Words by Beccy Davies
Images courtesy of IMMAF’s Jorden Curren
This time last week I was getting ready to pack and finish off my training in Sofia Bulgaria, the country had played excellent host to a marvelous array of men and women from all over the world, from officials to fighters, we all came together with an abundance of respect for this sport we all love and support, MMA. This time I hadn’t come as either Commissioner or writer, I had been picked by Joe Clifford to train, learn and be part of a top team of Cuts people, under the watchful eye of himself and legend Bob Plant. A chance I couldn’t pass up or turn my back on, as Joe knew about the ongoing problems I have with my back, I appreciated the support and understanding Joe had and continues to have in me, during the week we were away.
So, off I went to my doctors and came back with double pain patches and painkillers, armed for a week of, to me what would be an absolute joy with people I hope will be my friends and colleagues for life. Here is my take on a week in the Bulgarian sunshine, doing what I love to do the most.
I had gone to Warrior Fight Series for the first time and enjoyed very much, on the Saturday with my friend Michaela Parker, and after catching up with my Addicted.OTR and BAMMA colleagues, Michaela had very kindly dropped me off to Gatwick, where I met up with MC Ricky Wright, his beautiful missus, timekeeper Rebeccha May Pinhorne and bearded extraordinaire Ryan Bassett, all Welsh (yes I include Becs in that) and at 6am Sunday morning we all flew off to Bulgaria, all very excited for the week ahead. I won’t bore you with the story of the yellow taxis at Sofia Airport but let’s just say we all learned a lesson that would set us in good stead for the week ahead and after being met at the beautiful Hotel Marinela reception by Gosha Malik, we were shown the layout and way to the events section, where we were immediately impressed as large white Marquees were set out, one as the entrance to the main section holding the cage and surrounding seating area.
Back at reception we were introduced to Steve Steele (a man I can only describe as a cross between Don Johnson and Jon Bon Jovi , he won’t hate me for saying that ) and a very regal Ralph Cook (a man I warmed to straight away as he had a moustache that reminded me of my father, and with a military background to boot) we all skipped off to a restaurant that became a favourite for most of us for the week, a place called ‘HAPPY’, that produced some happy meals that made us all very, well happy.
On the Monday I went off sightseeing with Team GB coach Nigel Burgess and GB fighter Alex Elsey to the centre of Bulgaria, where Nigel found a Russian army cap at a quaint market stall and thought it funny to take a pic of it on my head (If you knew the old me you would know why, I have slightly mellowed in my old age) and apart from the three of us getting lightly lost on the very confusing underground trains, we all made it back to the hotel in one piece.
I must point out at this stage that I felt very at home in this hotel, with many men in black attire, with earpieces, I had to keep reminding myself that I was retired from that job, but it was quite obvious that they were there to serve and protect many clients that may be staying at the hotel , with many beautiful , expensive cars outside , if we didn’t know we were in Bulgaria, we may have been mistaken for taking the wrong plane to St Tropez, especially with the beautiful sunshine that stayed with us all week.
The Tuesday was spent, on my part, of waiting for the rest of the cuts team to arrive. I had been especially eager to see Jessica Isaacson as we had met very briefly at Bamma, but spend a lot of time chatting on messenger and Jess has always offered her support toward me as a female in this sport, training to get to her level, one with lots of experience, so I knew, as we would be sharing a room and have similar personalities, we would get on, and we did. After meeting Jess, who along with fellow Irish colleagues Liam Bowes and Kevin Finn, were full of smiles and offers of help whenever needed, we all stuck together like glue with Italian Cutsman and one of the happiest, most delightful men I’ve met Angelo Tarantini and trainee Cutsman Paulo Benedito from Portugal. Once we were all together I felt all the pieces of the puzzle fitted perfectly and not once did any piece come away the time we were together. Joe Clifford did a great job matchmaking us all together, probably secretly knowing that Celts have similar traits.
