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My Trip, UFC Canada and the Great Chicken Sandwich Caper

My Trip, UFC Canada
It was Tuesday and I was boarding the plane to Montréal with Professor Duane Ludwig to help coach and support Eliot Marshall in his second fight for the UFC. We would be meeting and spending the better part of the week with Chaun Simms, Rene Oshay and her husband, Eliot. I spent two weeks on the road between LA at the Pan Americans, San Luis Obispo on business and now on our way to Montreal, Canada. I was both excited and tired from being on the road.

When we arrived in customs for Canada the fun began. “Are you traveling alone?” asked the customs agent. “No, I’m with him,” and as I pointed I saw Duane being sent off to the interrogation area. “Okay, why don’t you go with him then,” replied the agent.
Sweet, off to a good start.
After being questioned (mostly, I believe, because they were looking for guys who were working for the UFC and getting paid in Canada without paying taxes) they sent both of us on our way to get our bags. It wasn’t until after we got our bags that we realized we had been tagged to be searched. I didn’t think anything of it when he pulled the half of Whole Foods chicken sandwich out of my bag and set it to the side. “You realize this is contraband, right? You didn’t declare it on your entry form. This is a $200 fine.”
I’ve lived long enough to know that there is no point in arguing with certain people, it only digs deeper holes; so I replied, “No sir, I didn’t realize, we can just throw it away.”  “I’m going to have to write you up for it, but I’m going to let you off on the $200,” he said as he pulled out a pad from his pocket. I watched as he carefully wrote- one half-kilo of chicken sandwich – and handed me the ticket. It took all of my power to resist bursting out in laughter as I thought of the souvenir I was receiving from the Canadian Government. I took my ticket (it will be framed in my office) and went on my way.
The biggest surprise for me was how the Canadians have embraced the UFC and MMA. It was amazing, there were more Tap Out, Affliction, Silver Star Casting, and other MMA apparel than I had ever seen. It seemed everywhere we went in Canada, people were very aware of the UFC; it had become mainstream. It seemed even the crack heads and homeless guys smoking cigarettes were wearing Affliction t-shirts. Every shop and restaurant had posters for fighters. On top of that, wherever we went with Eliot became a mini photo shoot, I felt like part of the entourage from “Entourage”.

The hotel where the fighters were staying was swarmed from three nights before the fight till the fight with fans waiting by the elevator for photos and autographs. The parents of one child even became the lucky recipients of Eliot’s old sweaty UFC training bag.

Preparation for the fight consists of daily running and dieting along with a several rounds of shadow boxing, mitts and light grappling. Then on weigh-in day it’s the weight cut routine and food. At the weigh in they said was the biggest in history with maybe five thousand people. The training room is always interesting with two rooms; one for the red and one for the blue corner. It’s full of the fighters and their camps. For us that meant Eliot, Chaun, Duane, Jay Jack and myself. It’s full of superstars of MMA, BJJ, wrestling, and Kick Boxing. Ernesto Hoost was there, Andre Pederneires (one of the heads of an old school powerhouse BJJ team from Rio), Vladamir (the janitor) Matsayenko, and lots of obviously talented coaches. Each fighter has their routine and every routine is different so it’s interesting to watch. For example, Shogun was put through hell the night before his fight with Chuck, with at least 70 Thai kicks on each side, and hard, real cardio suffering.
The day of the fight we try to make a normal day (except Eliot is the king and gets to choose everything so no shady Mexican restaurants like I usually prefer). At 5:30 while on our way to the event, we got word that Eliot’s fight is switched to the first fight which I know is a bit of a mental challenge for Eliot. Greg Jackson quickly said, “Perfect that’s the best spot, you know exactly when you are fighting; ask any of my fighters where they would like to be and they will tell you that.”   I could see Eliot make the necessary mental adjustments. Our room is full of fighters and trainers, various little dramas and fight preparation routines. To be honest, everyone looks tough as nails and its difficult to imagine any of them losing (about half of them did).
I believe the fight went well in a lot of ways. It’s always easy to sit outside of the ring and critique but what I am really excited about in Eliot is that he really has shown great improvement in every fight. This was the first fight where his plan was to stay standing and he did so in a dominant way for most of the fight. Modern MMA fighters need to be able to choose where they want the fight and I believe we are going to start to see whole new games develop out of Eliot. Knowing you can stand with people and that you can go the distance and not gas is a big deal and it takes a lot to get to that point. Once a fighter has the confidence that he can deal with the fight in many different ways he will become a much more dangerous fighter. I watch fighters with unbelievable ability waste it away and not show the discipline to develop their potential.  Maybe some are too gifted and don’t think they need the skills or practice but it seems they become stagnant. Eliot, on the other hand, is very disciplined and really works like a pro.
I’ve worked with Eliot for about 10 years now and it takes not only a lot of self -discipline, determination and skill, but a lot of help to get to the top. I certainly don’t have all the skills he’s going to need to be where he wants to be so he has enlisted the help of an army of guys who suffer on a daily basis with him. These rock solid individuals include Chaun Simms, the kind of guy who not only has tremendous potential both physically and mentally to achieve greatness, but moreover, is the kind of guy who will do anything to help and support the people he cares about. There is also Tyler Toner, who gets in there and bangs with Eliot despite a 50 pound weight difference, Duane “Bang” Ludwig, who’s skills speak for themselves, Trevor Whitman (boxing coach), Nate Marquart (super man), Shane Carwin, Cody Donavin, Brenden, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardin, and a handful of others each of whom I can see have a great and positive impact on Professor Marshal as a fighter.
That’s all for now.
See you on the mat!

Amal Easton

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