|UFC 160 Viewing Party/Lagasse's Stadium|
What do cities such as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Seattle, Washington, Odessa, Texas, Humboldt, California and Las Vegas, Nevada along with countries such as Austria, Canada and New Zealand all have in common? They are just a few of the places that are home to MMA Junkies. What are MMA Junkies? Well the photo above is full of them, but they are so much more than the name suggest. They are friends, better yet family; brothers and sisters who have been getting together now officially for three years in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, for the better part of a week to enjoy each other's company; all brought together by one common denominator.
MMA Junkie Radio is an internet radio show broadcast daily from 9-11 Pacific Time, covering the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Its hosts, brothers Gorgeous George and Goze Garcia, have been doing their thing for six years running and this year we celebrated with them as they broadcast their 1500th show. It was their 1000th show two years ago, which brought together a band of listeners from across the world during Memorial Day weekend and what was to be a one-time celebration has turned into an annual love fest of MMA, laughter and fun.
For the third straight year, Goze has become an event planner of sorts as he hosts all the Junkies above, and more, by putting together a dream week of events. This year that included, comedy, trivia, another visit to a pro MMA gym, bowling and a hip-hop concert and of course the viewing party (pictured above @ Lagasse's stadium) for UFC 160. This was all capped by a going away party at The Foundation Room in Mandalay Bay on Saturday night. Note, I say dream week, because each event featured either MMA fighters or notables from within the industry; even the going away party was blessed to have UFC bantamweight George Roop in attendance; mere hours after his victory earlier in the evening.
However, as great as all that is, it all pales in comparison to the love and friendships that have been formed over the years. Originally we were all just MMA fans looking for a chance to visit Vegas and hope to catch a few photo opportunities with some of our favorite fighters; at least that's how it started. A strange thing happened though; the bond that was formed as listeners to the show began to get even stronger as we met one another and learned about each others lives. Spend four or five days with a group of people and you become more than friends, you start to become a family; in our case a Junkie family.
Every year there are highlights and memories that bring an instant smile. For me there are so many that if I were to list them all, this would become a two-part blog. However looking back fondly, here are just some I'll never forget; Buffalo Blue yelling Justin Bieber for just about every answer during trivia. On that note, Blue taking off on a broad jump that nearly broke his ankle; sure that's nothing to smile about, but the sight of a 6'4" 300+ pound man winding up to take-off is not something you see every day.
The appearance of Billionaire Playboy Devante Morgan at bowling was a thrill; especially the majestic wave he gave to all of us upon being acknowledged in the building. Watching my fellow Junkies kick the ass of professionals and amateurs from Syndicate Mixed Martial Arts in dodgeball was awesome; as was watching Jorge from Houston battle Kela from Hawaii at Texas de Brazil. It was like watching Joey Chestnut and Kobayashi go at it.
That brings me to another highlight, meeting the new Junkies who are now part of the family. The aforementioned Jorge and his boy Marcus AKA 'Omar Epps' from Houston, Joe and his buddy Mario from Odessa, Taper Steve (who never really told us why he's called Taper), Jason AKA 'Oloff The Russian Hitman', Martine from San Francisco, Victor from West Virginia and Lucas from New Zealand. How tight do you become over a few days? When Lucas was shown on camera during the PPV broadcast holding his flag, the entire group above began chanting in unison "Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas..."
I can go on and on about all the events that took place, but honestly my favorite part of the week is what I always look forward to the most; simply sitting around the lounge in front of the studio over a few beers and sharing laughs and stories with one another. Those moments supersede anything else and are cherished more than you can imagine. I guess maybe because I realize they are only for a short period before I have to wait a whole year to do it again.
Goze shared with me before this year's gathering that he wasn't sure if he could do this again next year as it is becoming too much to handle. However, considering the results of all his efforts I'm hopeful that by spring time next year he'll be ready to do it all over again. I mean why not? Like the legendary Whispers once sang, "It just gets better with time!"
Big ups to Goze for all his time and effort in making this the best gathering yet; your work does not go unnoticed my brother and is greatly appreciated!
Photo comes courtesy of the official Junkie Gathering Photographer Mike 'Northern Lights' Waluk