As the week went on, I realised how much I loved hand wrapping. I was placed opposite Bob Plant, so took the time to watch and learn from the master, as fighters asked for Bob specifically, it was an absolute delight for me to watch, learn and get stuck in to what I would call an art form. I had spent 2 hours with Kevin Finn and Liam Bowes one night , drilling wrapping, taping and securing the hand wrap, so by the following morning I had found a new and more secure routine which made me even more confident , especially as most of the fighters I had wrapped had gone on to win their fights, resulting in me getting the nickname “Magic Hands “ (working all those years on the door had a different, negative nickname for my hands so it was amazing to get a more positive name). The highlight for me was Swedish fighter and Gold medalist Anton Turkalj asking for me to wrap his hands for his final battle after I had previously wrapped them days before. Meeting so many great fighters in their Amateur career was a real boost for me, on the days I felt not so good, watching this wealth of talent made me feel alive and happy and raring to go to give them the best I had at that immediate time. Seeing those happy Welsh faces of Ben Robson and Cameron Clarke, who always had that positive outlook no matter what, sparked me into a more positive mindset, with the same from Adam Amarasinghe who went on to win the Gold. I was annoyed I didn’t get to see Beckie Ainscough fight as the only female in Team GB, but we managed to catch a chat a couple of days after. I’m sure it was a sight to see as Doug Burch and myself hobbled our way through the weeks events as Doug has a similar problem to myself, we made it through unscathed…I think.
The week went on as fighters fought tough battles, officials worked impeccably, tears were spilt, drinks were spilt, decisions made, sleep was fought for, group meals were had with great company, and then it was Sunday, the final day and the day of mine and Paulo’s exam. Now those who know me, know I’m always very tough on myself and exams are and never have been my strong point, but there we were, up early and raring to go to get it over with. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, something I always get after every exam. If there were an exam for hindsight, I would definitely pass, anyway we took part in a written and practical exam, the practical I found easier than the written but only because I have “Magic Hands “(Just kidding) and when completed, I took myself off to a room where no one could find me and had a moment, one of those moments where you realise you put down the wrong answers and want to beat the shit out of yourself. No excuses for meds making you too sleepy etc., they were the wrong answers, so after composing myself and looking like a bloody mess, I returned to the scene of the crime to find Andreas Georgiou waiting to video interview me on my escapades as a Cutswoman.I do apologise to his audiences for looking like I had been in a war with Cyborg but in my defence, I’m nearly 50 and can’t compose myself in a time span of 10 minutes, more like 10 hours.
As I had been happy wrapping and taping out the back all week, I was able to finish my last wrap, Anton Turkalj, then join Joe Clifford cage side to watch the final 5 fights. The atmosphere in the events marquee was electric as the supporters from many a country sang to the tune of glory as their chosen fighter fought their heart out to either victory or loss. The bout between GBs Adam Amarasinghe and Portugal’s Mario Moreno showed so much heart and passion between the two fighters, it was a pleasure to witness, with the vast amount of respect between the two as closure with Moreno taking the Silver and Amarasinghe taking the Gold, with the familiar tones of Welsh MC ,Mr Ricky Wright rounding up the events for the week, . I must apologise to everyone for not attending the final party on the Sunday night, as the week and meds had taken its toll on me. I found myself fighting sleep at the dinner table, so had to admit defeat and go to bed just as you lot were getting started, but hope I was there in spirit. Then there was the time at the Airport but we won’t go into that. Let’s just say hangovers were there in full swing, but didn’t follow us back home.
So, to wrap this up (no pun intended) the whole week was a massive learning curve for me, special thanks to Jess for being my support system in every way, with no ego we laughed and found a common ground and hope we will always be friends my Irish pal. Liam, Kevin, Angelo, you all helped me more than you all know and I thank you all greatly. Bob Plant (Lone Wolf) Legend in all you say and do. Joe Clifford, you are a trailblazer, you don’t cut corners and the support I have had off you daily has been spot on. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, the hard work has now begun thanks to your guidance and patience.
I am sure each of you have your own memories of this time in Bulgaria, so I hope you enjoy mine.
Glad to have made all your acquaintances and hope we all meet again on this journey we call MMA LIFE.