My Time at The 6th Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards

February 9th, 2014 by Tony Reid

awards6-631x500-featuredAs it has many times before our attempt to get out of Pennsylvania during the winter season was interesting. I followed the weather forecast more in the days leading up to my trip than in the previous 10 years combined. I felt like I was in training to take over for Jim Cantore. But I digress, we were flying out of lovely Harrisburg, PA with Sin City being our final destination for the 6th Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards.

We knew going in that weather was going to be an issue. We just didn’t know how much of an issue. We woke up at 2am Wednesday morning to about 5 to 6 inches of snow already falling with no end in sight. I shoveled and shoveled some more while my wife got ready and (finally) finished packing. I white knuckled the one hour drive that turned in to a two hour drive as we drove through sleet, snow and freezing rain. We rushed through the check in, rushed through security and as I ran over to the gate with no shoes on I sadly learned that the flight was delayed. I should have figured that much!

We sat in Harrisburg for a few hours until we took flight headed toward Chicago. We finally got to the Windy City and it lived up to its moniker. There were 25 to 35 mile an hour gusting winds, so as you can imagine, we were once again delayed.

The next leg of our trip was scheduled for San Francisco. As you might imagine our flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas had already departed before we even hit the ground in Cali. We were lucky enough to get booked for the very next flight out and were only delayed another hour or so. If you are keeping track at home we were scheduled to land in Las Vegas at 10am and touched down around 10pm…but hey, we made it!

As we were idling in Chicago I received a text from Dave Farra, the host of the World MMA Awards pre show, who spoke to the President, CEO and Owner of Fighters Only Rob Hewitt, asking if I would like to join the expert panel for the red carpet pre show. Of course I happily accepted and immediately got the wheels turning.

We finally got out of the last plane for a few days and started to enjoy the city. We stayed on the cheap and went with Harrah’s which is right next to the Venetian, where everything was taking place for us this week. We were like the kids coming from the other side of the tracks.

One of, if not the, first order of business was to get me cleaned up and in a tux for this black tie affair. We reached out to a local shop that actually came right to my room, took my measurements, made alterations back at the shop and dropped the tux off at my room the next morning. It was easier than ordering a pizza! Not only was it easy but this dude had stories! He was telling us about actors, entertainers and athletes that he has worked with over the past 30 plus years. He also gave us some “insight” into how Las Vegas operates.

Through Fighters Only I had an interview with Ben Askren scheduled for Thursday. We were to meet at the Café Presse in the Venetian. We met there and quickly realized it was way too loud to hear ourselves think let alone record an interview. Ben was accompanied by his wife Amy and their young daughter. We decided to find a new location to sit down and we eventually made our way to a lovely waterfall and plant filled wonderland.

It was great to catch up with the Askren’s as Michelle and Amy chatted Ben and I started our interview. Ben was accompanied by Loren Mack, the PR Director for ONEFC. The interview went well. Loren even came bearing gifts of t-shirts, key chains and other items, which is always a good thing. As we were doing our interview Brian Stann came rolling by and we exchanged pleasantries. I have never met Brian before so I said hello in hopes he would recognize my ugly mug the next day in preparation for the show.

After we left the interview we went over to the venue to pick up our golden tickets for the following night’s show. I was extremely excited as we were on the VIP list, which included great seats for the event, access to the VIP pre party, access to the red carpet and all kinds of other cool stuff. We snagged the tickets after being helped by a few of the great staff members on hand.

After interviews and random stuff Thursday we went out and strolled around that night. As we were shopping at the Venetian we bumped into Brian Stann and his wife. We talked for a few minutes about the upcoming show, Pennsylvania and gym ownership cautionary tales. Brian and his wife Teressa are awesome, awesome people and it was great to finally get to meet them in person.

Friday was a big day for me to say the least. I had a number of things on the schedule including a rehearsal at 4pm for the red carpet pre show that I was a panelist on, the red carpet opened at 4pm, the actual pre show went live at 5pm, the cocktail reception was from 5pm to 7pm, the show seating started at 7pm, the show itself went live at 7:30pm and the after party at TAO started after the show. Trust me, I’m not complaining.

I prepped for the show most of the morning while Michelle got her hair did. We went over to the venue about an hour early so I could get my bearings and get ready to roll. When I got to the Venetian Theatre pre show host Dave Farra was already rehearsing. I grabbed a seat in the audience and waited my turn. I was actually the only panelist that showed up for the rehearsal. When I first hit the stage I was a bit out of my element. The bright lights, the audience, the material, the teleprompters, even the little stuff like getting mic’d up was new to me. The very first segment of rehearsal I was a bit off but after that everything was gravy. I was comfortable and ready to go. I don’t know if anyone knew but this was the first time I was on a live television feed, so it took a second to acclimate but after that it was on like Donkey Kong.

