Every February I hit a professional crossroads of sorts.
I’m faced with a dilemma, a choice that at first was extremely difficult to make but as time has passed that little ache in my stomach has quieted a bit.
Which does one possibly choose? Super Bowl Sunday or UFC Saturday.
I get most of my cheese from FOX Sports, covering the NFL for the nation’s top-rated sports shows, FOX NFL Sunday and The O.T. (For all those teachers when I was growing up who voted me most likely to go to jail, well …
I now lead into The Simpsons! Couldn’t have predicted that one, could ya!)
The Super Bowl week is, by far, the busiest week of my work year. Every minute of my days and nights are accounted for. It couldn’t get any crazier than this seven-day stretch. But I’ve long admitted that while the NFL is my career and certainly one of my loves, MMA is my passion.
A week doesn’t go by without someone twittering me (Jay_Glazer), Facebooking me, or simply asking me what I like more—NFL or MMA.
My answer is found in my actions. When pushed to choose, I gotta hit Vegas.
A few years ago I decided that unless FOX was broadcasting the big game, I’d leave the Super Bowl site Saturday morning and hit Vegas for the UFC. I remember last year Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan making mention of it on the broadcast, surprised to see me cageside for GSP vs. Penn, rather than fieldside for Pittsburgh vs. Arizona. I’ve got it down to a science though, as I do all my shows and work Sunday through Saturday then hop out to Vegas. In years we broadcast the game, obviously, I stay put.
But my actions scream the obvious: I am an MMA junkie, loud and proud baby!
I do love the NFL, but everything about MMA feels better to me. The atmosphere, the athletes, the brotherhood among people within the sport, the respect by the fans. The fraternity that has become the MMA world is my little oasis away from my work fraternity.
It all starts with the fighters themselves.
How many times have you guys seen the sports biggest stars walk into the crowd to sign autographs? Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, GSP—even Brock Lesnar has hopped aboard. Our stars burn minute after minute shaking hands, taking pictures, and graciously making fans feel as if they truly are honored and blessed for their admiration.
Could you honestly picture Alex Rodriguez or Kobe Bryant or Ben Roethlisberger walking into the stands and spending a solid 15 minutes signing away? Mainstream pro athletes all too often make a habit of saying “no.” MMA athletes walk away saying, “Wow, how cool is it that these people want my picture?”
From firsthand experience, the comparison is hardly close. Walk down the street with a Deion Sanders, who I worked with for years and I consider a good friend, but Prime Time won’t sign an autograph, so don’t even ask. That same walk with Chuck Liddell? You never get anywhere because the man satisfies EVERY request.
Even as the mainstream and attention has grown, the temptation to act mainstream isn’t making much of a dent. Our men do a solid job of remembering how recent it was this sport had no TV home.
Hold on a second … travel agent just called to confirm my flight from Miami to Vegas … hold on ….
Ok, I’m back. I have to make the pilgrimage that weekend. I need the reality check the brotherhood of the sport brings me.
Besides God, this brotherhood has kept me grounded more than anything else as my NFL career and profile have blossomed.
A couple years ago I started to merge my two worlds together and began training NFL players in MMA to help them mentally, core-wise, hips, etc. Nothing makes me more proud than when a Patrick Willis or Jared Allen or Matt Leinart says they can’t get enough of being around our guys. These are guys who can’t wait to bolt out of their own NFL locker rooms. But bring them into our gym? We can’t get ‘em to leave. Seriously, these guys wouldn’t budge.
It’s because that brotherhood is real. It’s the type of relationships that takes others years to build. You spill blood and sweat for hours a day with someone and that bond becomes unique. Everyone looks to help each other. You don’t hear of public squabbles among teammates like we do with T.O. and whoever or Kobe and Shaq.
When I start to feel full of myself or I need a reality check, I head to the gym to scrap with my friends. Go through a workout, watch my friends go at it, train with the boys, it all serves as an oasis from the plastic, oftentimes fakeness that seeps in when one works in TV or mainstream sports.
I’m excited to hit Miami for Super Bowl week. But man I can’t wait to join up with Randy and the gang for Super Saturday instead.