The week is off to a rocky start. I’m on the side of the road on I-75, with a flat tire. I’ve got no spare, and it’s midnight. Roadside assistance tells me it’ll be at least an hour before a tow truck makes it to me, and my itinerary for the week begins at 8:30 tomorrow morning.
When the tow arrives, he tells me they sent a truck for my old vehicle on file, pre-UFC bonus checks. The one I drive now can’t be towed with his particular truck, he says.
I’m exhausted, and don’t have much argue in me. He tells me a flatbed will be on the way shortly, and I doze to sleep, parked on the side of the interstate.
The second truck driver wakes me, tapping his flashlight on my driver side window. It’s 3 AM, and we’re still an hour from Orlando. He loads up my car, and I fall back asleep in the tow truck passenger seat.
I wake a second time, this time at the hotel. I give the driver the address of a service shop down the road, and my keys to drop off with the vehicle. I sleepwalk into the lobby and up to my room, and crawl in bed just after 4.
I wake again hours later, for a series of press activities. The first is at a local Fox morning show with Donald Cerrone. I drink as much coffee as I can, and hop in an Uber with a UFC press employee to the TV station.
Cowboy shows up in his RV with a squad of fighters and photographers to document fight week. He looks at me, in polo and jeans, and asks the UFC PR lady if we were supposed to dress up. It’s half-dig, half-ice breaker. He’s got camo pants, camo hat, and camo crocs on.
We talk with the folks at Fox for a few minutes. Before the show goes live, she asks us if we saw that fight with that Irish guy that was like 12 seconds. I tell her to definitely ask Cowboy about that on-air.
Segment ends, morning continues. PR accompanies me to a radio station, then coordinates a series of phone interviews. I’m tired, but am a half gallon of coffee deep, and still kicking. Each fight I try to cut out caffeine before fight week, and each time I delay until the very end.
We get back to the hotel, and I do customary poster signing, per diem collection, and remaining check-in duties. Burt was the first fighter liaison I’d met for UFC, and a guy named Tony more recently, and now another, named "H." He’s from the UK, as is much of the staff for this entire event; job training for the European team perhaps.
The folks they find to do this stuff are likable, and this part of the process is always fun for me. Novitzky is in the UFC office, and we head upstairs to the scale, where they are taking one of several weight checks throughout the week. He tells me this is to measure the amount of weight athletes are cutting, and trying to determine if the IV ban is helping to reduce that. He's flying to California for a weight cutting summit in the morning, and we talk for a few minutes about the commission's proposals.
I get a chance to crash for a few hours. When I wake, sleepy has been replaced by hungry, and I Yelp on my phone for a few minutes to find a diner worthy of my last big meal. I’ve already cut carbohydrates and sodium, so options are limited, but I’ve got another day before I start reducing calorie count.
I decide on hotel dining, and eat with teammate Jim Alers. We both choose a Mahi platter, and poach a few sides from the buffet line. I hail down a cab after diner, heading to pick up my car before they close for the evening. I return to the hotel, park, and go back to the UFC offices for a bit, catching up with employees I’ve made acquaintances with over past events.
It’s something I can’t help, loitering around the hotel until I find my opponent. I’m doing my usual fight week face scanning of every person I pass until I find the one I’m looking for. He’s difficult to size up when I do find him, because he’s sitting down. He’s in the Reebok room, where we get fitted for fight week.
I introduce myself to him and his coaches. I’ve been watching him for months now, and singing his praises during camp. I'll never understand fighters who tear down their opponent's skill, media or otherwise.
The employees in the fitting room remark they’ve never seen someone engage so politely with their opponent. One of the ladies texts her husband about it.
When he finally did a pre-fight interview weeks before the fight, he claimed to still have never watched any of my fights. I wonder if he’s bluffing, but can’t gauge much from our brief interaction.
Seeing my opponent has got me excited, and I find the workout room just down the hall. Sarah Kaufman and friends are there, as well as a giant French dude with a couple training partners. It’s always interesting to see everyone’s methods of fight week preparation, in the last workouts before the bright lights.
Nate Marquardt and Trevor Wittman enter. I tell them I’m fans of both, and we make small talk about Colorado, and the fights between Palomino and Gaethje. Trevor is engaging, Nate amiable. He fastens some unusual gloves on his wrists, and I ask where he got them. He points at Trevor, who explains how he makes them himself, after years of restitching his own mitts and gloves. I watch he and Nate work on footwork drills for a few minutes, then shower and get ready for my last meal of the night.
I go to the market, then to a friends to cook for the rest of the week. Chicken breast, raw veggies, and egg whites will be the diet for the next two days. I bag the leftovers of baked chicken, and retire back to my hotel room.
When I crash my head for a final time, I’m out in minutes. The day has felt a week long, and it is only Wednesday.
Join us later in the week for part two, and follow Josh Samman on Twitter.