The rehearsal went well and we mingled for a few minutes before the show was to start. I spoke with Travis Browne for a few minutes about his love and my dislike for country music. That is a topic he and I have gone back and forth on a few times recently. It’s a running joke that my wife is trying to get me into country but I just can’t commit to it. About 30 minutes prior to going live I had to head down to the production area to get my makeup…yes, to get my makeup done. This was definitely a first as well. I sat down in front of the bright lights and let a very talented lady do my lips, my eyebrows and airbrush my ugly grill. The other panelists came through and did the same. I felt as if I got a bit of masculinity back when Brian Stann came in and got his makeup done, too.

We, the panelists and Stann were just talking in the hallway waiting to head back upstairs and for the show to start. Some of the nest moments in this sport and with my job are moments like this, off the record stuff that guys talk about when we are just standing around. Let’s just say we had great conversation.

I made my way upstairs and back stage as the show went live. My first on air segment was with Greg Savage of Sherdog. We sat with Dave on stage and talked about a number of the categories. And then later in the show we did the same thing again. As a grand finale all panelists were on stage for the final segment to discuss Fighter of the Year category and a few other topics. If you haven’t seen the show yet you can check it out here… http://streaming.bodybuilding.com/2014-world-mma-awards/

Overall it was an extremely fun and valuable experience, especially if I am going to consider taking steps toward a career in that area of the sport. I was honored that the people at Fighters Only thought enough of me to include me in this amazing night for the entire sport of mixed martial arts. In between one of our segments I had the opportunity to meet Rob Hewitt in person for the first time. I thanked him for the opportunity he has given me and promised that I would continue to do everything I can to keep the work coming.

After the pre-show Michelle and I made our way to the red carpet. This again, was a first for both of us. We rubbed elbows with Jens Pulver, Tracy Lee, and numerous other MMA celebrities. Walking the red carpet was pretty crazy. There were handlers, people leading you around and numerous photographers (think 30 plus) snapping multiple pictures (think 10 each). It was a cool thing to be able to cross off the bucket list. I know my wife put a ton of time into her wardrobe and looking like a fabulous superstar and she deserved to be on the red carpet. I’m glad we could do that for her. And for the record she was the hottest person there.

After the red carpet we made our way up to the VIP pre party. Man, it was packed. We tried to make our way through all the humanity, past the Kenny Florians and such. We ran into the Akrens again and stopped and had a drink and chatted it up. We also ran into the unmistakable Chumlee from Pawn Stars fame. I asked if he was a big fan of the sport and he said he follows it and likes it but his only obsession are Air Jordan kicks.

I also bumped in to my good buddy Stitch Duran. It’s always great to see him. He is such a legend and icon in the sport and the fact that we talk and interact on such a friendly basis is something that really means a great deal to me. He said when he saw my name on the list that he knew this was going to be a big event, which I take as a huge compliment. We crossed paths once we got into the venue as well and talked for a few minutes. Always, always great seeing Stitch.

After a drink (literally one) we made our way down to the entrance and to our seats for the awards show. The venue was so beautiful and the show Fighters Only put on was amazing. It offered everything you would want or expect in an awards show on the highest level. We had great seats ran into a number of great people and enjoyed the award presentations and the entertainment of the evening. Brain Stann did a fantastic job as the host as did comedian Adam Hunter as a main writer of the show. There were a few skits that played throughout the night that were hilarious. A parody of “What Does the Fox Say?” called “What Does the Wand Say?” was flat out hilarious. Another parody featuring Mark Munoz as the (Filipino) Wrecking Ball was equally as funny. In other entertainment we got to see a sneak peek of Rock of Ages, one of the hottest shows in Vegas right now. They were fantastic. Also we watched the amazing artist from Panda!, a martial arts performing act here in Vegas, perform. There were a number of celebrities in attendance and presenting including Gene Simmons, Mario Lopez, and Terrell Owens among others. The show went off without a hitch and we left extremely happy. It was such an honor to get an invite and be present for such a great night in MMA.

