What a week. I write this sat in a dazed state in the departures lounge at MaCarran International Airport, feeling compelled to collect my thoughts before the haze sets in.
When my friend and training partner, Wayne, was selected to represent the UK in the IMMAF World Championsips in Las Vegas, I knew immediately I would be going along to support. The trip of a lifetime beckoned and it didn’t matter how much it was going to cost, I wanted to be there.
I set myself goals for the week, I wanted to train at a Vegas gym, compete abroad, go to a UFC event and watch the IMMAF World Championships. The IBJJF American National 2016 was annoounced that it would be held as part of the UFC Fan expo, I promptly entered. This would be my first time competing in a foreign country. I felt the butterflies in my stomach the moment my entry was confirmed on the IBJJF website. Knowing my injury history, what would happen if I injured myself in America? Screw it I thought, you only live once.
Not only would I be able to watch the IMMAF world championships, but I would be working for IMMAF, updating live scores to the ‘My Next Match‘ website. This meant cageside seats for the whole tournament and staff credentials to access the complete week of the Fan expo. I loved working the event and was able to work as part of a great team on Cage 3, seeing some amazing fights along the way.
Unfortunately Wayne lost his fight in a competitive bout to the eventual Gold medalist. I remember thinking immediately after the decision was announced that if the two were at opposite ends of the bracket, this could have quite easily been the final.
My hopes of training at a Las Vegas gym were dashed on Monday, my first full day in the city of sin. I stupidly didn’t respect the desert sun and was badly sunburned on my torso after an hour by the pool. It was so painful I was worried I wouldn’t be able to compete on the Friday. The days quickly went by and the tshirts stayed on; it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that I felt that I could possibly manage to roll.
After Thursday’s IMMAF fights were done for the day, Wayne suggested we quickly drill in the athletes warm up area to blast away the weeks drunken debauched cobwebs before I competed the next day. I jumped at the chance and we drilled a few strategies before rolling a few rounds. Just as we were about to leave, coaches from the IMMAF teams along with Referees and other officials that train started to turn up. Apparently an open mat had been organised and suddently the mat was now full of catch wrestlers, brown/black belts and pro MMA fighters. I stayed another hour rolling, finally acheving my goal of training while I was here, and actually having an amazing session with a diverse and very skillful bunch of guys.
Friday came. I woke up feeling anxious, I couldn’t finish my breakfast and my stomach saw the return of the butterflies. Nothing new here, I always feel like this the morning of a competition. Kristie, who had also flown out to support Wayne and was also working the championships, mirroring my duties on Cage 2, was also competing. We made our way over to the venue the same as we had the three days previous, but today it felt different. I realised I was putting pressure on myself, I wanted to win.
I had felt good in training in the months/weeks leading up to the competition. I felt that I would be able to do well here in this competition. This was a new feeling, in over 5 years of training I have never felt this way before a comp. But the pressure I was placing on myself was making my stomach do flips.
It was time to compete. As soon as I step on the mats the nervousness dissipates and I’m fine. It felt just like every other competition I had ever entered, there was just another person I had to try and beat, the pressure I had been placing on myself was gone and it was time to just go and roll, go have fun, go lose myself in the moment and try my best to do what I know I can.
It was going well, I had managed a few sweeps, had mounted my oponent and had racked up a decent points lead. 30 seconds from the end during a scramble, my problematic shoulder dislocated. Luckily I was able to hold on and ride out until the end of the match. I wasn’t able to contest the final so I came away with the silver.
Overall I relly enjoyed my experience competing abroad and I will definitely do it again. However next time I will use suncream more effectively, hopefully sort this damn shoulder and will not drink to quite the same excess as I did prior to the competition!