I had planned to stay in Vegas for two, maybe three days. This quickly turned into a week, and I quickly fell in love with Vegas. Las Vegas is a fighter's city. You eat, sleep and breathe training. Everywhere you go you are running into grapplers and UFC fighters. Every bus and billboard has adds for MMA pay per views. And everyone bleaches their hair blonde like it's 1993 and they are at a Foo Fighters concert, I was burning through tape and film, shooting Robert teaching and rolling. My daily schedule was something like this. Robert would wake me up five minutes before class and we would drive the half mile to the school. Train and shoot. Go home and cook lunch. Go to the pool and hot tub in Robert's apartment complex (which is nicer than most hotels I have stayed at), cook more food. Watch Rob n Big for a few hours. Train and shoot, Cook more food. At this point it is late and a random group of Brazilians will come over, talk to you in Portuguese assuming you speak, and then you fall asleep adn repeat. Basically, it is a perfect day. I think Filip said it best in his Polish accent... "I didn't know I would have to learn Portuguese to come to America."
You know what else is cool about Vegas and Robert Drysdale? being an aspiring fighter, and fan of the sport, it is kind of a surreal experience to walk into class and get paired up with a UFC fighter. They generally look a little smaller in person and come to class for the same reason we all do... because Robert Drysdale is very, very good at Jiu Jitsu and we all want to learn how to do what he does. On the night before the UFC 100 weigh ins, we had yet to shoot an interview, and he was caught in a time crisis. (Not the video game, but if Robert Drysdale was a playable character in that it would kick ass) We decided to shoot it at Frank Mir's gym since Robert had to go over there for a last training session. Inside the gym were tons of guys that I look up to. Frank Mir, Miguel Torres, Kenny Florian, Stephan Bonnar... some were training, some were just hanging out. The UFC camera men were everywhere conducting interviews and shooting training footage. As Drysdale was working his boxing, I was getting the same clips. It must have looked really funny, them with their insane camera set ups worth tens of thousands working in multiple crews of threes to operate it all... and me with my Gl-1 and mic attachment running around all by myself, switching to homemade lens' because I can't afford ten grand for a 35mm converter. What I lack in overpriced equipment I more than make up for in technical know how and general aggressiveness when I need my shots. I got started into film from shooting skate videos when I was young. In fact, that is how a great number of young cinematographers got into shooting and editing and skate videos are solely responsible for the prosumer camera takeover of the late 90's and changing of the guard from Avid to Final Cut Pro. None of that made sense to the majority of people reading this, I'm sure. Regardless, film school doesn't teach you what shooting skate videos does, and that is how to maneuver when people try to block you out and hold your own when shooting. I don't care who someone works for, or what they are shooting, if you step in front of my shot, I am going to step right back in front of yours and if you want to persist, something of yours will get broken. As an interesting fact, if you have watched my DVD, you will notice sparring in the background of Robert Drysdale's interview. That would Miguel Torres, and he trains so hard without ever slowing down that it is awe inspiring.
Another exciting UFC moment for me was walking into class and seeing one of my favorite fighters of all time, Forrest Griffin, warming up. In fact, I would like to devote a moment of my time to only talking about Forrest. He looks like a complete dork when he trains, because he tucks his t shirt into his Sprawl shorts. I am not sure what purpose he is attempting to serve, whether it be adding a touch of class to the gym or what. I was mainly shooting for this class and shot rolls and rolls of Forrest, Saturo Ishii (Olympic gold medalist judoka) and Drysdale all taking turns rolling with each other. it was cool enough to get to watch them all go so hard, and even better to preserve it forever. People always talk about how well conditioned he is and how hard he works. During instruction he is always jumping around, and he never stops moving. He trains hard and without any ego and listened to everything Drysdale was telling him and asking questions like a true student. People that train really hard always earn my respect, and Forrest really impressed me (as if my opinion on a former light heavyweight champion matters) The second time I ran into Forrest Griffin was at the open Mat the Friday I left. The plan was to train, jump in the pool, and then head to LA. The open mat was empty because Grapplers Quest was going on at the same time. It was myself, a slightly larger guy, Forrest, and a Forrest sized guy and after stretching out we all got to rolling with our size appropriate partners. After a break, I still wanted to go and I noticed Forrest sitting on the mat so I asked if he wanted to train, concealing the fact that I REALLY wanted to roll with him. He told me that he was training with the other guy. I'm still not sure if I looked really disappointed and he realized what was going on, or if he just didn't feel like waiting for the other guy, but he quickly said "Ahh, fuck it, yeah let's roll." Here is where I am going to bust a Forrest Griffin myth that he himself started. You know how Forrest is super self deprecating, and always says he isn't that good but wins because he works hard and fights with all he's got. Well, Forrest IS actually good at Jiu Jitsu. And not just because he is a freak of nature giant (which he is) His butterfly guard is really good. His pressure is really good. His foot lock game is really good. Forrest Griffin is good at Jiu Jitsu. Occasionally I would see an opening for a submission pop up and I would jump for it. Here is another thing you may or may not know about Forrest Griffin... he hates being submitted and will FLIP out to avoid having to tap. I shot up a triangle and the second my feet crossed behind his head, before I could even pull his head down he postured up so hard that it actually sling shotted me into the air. When i went for a heel hook he began rolling out of it so fast and hard, holding onto his leg was like trying to ride a bull, except if the bull had been punched in the dick bone first. (Note: This is not to say Forrest rolls like a dick or is overly aggressive by any means. I rolled with him for a good twenty minutes and despite him being 6'8" and 235 lbs and me being 5'11" and 134 lbs I had a blast training with him) After we rolled and had some really good foot lock battles he showed me a way to adjust my heel hook that makes it easier to deal with sweat or bulky MMA gloves. Towards the end of the session we sat around the mat talking and he told us cop stories, and yet one last thing I'm sure no one knows about Forrest... he is a really funny dude.
With that, I said my goodbyes to the guys at Drysdale's gyms, jumped in the pool to get clean and was off to California where the majority of my shooting would be done.