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.