Introducing the fighters in that oh so iconic voice of his, Bruce Buffer circled the ring and before I had even processed where I was, the first of 11 fights began. Over the next 5 hours, I was fully incapsulated.

The musk made up of sweat and blood was strong enough that I could smell and taste it. Coaches barking out orders from their respective corners were loud enough to be heard even through the roar of the crowd.Canadian Kyle Nelson landed a strong left hook to the jaw of Blake Wilder in the second round of the third fight and I winced as if I myself had been on the receiving end of it. It was a euphoric experience; not only could I see what was happening, but every fibre of my being could feel it too. Saturday night I was given a once in a lifetime opportunity; experience UFC 289 ringside in Vancouver. As someone who is a huge sports fan as well as pursuing a career in sports media, getting access to an
event like this was a phenomenal experience that I was both excited and nervous for. I consider myself more of a casual UFC fan so in preparation for the big event I found myself studying the fight card in hopes of not making a fool of myself. Being in a room surrounded by people who’s career is dedicated to covering the sport sounded a lot more intimidating than going to Boston Pizza with my friends to watch the fights.

So, how did I get here? I met Scott Harrigan the weekend before while doing the broadcast for a Junior A lacrosse game in Victoria. Scott had told me about ISN (Island Sports News) and how he has been running it for years, he started telling me about all the cool things the company does and how his goal was nothing more than to give these kids a platform for exposure. As we chatted in between periods, Scott told me of the connections he had made through his page and some of the perks that come along with it. Such as, one ringside media pass to UFC 289. Keeping in mind I had known this guy for maybe
an hour, when he was telling me he could get me a pass to UFC in a week, I must admit, I was a little skeptical. Sure enough, 3 days later Scott called and I now have a story to tell.

Once I had gotten in Rogers Arena and collected my media badge I was led to the media centre located in the ‘Captains Room’. After helping myself to the buffet which was provided, I decided to make my way to my seat right before the preliminary fights started.

After a friendly UFC employee asked me my name and took me to my seat, I was able to sit down, take a deep breath and begin to take in in my surroundings. No more than 10 feet from the octagon, amongst the hustle and bustle of cameramen, reporters, referees, and celebrities; there I was.
At times it seemed more like a dance than a fight, with each move and step calculated I learned to appreciate the technicality behind the sport. Each fighter practising patience, waiting carefully for a mistake or a wrong move from their opponent. I was blown away by the amount of respect these athletes have for one another, and the sport of fighting as a whole. For 15 minutes they would literally beat the wheels off each other, but before and after the fight I saw nothing less than respect for one another. Before the fight I saw Charles Oliveira bow to his opponent, his team, the judges, and the crowd.

After every fight both athletes would share a moment to embrace and share a few words that were only for their ears. Even after the fights during press conferences I only heard words of respect and admiration from the victor directed to their opponent. Impressively, the Vancouver crowd was treated to a clean sweep from athletes proudly representing the
red and white, with 6 Canadian fighters on the card and all of them getting the victory; including underdogs like Kyle Nelson (+200) and Jasmine Jasdavicius (+245). Hearing the Canadian names chanted so loud and proud, it took everything in my power to not join in… but I had to keep my cheers internal because of like being all professional media and everything. When Matt Malott sent Adam Fugitt to the ground in the second round and finished by submission, it was one of, if not the loudest roar I have ever heard from a crowd at any sporting event I’ve been to.

Last but not least, the night ended with one of the all time greats Amanda Nunes defending her title in a brutal and primitive battle against Irene Aldana. Nunes proceeded to retire from the UFC and began dancing with her daughter in the octagon; relishing in her accomplishments while the crowd sang her praise. It was truly a beautiful ending to an evening and an experience I will never forget. I found myself leaving the evening utterly fascinated, mind blown, a crack in my voice and a deep new respect for the UFC.