The Other Croatian Sensations UFC 87 Journey
My name is Melissa Mestrovic AKA The Other Croatian Sensation in the MMA online community. I am honored that Cageplay.com has given me the floor to write about my experiences at UFC 87 in Minneapolis. I am going to leave the details of the fights to MMA Fan Boy so we don’t overlap. This is the very first article I have ever written, so please be gentle with me!
I have been a fan of MMA for the last four years and have attended three other UFC shows…UFC 47 in Las Vegas, UFC 76 in Anaheim and UFC 83 in Montreal as well as PRIDE 33 in Las Vegas. I have to say that of all of the shows I have been to UFC 87 blew them all away. UFC 76 was a very close second though because that was the trip that Frank Trigg & the boys from TAGG Radio interviewed Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Tyson Griffin, Murilo Bustamante, John Hackelman, Jacob “Stitch” Duran & Leon Tabbs from my hotel suite! UFC 87 was the top dog for me overall and let me tell you why!
I stayed at the Marriott City Centre feeling fairly certain this would be the hotel the UFC fighters stayed at. As soon as I walked in on Thursday night to check in I had immediate confirmation…hello Mike Whitehead! Here’s a tip, the UFC really likes the Marriott for non-Vegas shows! Heading out to dinner, I saw Mike Goldberg, Joe Rogan, Clay Guida as well as Burt, the cool cat who runs the weigh-ins and brings the fighters out from the locker room, he remembered me from Montreal and it was nice to say hello. Returning from dinner it was a pleasure to say hello once again to Wanderlei Silva, one of the most gracious MMA fighters you could ever hope to meet.
And then in walks Matt Serra with Din Thomas. Serra is hands down the friendliest MMA fighter out there. I met Serra in Montreal, his suite was next to mine. After the weigh-ins where the Canadians booed him so loud he couldn’t even talk, I slipped him a note saying it was his “neighbor”, that I was sorry the Canadians were so rude, that he was a class act and I wished him all of the luck in the world. Guess who knocked at my door a few hours later saying “Hey Neighbour”? Serra! So here we are in Minneapolis and I yelled out the same to him, “Hey Neighbour!” and he recognized me instantly. I got a hug and we had a good laugh wondering for a moment if we were neighbors yet again, but no, not this time!
Capping off the evening, I got pictures with Lyoto Machida, Tamdan McCrory, ring girl Arianny Celeste, Jason MacDonald and the sexy and very cool Ms. Tracy Lee from combatlifestyle.com who I look up to immensely. I also saw Matt Hughes. Let’s talk about two of the smuggest fighters you could ever hope to meet (or not meet!)…Hughes will be no surprise, J-Mac might be. There was a fan, Steve from New York in the lobby having all of the UFC superstars sign his framed UFC picture. Steve told me that earlier that evening he asked Hughes to sign and he said, “I will be back later”. So now here comes Hughes and Steve was determined to get that autograph…why I don’t know! He asks Hughes again, Hughes looks him up and down with that smug look of his that makes me want to smack him and begrudgingly signs the picture. Did he just sign his autograph? Hell no, in his smug fashion he signed it and added “UFC 9X World Champ!” As for my J-Mac encounter, to be honest, I didn’t want his picture. I haven’t been a fan of his since all of his cheap smack talk against Joe Doerksen in Montreal as well as his piece of work Manager, Pavelich (don’t even get me going on that) and then there’s Ryan Ford. But no one knew who he was so I thought geez, he is Canadian. As we took the picture I told him I was from Winnipeg…his reply? “And you admit that?” Yeah, enough said! This was day one and I already knew this was going to be one hell of a weekend!
Day two before the weigh-ins, I could hardly keep up with all of the fighters walking around the lobby of the Marriott! I got pictures with Sean Sherk, David Loiseau, another picture with Wanderlei as well as his trainer Rafael Alejarra, Ben Saunders, Manny Gamburyan, Luke Cummo, Alex Karalexis, Amir Sadollah, Serra’s trainer Ray Luongo and cut man Leon Tabbs. I also got a picture with Keith Jardine who lived up to his moniker, The Dean of Mean! He didn’t even stop to acknowledge most of the fans asking for a picture, not cool. And believe it or not, fully expecting to get shot down and therefore have more ammunition for my article, I asked Matt Hughes for a picture. The person escorting him out said “No more pictures” and much to my shock and disbelief Hughes said, “One more, for her”. Hmmm, maybe he’s not so bad after all? Nah, he is!
Now we were off to the Q & A session with Dana White & Amir for UFC Fight Club members. It was very entertaining and not as lame as the Montreal session where every second person asked Dana White for a picture or anything else they could get for free! The only person that asked for something was a guy on his honeymoon who asked for a ticket upgrade admitting to having bad seats because he was a cheapskate! Dana said, “Tom get this guy some tickets!” and bam, there was Tom rushing over with tickets! Damn cool! Of course there were questions about Tito and naturally Dana called him an “idiot” or worse every chance he got! The most entertaining part of the session came when a tiny blonde wearing a Punishment hat and shirt came to the mike…you knew this was going to be trouble! She demanded to know why Dana had to keep putting Tito down. His response was a classic, “I didn’t know his Mother was here” and when she asked again, “I didn’t know Jenna was here”! This little lady was very fired up! While we were waiting for the weigh-ins, I called out to the beautiful Nicky Ryann of ROUGH. She asked if I would go on camera and I still kick myself to this day that I said no…weak! The weigh-ins came directly after and they were good, but there were no fireworks.