After the show I met Bryan Callen and we talked about working on a few things in the near future. None of which I am going to share with you now though. We briefly hit the after party at TAO in the Venetian until I realized how damn old I am and decided to call it a day and go get some much needed shut eye. We spent the rest of our time in Vegas just shopping, taking in the sights and sounds. (Sounds other than that of people on the street whistling and flicking the paper of naked chicks and strip clubs attempting to get your attention and business at said strip club) We took in a few shows and kept the rest of the trip non MMA…somehow. After all, this trip was all about the celebration of the amazing year our sport had not about working. Wow, did I just say that? I guess there is a first time for everything.

On Blast! Tim Brando, J.R. Smith and Anderson Silva

January 3rd, 2014 by Tony Reid

Tim Brando-I’m not sure if you guys know who Tim Brando is or even care for that matter, he is a talking head covering football for CBS and other networks for the better part of the last 30 years. What he tweeted after the Chris Weidman Anderson Silva fight at UFC 168 a few weeks ago is still sticking in my craw. After all the response and the fallout of Anderson Silva’s leg break the longtime announcer and broadcaster opened his uneducated mouth on the topic. He tweeted QUOTE “Reading about this UFC injury reminds me why I’ve never discussed it, watched it, or promoted it. Under no circumstances would I work it.” UNQUOTE I am so sick and tired of older main stream sportscasters, reporters and media types not giving mixed martial arts any respect. The problem is that most of the people disrespecting the sport wouldn’t know an arm bar from the candy bar they jam in their big fat mouths. Much of the time it’s this underlying contempt for the sport, a sport of which they have NO knowledge. So he openly states he has never watched it yet refuses to cover it and says it in such a disgusted way. No worries Tim I don’t think anyone will be banging down your door to get you to cover the UFC or MMA in any way, shape or for any time soon. The thing that really kills me is the hypocrisy of his attitude and his position. He is looking down his nose at MMA in general and the results of a fight that he didn’t watch a single second of in a sport he refuses to watch altogether. That begs the question..How do you even have an opinion on the topic? Yet he has covered college football for the better part of 30 years. Yes, folks tackle football, the sport where men are dying younger and younger and the ones that live into their golden years are accumulating life altering physical problems at an alarming rate. Concussions, suicides, and a laundry list of other mental and physical problems a mile long. Not only that but the VERY SAME INJURY he was so disgusted by has happened NUMEROUS times in football, sometimes right under his very own nose! Marcus Lattimore, Tim Krumrie, Joe Theismann, the list, unfortunately, goes on and on and on.

I have no issues with one man’s opinion because, you are obviously getting mine, but don’t open your mouth on topics of which you have absolutely no experience or understanding. There are few things more moronic than a member of the football media trashing mixed martial arts based on the level of violence involved in the sport.

J.R. Smith-Let me take a quick moment and sound like the old guy but this guy is the perfect example of what turns me off from watching basketball these days. He was fined $50,000 by the NBA last week for his attempts to untie two opponents’ shoelaces in recent games. That led to his coach benching him in the Knicks’ next game — a nationally televised win over the Miami Heat.

Smith also was suspended for the first five games of the regular season for violating the league’s anti-drug policy over the summer. In November, he was fined $25,000 for sending a threatening message to Detroit’s Brandon Jennings on Twitter (really bright) after Jennings questioned the NBA credentials of Smith’s brother, Chris.

The Knicks released Chris Smith in late December. Multiple sources say Smith is angry over the team’s decision to cut his brother. He hinted at his displeasure with the situation at the time with a post on social media. (again a brilliant move)

Let’s quickly recap his rap sheet. JR Smith’s suspensions in his career: 5 games for drugs, 1 for an elbow, 7 for reckless driving, 10 for fighting, 3 for conduct detrimental to the team.

J.R. Smith has been fined for: Twitter comments, twitter photos, yelling at Mark Cuban, flagrant fouls, flopping and, now, untying shoes.

From the run ins with his boss, the Twitter beef, drug suspensions, fines and a horrifically low shooting percentage (about 30%) and the classic basketball fake tough guy act J.R. Smith is lucky that a team is giving him, yes giving him millions of dollars a year to play a kids game. If he played any worse they would have to arrest him for stealing his check.

Anderson Silva-I feel like I have to start any rant directed at Silva by stating that he is possibly the greatest fighter in UFC history and one of the greatest martial artists in general that the world has ever seen. Also like the boys in Talladega Nights said “As long as you start by saying With All Due Respect you can then say anything you want.” OK, so with all due respect, Anderson Silva needs to shut up. He recently said that Chris Weidman shouldn’t consider the most recent win as a win.

