16-years old and my MMA obsession growing by the day, you can imagine my excitement when my mother agreed to make the seven hour drive from Vancouver, Canada to Portland, Oregon for UFC 102 in August of 2009. I was thrilled at the opportunity to see heavyweight legends Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira meet inside the octagon. After a long drive, we pulled up to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Portland. A hotel we had randomly booked a room at.
After checking-in and making my way to the room, the foreign bellman informed me there were “UFC fighter downstairs.” Since I saw no one coming in, I pressed him for further information. He rendered himself useless, simply repeating “UFC fighter downstairs” through his thick accent. Curious as to who, or what, he could possibly be talking about, I went down to the lobby to investigate for myself.
I stepped off the elevator to the lobby and after taking a lap, I found nothing. No fighters. Just hotel staff working away.
Not sasified with the misleading information I received from the bellman, I decided to ask the concierge if she had seen any fighters around. In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, she enlightened me with this bit of information: the hotel I was currently standing in was the same as all the fighters in town, including the UFC staff. She had seen fighters walking through the lobby all week. To top it off, she followed up by informing me workout rooms were set up a floor below which fighters had been funneling in and out of all night. I was getting somewhere.
Too lazy to find stairs, I decided the elevator was the best transportation for the treacherous one story journey. After descending down a level, the doors opened and a heavy-breathing, sweat-covered former heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga stood before me, trainer by his side. They courteously allowed me to exit before entering the elevator and disappearing upstairs. The next time I saw Gonzaga was two nights later, when he played hacky sack with Chris Tuchscherer’s testicles inside the octagon.
Running into a beast like Gonzaga was cool, but it was nothing compared to what happened next.
I followed the hallway to the workout room and from a distance, I heard the sounds of an aggressive training session. As curiosity pushed me forward, I opened the door just enough to see what was going on inside. Mats, training equipment and about 15 men including UFC fighters Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabio Maldonado filled the ballroom. A few were in the corner talking, MMA manager Ed Soares was on his cell phone, the rest sat back against the wall watching two men spar. The two men: UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and heavyweight Junior dos Santos.
Thrilled with what I had come across, I watched for a few seconds as Silva and dos Santos went back-and-forth at one another in what looked like –at least from where I was standing– a high intensity sparring session. Silva and dos Santos wore boxing, not mixed martial arts gloves as they traded leather.
Then it happened.
Silva danced around in typical nonchalant fashion and all of a sudden, flicked a kick at the head of dos Santos. A split second later, and all in one swift, clean motion; dos Santos caught Silva’s kick, fired back a powerful kick into Silva’s supporting leg and sent the number one pound-for-pound fighter crumpling to his back.
The entire sequence took a split second. My jaw dropped in awe as the sound of Silva hitting the mat echoed through the room. No, dos Santos didn’t knock Silva out, he probably didn’t even hurt the middleweight champion. It’s no secret, fighters get the better of each other in sparring all the time. However, Dos Santos –who was only 2-0 in the UFC at the time and a relative unknown– made it look all too easy.
Silva returned to his feet and I had the honor of watching for another few seconds before being noticed and asked to shut the door. It didn’t matter, I had seen enough. More than anyone else in the world outside of that room had the privilege of witnessing at that moment. While my crashing of the Black House training session didn’t last long, it did convince me of one thing, Junior dos Santos is extremely talented. The lightning fast speed and reaction are two of many reasons why the Brazilian currently holds UFC heavyweight championship.
(Image courtesy of MMAJunkie)