Immediately after the weigh-ins, I headed to a party for UFC Fight Club members at the Hard Rock Café. It was a lot of fun and I was impressed to see Rampage, Clay Guida and Bruce Buffer show up. Rich Franklin’s wife Beth was there to raise money for a charity in the 50/50 draw and it was very gracious of the winner to give his $ 510.00 cheque right back to Beth for the charity.
It was time to head back to the hotel to change before we headed out to the club. As I was leaving I ran into one of my all time favourite UFC celebrities Stitch! He remembered me from Anaheim and Montreal and gave me a kiss on the cheek which was so sweet! Had a blast at the club and headed back to the hotel in rough shape, it was time to rest up for the big day!
Day three…the big show was finally here! For my birthday, I treated myself to a floor seat and I was stoked! The only other time I had a floor seat was my very first UFC and that was a great experience, but I was a total novice back then had no idea who was who or what was what! It was a present to my then boyfriend, well this was now a present to me, from me, love me! I caught the elevator to the lobby with Mike Goldberg and of course took a picture outside. Headed to the Target Centre with my friends and as soon as we got in, I had to take an immediate left to get to the floor seats as I was the only one sitting on the floor…my heart was in my throat…it was time! I ordered a double like any good Canadian would and made my entrance. I walked past Rogan & Goldberg doing their thing and saw Stitch who asked if I was sitting by myself. When I said yes he told all of the guys in my row that he needed them to take care of me for him, gotta love Stitch! I sat in my seat soaking it all in and not long after it was time for the undercard to start. The undercard fights were very good and it was nice to see so many fans already in their seats as that would have been a damn shame to miss. Before I knew it, it was around 8:50PM and the video montage to Teenage Wasteland came on. I shouted out, “We are about to go live!” and this is where the magic happened. The place went nuts, you could feel the excitement build with each strain of the song, the anticipation was killing me and I was now tingling from head to toe with pure adrenaline! The next thing I know, the video screen shoots to the dramatic Roman entrance music at the start of the PPV’s and the fighters are talking back and forth, I am screaming like a friggin’ maniac and just waiting to hear Face The Pain. Words cannot explain the electricity in that place! I was five years old on Christmas Eve! The camera pans the crowd where I am so now I am totally amped up and I know that if I made it on camera, I should have a text any second now and bam there it is, my buddy Joel saying he saw me on the PPV! Could this night get any better?! Why yes, actually it could!
I was having the time of my life down there on the floor loving every single second of the fights and getting braver by the minute and yes, the drinks definitely helped with that! I got pictures with Clay Guida and Sable, Brock Lesnar’s wife and former WWE superstar. She was stunning, I told her so and she was gracious enough to ask my name and where I lived. When I told her Winnipeg she said her sister-in-law was from Brandon and called her over to meet me! I could see how excited she was for Brock and I told her I wished him well for his fight. I was shooting the shit with Sable, how cool is that?! Throughout the course of the evening I would finally get a picture with someone who has been on my list for some time, Dana White! I asked him if UFC is coming to Winnipeg and he PROMISED me that he is bringing it to Winnipeg! I told him I would work for free and slid him my card, ha ha ha! I called out to Rafael Alejarra who brought Demian Maia over and I got a picture with them. I got a picture with an ecstatic Greg Jackson right after GSP’s big win and then a picture with Burt from the UFC. I told Burt how badly I wanted his job and what a great job he did behind the scenes.
The fights were over and I was so sad to leave, but it was time to head to Roger Huerta’s after party at Aqua where we had a VIP table. After party equals big cash grab and mass chaos, but it was a cool experience and I am glad I went. Huerta got there just before the club was closing so I didn’t even bother to try to get a picture with him as it was a mob scene all around him.
The club closed at 2AM so we headed back to the Marriott where there were tons of fighters hanging out in the lobby. I got pictures with Cheick Kongo, Chris Wilson, Ryan Thomas, Eddie Bravo, Tracy Lee and Brock Lesnar’s Manager and his wife who I had met earlier at the fights. I was ready to call it a night, but my Brother and his friends wanted to keep going so we were still in the lobby around 5AM when we saw Wanderlei and Serra heading off to the airport and Kongo using the computer in the Business Centre. Jon Jones gave us talked with us for at least twenty minutes and gave us all a clinic in the stare down for which I definitely failed because I could not keep a straight face to save my life! I finally packed it in around 5:30AM and went to bed with the biggest smile on my face that I can’t seem to wipe off as I am still grinning from ear to ear!
This was by far the best UFC show I have ever been to and the $ 684.00 that I paid for my floor seat was worth every single penny and then some! I am a fan of Affliction, but I can tell you there is nothing like a UFC show. The excitement that organization generates is off the charts and I am so glad I was a part of it. I can’t wait to pick my next UFC adventure! This is The Other Croatian Sensation over and out!