So Anderson, you got knocked out in the first fight after disrespecting and clowning your opponent. You gotta give Weidman credit for taking advantage of your disrespect. On the other hand, same on your for throwing your winning streak, the title, and in part your legacy away in that fashion. In the send fight you got rocked and nearly stopped in the first round only to survive into the second and snap your leg throwing a kick at Weidman by all accounts a technique he and his coach Ray Longo drilled over and over and over just for this scenario. Silva’s documentary “Like Water” is an obvisou reference to the skill and ability to just react and not have to think in the cage in and in combat in general yet he calls into question the validity of Weidman’s victory over him into question after saying that Weidman was just reacting. It just doesn’t add up.

I’m really tired of people not giving Weidman credit for his victories over Silva. I’m not ready to completely bow to the new champ but even his biggest critics and worst detractors must admit that at the very least the G.O.A.T Anderson Silva has looked far more human against the New Yorker than anyone else has ever, ever made him look. At this point Anderson is further tarnishing his reputation by refusing to come to terms with the outcome of the Weidman fights and continuing to be a tad delusional in his reasoning for the outcomes. I would like to see the former champ take his losses as classy as he did all of his victories.

Bellator 109 Review Rattling the Cage Style

November 23rd, 2013 by Tony Reid

bellator-109-posterWe hit the old PA turnpike and headed south to Bethlehem, PA for Bellator 109 on Friday night. It had been too long since I last witnessed some high level face punching in person. I was eagerly looking forward to it. It was a special trip, as it was the first time I have covered an event as a member of the media for Fighters Only. It was the second Bellator event I covered as a member of the press, the first, as none of you will remember, was a few years back for The Fight Nerd.

I dropped the lovely lady that was accompanying me off at the door, parked the whip (and by whip I mean an eight year old Volvo) and headed to the ticket window to pick up the press pass. As soon as we entered the venue you could see the party atmosphere in full effect. Hell, I thought we were in a club for a minute. We made our way past the party goers and said our goodbyes as my wife purchased a ticket and therefore, her seat was not nearly as good as mine.

I hit press row, fired up the trusty, dusty laptop (and phone) and prepared for a great night of fights. It just so happened that I was seated right next to a colleague of my good buddy Duane Finley at Bleacher Report. Hunter Homistek would have the bad break of being stuck next to me all night.  We tweeted, Facebooked, Instagrammed it up throughout the event. He is a really good kid with a bright future in the industry.

The prelims where streaming live on SPIKE.com and anyone watching those fights could not have been disappointed. Every single undercard fight ended before the final bell. Not one single fight went to the judges’ scorecards. In the first bout

Lester Caslow def. Jay Haas via submission (guillotine choke) in Round 3 at the 2:44 mark. Haas was a hometown-ish guy with a good bit of crowd support but it wasn’t enough.

Brent Primus put it on. Brett Glass and stopped him via submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 1 at the 3:20 mark. “The Unbreakable” Glass was quickly shattered in this one, as Primus looked like a kid with a really bright future. He also had a very supportive fan who hopped down on press row and cheered him on for most of the fight…right next to me…in my ear…the whole fight.

Next up was highly touted prospect and wrestling machine Bubba Jenkins who defeated his opponent Ian Rammel via TKO (punches) in Round 3 at 2:38. For most of the first two rounds it was Bubba being Bubba. He secured takedowns rather easily but did little to try to advance position or finish the fight. That all changed toward the end of the second round and then into the third. Jenkins started to pour it on from top position and eventually got the stoppage.

The next victor impressed almost as much as anybody on the card that evening as Goiti Yamauchi defeated Saul Almeida via knockout (punches) just over the two minute mark in Round 1. Those two minutes were two of the most exciting minutes of the entire night as these two exchanged in a hail of punches until Almeida dropped. When he got back to his feet he had a cut above his eye that would have made Marvin Eastman wince. Yamauchi moved to 16-1 and looks like a real prospect at this weight and with this organization.

The heavies were up next as undefeated Blagoi Ivanov bested Keith Bell via submission (rear-naked choke) with just over a minute left in Round 1. There were a few heavy exchanges and in one of those exchanges Ivanov was rocked but he fought through to get a stoppage in his own right and keep his record unblemished.

The final prelim of the night pitted fan favorite and local product Mike Bannon against Ahsan Abdullah. Bannon stopped Abdullah via technical submission (arm-triangle choke) in Round 1 at the 1:51 mark. In an interesting side note Abdullah gave the old thumbs up a mere four or five seconds before referee Bill Bookwalter had to pull Bannon off of him as he went to sleep.

