: California Kid, Axe Murderer, Shogun & Hendo. Incredibly, each one would step up to awe the fans and remind us how they earned the “legend’ moniker.
11/18 Friday 12:15: It’s off to Smart & Final for beer, cocktail ingredients and munchies. I have a room at the UFC host hotel (San Jose Marriott) and family, friends and Team Alpha Male extended family are invited for pre & post fight drinks, predictions and laughs.
3:05: The first change in plans. I’m planning on watching the weigh-ins at 4 and meeting my son-in-law, UFC #2 ranked featherweight Chad Mendes. He won’t be in San Jose in time for the weigh-ins. I decide to skip weigh-ins and head to the airport to meet a brother and nephew, who are coming in for the fights from Washington.
6:30: Daughter, Chad and friend arrive from Sacramento with their 3 dogs. Now 6 dogs are vying for attention as we discuss preliminary plans for the weekend, knowing most of them will be altered in some small or large way.
7:10: I’ve volunteered to drive Chad to Urijah’s post weigh-in dinner with teammates, managers & sponsors at Morton’s Steak House in San Jose. What a brilliant decision it turns out to be. As I drop him off in front, I get invited to the party By one of his managers. I enthusiastically oblige. We enter and walk past matchmaker Joe Silva, announcer Mike Goldberg and Octagon beauty Chandella Powell among the recognizable. We join Mark Munoz, sponsors and others in a private room. Shortly, Joe Benavidez and guest of honor Urijah arrive. Highlights of the evening include singing Happy Birthday to Munoz’s wife over the phone and listening to everyone heckle “Main Event Munoz”, for having changed since he was the headliner at UFC 138.
11/19 Saturday 8:00am: Packing up the car to head to a family/friend brunch at dad’s house and then to the San Jose Marriott. Brother # 2 arrives from Reno.
11:45: It’s off to downtown San Jose. My wife and I set up the bar and munchies in the room as I expect 20-30 people to stop by from time-time before the fight
12:30: Chad arrives to shower after working out with Jeff Bedard one of the enemy (Brian Bowles) camp’s cornerman. Brian and Chad cornered for Jeff at his last fight at the Tachi Palace in 2009. Chad gets grief from every visitor for failing to net Greg Savage’s (Sherdog.com) salmon on their recent fishing trip.
1:30: Room is full and great anticipation is in the air. We have to leave by 2:25 so we can get to Danny Castillo’s opening card fight scheduled for 2:45.
2:00: I step a few rooms over to Urijah’s room to wish him luck. His hair is being braided and I get some after party Amp Energy wristbands and a walk-in shirt from his trusted aide Tommy Schurkamp, a fellow UC Davis Aggie.
2:57: It’s tiiiiime! Danny opens the card with a dominant performance leading to a first round TKO over Shamar Bailey. Even though most of the crowd has not arrived for the first fight, Danny has a big contingent from Sacramento and the Bay Area. We zip to the bar to meet some folks after the fight. It becomes a social scene and we have to watch some fights on the bar TV.
4:55: Back to the seats for the Spike Card. Gotta watch “Mayday” McDonald and Ryan Bader. Both guys knock out their opponents in the first round.
6:00: The main event begins. I love the video highlights and the Roman Gladiator intro pieces. Somehow, they never get old. I am sitting with a work friend who is a high-school chum of Kyle Kingsbury so I’m hoping he pummels Stephen Bonnar. All expect a standup war. When Bonnar executes an intelligent ground & pound strategy for the victory he gets booed profusely.
6:30: Time for Kampann vs. Story which is a very intriguing matchup. I have no preference and the fight is a fairly entertaining decision by Kampmann
7:00: Things are rocking now as the California Kid walks out to his usual “California Love” by 2Pac. It is loud but not quite as crazy as the Faber appearances in Sacramento WEC events. He puts on a clinic and Bowles taps in the second round. His interview with Rogan is entertaining as expected, He tells Dominic Cruz, “he can’t hide” and gives props to teammate and TUF 14 finalist TJ Dillashaw for the patented upper-cut he dropped Bowles with.
7:30: The Axe Murderer vs. local hero Cung Le is an amazing battle as Silva comes back from near defeat to TKO Le. All in attendance remark how this will be fight of the night.
8:00: Two legends square off in the most thrilling war I have ever watched in MMA. Dana White later rates it in the top 3 to be fair. Like the killer in a slasher movie, Shogun comes back from 3 near stoppages to dominate rounds 4 and 5. Round 5 could arguably 10-8 which would have resulted in a draw. Though I was rooting for Henderson, a draw seemed appropriate for what these warriors pulled off. Henderson wins a close decision. Nobody leaves until the interviews are over. As we leave the arena an ambulance comes screaming up to take both fighters to the hospital
It’s a rain soaked dash of a ½ mile back to the hotel. I have no jacket because my wife took mine because our daughter took hers. We ride up the elevator with Team Alpha Male (TAM) fighter and cornerman, Justin Buccholz. Back in the room TAM Muy Thai trainer and celebrity Master Thong comes by shirtless for some snacks. He is pumped up by the Castillo and Faber wins and entertains all. Off to an Amp Energy Faber after party at the Hotel De Anza.
Another unbelievable two UFC days. I’m exhausted but still reliving all the occurrences in my mind. Matchmaker Joe Silva and the UFC team delivered a huge entertainment value to all in attendance and watching on PPV. I can’t wait to purchase the DVD!