This morning is the first chance I’ve had to collect my thoughts and write a proper blog. I arrived in Rio de Janeiro for my UFC 153 coverage two days ago on Tuesday morning. The first event on the schedule was yesterday’s open workouts which were held at the Arcos da Lapa in the center of the city.
The trip was expected to take a little under an hour by bus from our hotel at Barra Beach. Thanks to some late attendees, we actually departed about 45 minutes late from the hotel, so I didn’t expect much setup time once I got there. The drive ended up taking about an hour and ten minutes. The traffic in Rio is always horrible, so there is no easy way to plan for journeys in the city.
Once we arrived at the venue, we quickly unloaded and found a spot to store all our gear while we waited for fighters to show up. The setup was pretty much the same as all our previous UFC events down here. Outdoors with the mats up on a stage, cooking in the hot sun. The temperature outside just before noon was a nice 36 degrees Celsius (about 97 F). Yes, it’s the beginning of summer down here in the southern hemisphere.
The biggest issue we’ve had in the past with doing the workouts outside is the heat of the mats. They have tried a number of solutions, but all have failed. However, this time, the workers were certain they had solved the problem. I couldn’t believe it when they removed the towels from the top of the mats covering a layer of ice that had been spread over the mats. Just before the first fighter was to work out, the workers scraped off the ice and did their best to dry the mats. Of course, as soon as the mats were cleared, the sun started baking them again and they were incredibly hot by the time the workout started. I’ve told them since the first time they’ve tried this that there is no good solution, aside from having the workouts indoors, which of course they do not want to do. So, the only other option is for the fighters to wear their shoes when working out.
The first two fighters to workout were Dave Herman and Stephan Bonnar. Both put on very abbreviated training sessions due to the heat. Once the Brazilians started showing up, the fans were treated to a little more effort on the mats. Workers struggled between sessions to try to cool down the mats, but their futile efforts served no real purpose. The afternoon sun was cooking the mats and there was very little shade to be found anywhere. To make matters worse, the tent where we had stored our gear was taken over by the band Linkin Park and their security would not allow us inside. So, I spent the majority of the nearly five hours standing outside in the sun with two increasingly heavy cameras hanging off my shoulders.
All the suffering paid off at the end of the day when Anderson Silva showed up. The light was beautiful and the champ put on a great workout, hitting pads and lightly sparring. The fans showed great appreciation. One fan in particular was brought on stage by Anderson’s team and treated with a personal meeting, photo, and an autograph. She was overcome with emotion. So, when it was all said and done, it was a pretty good day. I still wish there was a better solution than standing outside baking for five hours.