It was cruel irony that the first fight televised on SPIKE TV was one of the more lackluster fights of the night, after so many exciting stoppages on the undercard. In this one Terry Etim defeated Patrick Cenoble via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-26). Etim controlled most of the fight but it was control from top position on the ground, in full or half guard with no sign of advancement or attempts to finish the fight outside of a body triangle, taking of the back and rear naked choke attempt in the first round. Etim completely controlled the action but not in an overly exciting fashion. The crowd showed its displeasure through most of the fight with rounds of boos to go along with the rounds of lay and pray.

Next up was Will Brooks vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy in the Season 9 lightweight tourney final.
Brooks def. Alexander Sarnavskiy via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27). Going into the fight these two fighters had a combined record of 37-2. The underdog Brooks used his wrestling to completely control and dominate a seemingly increasingly overwhelmed Sarnavskiy. The first round showed a bit of a standup exchange but Brooks took the fight to the floor and slowly wore out Tiger. Brooks pushed the pace in the second and third rounds and a visibly fading and bloodied Sarnavskiy barely made it to the final bell.

The co main event of the evening pitted Rick Hawn against Ron Keslar for the Season 9 welterweight tournament championship.  Hawn defeated Keslar via knockout (punches) just under a minute into the third round. The opening of round one had Keslar looking like an animal as he hit Hwan with a solid knee, followed him to the ground and opened up on him with a barrage of punches. After surviving the first round Hawn pushed the pace in the second as a visibly slower Keslar ate punches and more punches when Hawn’s right hand found a home. By the third round Hawn was in complete control, continuing to find  a home for the jab and overhand right, eventually rocking Keslar, Hawn unleashed numerous uppercuts from hell and finished Keslar with an overhand right that partially starched Keslar as he fell to the ground as Dan Miragliotta mercifully stopped the action. Now a tourney champ at 170 pounds, Hawn will face Douglas Lima in what is sure to be a barnburner.

In the main event Alexander Shlemenko faced Doug Marshall for the Bellator middleweight title. Shlemenko defeated Marshall via TKO (punches) in Round 1 at the 4:28 mark. The Storm Shlemenko used improved wrestling skills to land two big takedowns early in the first. Marshall go back to his feet but ultimately took a number of vicious body shots that visibly hurt him, no matter how hard he was trying to play it off. The final one, a left hook to the body put Marshall away. As Shlemenko did a little dance and retained his Middleweight title.

As the camera panned to Shlemenko’s wife and baby daughter (right in front of me on press row) I made sure to give her my face that makes all babies smile (it has a 100% success rate). It worked and I’m sure I looked like a complete goof. Hopefully that moment didn’t make national television.

The bright lights were on at the post fight press conference. Before it got stared I had a great moment with Rick Hawn. I made sure to bring a copy of the issue of Fighters Only Magazine that had our recent interview in it to give to him. He thought that it was cool, thanked me and handed it to his fiancé, who read through it as well. Bjorn Rebney had an opening thought for each fighter and each fight and then each fighter commented on their particular fight. The highlight (or lowlight depending on your perspective) as you can imagine was Doug Marshall and his not so flattering comments toward Shlemenko, the man who just stopped him. Every third word was fuck or fucking but in between Marshall spoke about how much harder he hits than Shlemenko, how he will fight his way back through the tournament and take the belt next time. Shortly thereafter another equally meat headed moment happened when Brennan Ward, Shlemenko’s next opponent, came in to interrupt the press conference, decked out in his wife beater and pants hanging off his ass, and asked if the champ was shining the belt for him and that he was going to bring it back to the States, bro, and other equally awesome statements. The crowd erupted in applause when Shlemenko turned to his translator, seemingly to ask him a how to say something and then he turned back to Ward and simply said “Anytime.” As the conference wound to a close most people were hanging around and slowly leaving the room. I made a point to say hello to Terry Etim, who my editor in chief at Fighters Only, Nick Peet know well. I introduced myself to Terry and told him Nick said hello and that put a huge smile on his face. He seemed a little down and dejected at the press conference based on his performance (a win nonetheless) but he was in great spirits when I spoke to him.

After the post-fight press conference I met Thiago Alves. After all my time in the game there are still a handful of fighters that I want to meet or interview that  I haven’t met for one reason or another and he was one of them. I introduced myself and we spoke for a few minutes and agreed to catch up next week to do an interview.

Shortly after that Michelle and I headed back to the car, hit the road for some Burger King and a 5 Hour Energy to keep me awake as I was ready to complete my 24 hour work day and head home to get an hour or two of sleep before this very morning got started.