"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." -St. Augustine
When Zak Cummings got the call from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to co headline UFC Dublin, Ireland, I was excited to learn that I too would be traveling across the world to aid in the massive Welterweight's drop to 170. A fighters weight cut is a very tricky process. Essentially, you are asking the body to lose 20-30lbs in as short a time as possible, while eating enough to sustain optimal performance during the final, most intense weeks of training. As if the typical weight cut isn't challenge enough, we are looking at a 5 hour time zone change, finding the necessary food in an unknown city, and dealing with the stresses of travel and unfamiliarity. I would be lying if I said I weren't a bit nervous when looking at all the aforementioned factors, however I am always looking for new challenges so that I can expand my knowledge and experience.
So far, every expected factor against our efforts has been thwarted by by vigilance, dedication, and preparation. Zak is an absolute gangster when it comes to following orders and sticking to the program. It's always a blessing to work with guys who never question or challenge your instruction or expertise. Upon arrival, we immediately sought out the necessary equipment needed for the final stages of our weight cut. After discussing our needs with Patrick Loewen, Senior Sous Chef of The Gibson Hotel, were were able to ensure that Zak's diet stay up within the realm of our needs. I would like to add however, that Chef Loewen has done an amazing job at taking a potentially bland diet, and worked wonders for us!
The Irish people have been nothing short of extraordinary. In America, fans ask for an autograph, receive one and walk away. In Ireland, the fans relish the chance to converse and literally shake with excitement when they are met with friendly return. I have also been surprised at the amount of support I have seen for the American fighters over the local Irish stars. The people are not only nice, but also offer a lot for us Americans to learn from.
The first thing you will notice is a vast difference in the fitness levels of the Irish people as compared to Americans. With diet staples such as potatoes, bread, cheese, and beer it may seem surprising that overweight Irishmen are few and far between. The difference however, lies in both a vast difference in portion size and food quality. I can't even begin to explain to you the difference in Irish and American food, even when comparing the same items. Also, it's clear to see that the Irish people are much more active than your typical American. Although shuttle tickets are very cheap, the majority seem to walk miles upon miles to and from work. Upon asking one seemingly well off individual in a nice suit about his daily walk total, he informed me he walked 7 Kilometers daily, just on his work commute!
It's not long before you realize something very common in America is largely missing from the streets of Ireland- cell phone use. As in most industrialized countries, the iPhone is king, however it's rarely seen in restaurants or the hands of a walking person. For me personally, this hit close to home as I am really bad for sitting my phone out at the dinner table, and regularly checking it for social media updates- I hope to significantly change this when I arrive home!
At first, one would think the restaurant service in Ireland is poor, and borderline rude. Your waiter will not rush to your table upon arrival, and your check will not be ready for you by the time you are finished eating. While this is vastly different from the American food service, one will quickly see that this not rude behavior, but rather the tendency of the Irish people to slow down, let you be, and enjoy the moment. You won't see locals rush in, eat, and rush out. These people take their time while eating, and enjoy both the food and the company of those they are dining with- try it! If you need your bill, you can simply ask for it at which point you will immediately receive it graciously by a server who is truly not interesting in rushing you out the door so they can move to the next table. Tips are either included in the bill at a very small percentage, or not included or expected at all- I haven't asked, but I suspect servers are paid fairly well and focus more on quality over quantity when it comes to tables.
So, not only is our weight cut here in Ireland going extraordinarily well, but I feel that we are all learning how to live better quality lives form the Irish people. While I am a bit embarrassed by my own spoiled American tendencies, I am finding my self actively trying to fit in with the locals and becoming better for it. So, my advice to any Americans reading this blog is this- Saturday night, sit down without your cell phone to a nice dinner with those you care about. After a relaxed, non rushed dinner and conversation, sit down and download the free trial week of UFC Fight Pass if you don't already have it. Log in, scoot to the edge of your seat, and get ready for an amazing night of fights, highlighted by your very own Zak Cummings as he puts his hard work to the test against one of the best fighters Europe has to offer!
-Tyler "Melee" Minton