Live Report from UFC 112: Conclusion

Kru Chatri Sityodtong reports live from Abu Dhabi at UFC 112:

"When the bus dropped us off at the stadium last night, we entered through a special entrance reserved for fighters and cornermen.  The song, "I Gotta a Feeling," by Black Eyed Peas was blasting and the intermittent roar of the crowd was deafening as they watched the preliminary fights.  All the fighters arrived at staggered times based on what time they were scheduled to fight.  Dos Anjos was scheduled to fight around 10pm and UFC made us arrive at 7pm.  For UFC 112, the UFC Fighters Area was a little like a movie set with many air conditioned trailers for all the fighters.  Each trailer had a group of fighters based on their affiliations.

Our trailer was the Team Renzo Gracie trailer with fighters for the night:  Renzo Gracie, Frankie Edgar, and Rafael Dos Anjos.  Inside the trailer was a training area, chairs, and a flat screen TV so that we could watch the action while warming up.  The Team Renzo Gracie trailer had a good group of friends with deep MMA knowledge:  Ralph Gracie (Renzo's brother), UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St Pierre, John Danaher, Rafael Gordinho Correa, Roberto Gordo Correa, UFC Welterweight Ricardo Almeida, Kru Phil Nurse, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, Rillion Gracie, myself, and several others.  Most of us already knew each other from before.  So the atmosphere was very relaxed, helpful, and friendly.  Renzo is a great leader in that way and almost everyone in the room was one of his students.  He surrounds himself with people who are both great martial artists and nice human beings.  We all were watching the fights, warming up, or talking about the fight game.  As usual, the exchange of knowledge was priceless.  When you bring such elite fighters and trainers from varying disciplines into one room, everyone learns something new.   Gordinho invited UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St Pierre to come train at Evolve MMA in Singapore.  While Gordinho and St Pierre have been acquaintances (and have trained together at Renzo Gracie Academy) for a few years already, it was my first time meeting him.  St Pierre is a very nice and humble guy.  He carries himself exactly like all our World Champions at Evolve MMA do - with genuine humility and a quiet confidence.  You can tell that Georges is a great human being; he truly lives the martial arts way of life in terms of respect, courage, humility, honor, etc.  I warmed up Dos Anjos with the Thai pads and we went over the game plan again.  Gordo rolled with Dos Anjos a little bit and also did a little ground and pound.  Renzo did some boxing for his warmup.  The only bad thing about being in the Team Renzo Gracie trailer was that we had a constant stream of media coming into our trailer for interviews.  It is not the best atmosphere to stay focused and relaxed.  Dos Anjos was super hyped up and we had to get him to calm down a little.    

The fight did not go exactly according to our game plan, but it was close enough.  The first part of the plan was to come out with aggressive Muay Thai right out of the gate and force Etim to back pedal.  We truly felt that Dos Anjos could damage Etim with Muay Thai before taking him to the ground to submit him.  However, for whatever reason though, Dos Anjos immediately came out in a very conservative defensive manner and danced away from Etim.  Against a striker like Etim, it is very dangerous to give him space.  We kept yelling at Dos Anjos to be the aggressor instead of dancing away.  Dos Anjos made a few errors standing up in the 1st round.  He also made an error on the takedown.  Dos Anjos got caught in Etim's famous guillotine.  Luckily, we focused a lot of Dos Anjos' ground work for this fight on defending and escaping the guillotine in anticipation that Etim would use it.  While the guillotine was very close, Dos Anjos was never in serious trouble.  (He actually gave us the thumbs up signal with his right hand to signal that he was fine).  He simply let Etim gas his arms out trying to complete the submission.  In the 2nd round, Etim came out looking for the KO via head kick.  We all yelled at Dos Anjos to close the distance with specific combinations and to initiate a takedown.  He nailed the takedown and eventually landed the armbar submission.  We celebrated with a huge group hug in the Octagon.  The first thing Dos Anjos yelled out was "EVOLVE!" and joined 2 fingers from each hand to form the Evolve diamond.  In case you missed him doing it, you can catch the UFC replays.

After his fight, we watched the other fights with ringside seats in the stadium.  Rafael was constantly mobbed by fans asking for pictures.  And we all kept hugging each other over and over; we were all in heaven and had the greatest high in the world.  This is the magic of the Evolve Family.  This fight was Dos Anjos' biggest fight of his entire career and we did it together.  People think that MMA is an individual sport, but that is the farthest thing from the truth.  It is a team sport because you live and die by your teammates and teachers.  You are only as good as the people that surround you.  Kru Yodtong Senanan, the Grandmaster of Sityodtong Camp, used to tell me that all the time when I was young.  Dos Anjos is so grateful for everyone who helped him to his victory.  He has such humility and grace.  The entire Evolve Instructor Team contributed to training Dos Anjos for this fight.  And Dos Anjos kept saying how much he appreciated Evolve for helping him.  To be the best, you need to train with the best.

Instead of going to the UFC After Party, we decided to party together in my suite at the hotel.  We had many chilled bottles of champagne ready to go for the celebrations.  We ordered an insane amount of room service - steak sandwiches, club sandwiches, salads, hummus and tabouleh, cheesecakes, chocolate ice cream, and a ton more other food.  These magical moments are ephemeral, rare, and beautiful.  So last night, we drank too much, we ate too much, and we laughed too much!!!

For me, the biggest lesson from UFC 112 is simply, "Dream big.  Love what you do.  Surround yourself with amazing people.  And always believe in yourself."  Rafael Dos Anjos will become UFC World Champion one day and it will be because of this simple formula.