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  • A Day in the Life of a Fight Commentator by Daniel Austin

     

    I stick the plastic card in the slot and the lights come on automatically. As I walk towards the bed the heavy door closes behind me with a thud. I sit down on the bed and take a deep breath. I try to remember everything I need to do before I go to sleep for two, maybe three hours: pack my suit, pack my bag, eat the rest of that sandwich, take a shower, set the alarm.

    It’s a hotel I’ve been in several times before. Not the same room, maybe not even on the same floor, but the same hotel. It’s always the same hotel when we’re in this town. And it’s a good hotel. The breakfast is especially good. They’ve got those expensive, colorful cheeses that everyone looks at longingly under the glass at the cheese counter in the supermarket, but never buys. But I won’t even be able to eat it tomorrow (or is it “today” already?) because my flight is too early.

    I’m trying to figure out when exactly I need to wake up in order to make that flight. It’s a 6:30 AM flight. In the early morning hours there’s no traffic so you can get to the airport in about 15 or 20 minutes. And it’s a small airport, so getting through security and passport control won’t take too long. I’ve already got my boarding pass printed, so I don’t have to waste time standing in line while other people check in their bags. All I got with me is my carry-on and my garment bag with my suit.

    There’s still a slight ringing in my ears from the headphones I’d been wearing for five hours. My mind is tired, but thoughts are still racing through it and there’s still adrenaline pulsing through my body. In the main event, a guy got knocked out pretty bad. He fell slowlly like a tree falling in the forest and his head bounced off the ring like a basketball. His girlfriend or wife or whoever she was, tried to get in the ring, but security and EMT's wouldn't let her. Her screams were horrifying. He didn't hear any of them.

    Okay, so I figure if boarding starts at 6:00, I should be at the airport at by 4:30. So if I leave the hotel at 4:00, I should have plenty of time. So I will set my alarm for 3:45. When I wake up, I’ll pack my phone charger in my bag, finish what’s left of the water in this bottle, get dressed and just go right to the lobby as soon as possible. Then I’ll be able to get in the car by 4:00, get to the airport by 4:30, go straight to security and passport control, grab something to eat and chill for an hour or so before boarding starts.

    What time is it now? 1:30 already? Fuck. That gives me only two hours and fifteen minutes to sleep. I guess I’ll take a quick shower now anyway. It will help me relax and I’ll sleep better.

    As I lay my head on the pillow, I repeat the whole plan in my head again several times, trying to think of any possible way I might be able to get even a few more minutes of sleep. Maybe if I just hit the snooze button for like 10 minutes … nah, it won’t make a difference anyway. 10 minutes doesn’t do anything. I’ll just try to doze off in the car on the way to the airport.

    A feeling of confusion quickly sets in as I lay there in the pitch black room. I still can’t see anything. The sun’s not up. I don’t have my glasses on. Where am I? This isn’t my bed. Which city am I in? What country am I in? What’s going on? I have a flight! What time? SHIT! I’m late!! What time is it? The promoter’s going to kill me! I’m going to have to pay for another flight myself and I don’t even have enough money on me to buy another ticket. Shit, shit, SHIT!!

    I rip the blanket off me, jump out of bed and scramble to find my phone in the dark. The phone’s light is blinding. All I can do is squint through one eye to try to deal with it. It’s 2:54 AM. I’ve only been asleep for about an hour. I’m still in the same hotel. I’m still in the same city. I’m still in the same country. I didn’t miss my flight. Just go back to sleep, dumbass. This is the second time this has happened this year. I take another deep breath, get back into bed and lay my head back on the pillow. This bed is amazing. I wish I could sleep in a bed like this every night. I pull the blanket over me again and snuggle down into the bed and go back to sleep.

    After some time I wake up again. This time I know where I am and what’s going on. I squint thorough the blinding light once again to see it’s now 3:35. My alarm is going to go off in exactly 10 minutes. Oh, well. So, let it go off then.

    I close my eyes and I immediately fall back into that dream I was just having, the same exact dream. It’s like it just picks up right where it had left off, seamlessly, as if I had never even woken up. Then the alarm goes off. I’m not upset. I just get up, get dressed, drink what’s left of the water in that bottle, pack my phone charger into my bag, scan the room one last time for anything I may have missed and go downstairs to the lobby. The driver is waiting. I’m a few minutes early. We’re waiting for an Italian fighter and his coach.

    My flight arrives at about 11:00. I have no idea who’s going to pick me up at the airport. Hopefully someone will be there when I walk through the doors at the arrivals hall. I really hope someone is there with a sign or something or I see a face I recognize.

    There’s no worse feeling in the world than arriving at an airport in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and you know not many people are going to speak English and there’s absolutely no one there to greet you. I mean, I’ll get to the next hotel eventually, but in the meantime … you’re just stuck. And that sucks.

    I walk through the doors, half hopeful that there will be a familiar face. I walk slowly to my left and scan the crowd. Nobody. I stop and walk to the other end, still scanning, but also doing my best to pretend that I am one of those people that is walking straight to their car and going home. How embarrassing is it to be that person that doesn’t have anyone to pick them up? How disappointing. Typical, right? I guess I’m going to be here for a while.

    The show isn’t until tomorrow, so at least tonight I can get a good night’s sleep. Somebody will pick me up from the airport eventually and we’ll go directly to the weigh-ins. At the weigh-ins I’ll meet the next group of fighters standing around in their underwear, trying to intimidate each other, most of them malnourished, dehydrated and trying not to show how impatient and irritated they are.

    After the weigh-ins we’ll all go to a restaurant where the fighters will finally get to eat the first decent meal they’ve had in weeks. Then I have the rest of the day to myself. I’ll sit at the desk in my hotel room, take out my laptop and my notes and finish researching the fighters I haven’t already researched. Then the fun starts all over again.

    Blood in the ring, blood on my notes, searching the arena for a cup of coffee. A guy’s nose gets broken, but he wants to continue the fight. The doctor says “no” and stops the fight anyway. The fighter is pissed off. He’s been training for this for months.

    A coach throws in the towel when the only thing keeping his fighter vertical is the ropes. A guy gets kicked in the head full force and everyone in the arena can hear the crack of a shin bone colliding with a skull. The fighter smiles, showing his blood stained mouth guard and bottom row of teeth, then nods at his opponent and touches gloves with him. The fight continues.

    I stand in the center of the ring looking at the stage as the next fighter’s music hits. Smoke shoots up into the air, lights are flashing and people are starting to stand up. As he walks out onto the stage, this is his moment of truth. For him, now he finally knows what it’s like to come face to face with his biggest fear. He’s living out, right now, his childhood fantasy of being a real life Rocky Balboa.

    For me, it’s my 27th event of 2019. I’ve heard this same exact walk out music at least fifteen times so far this year. It’s not even the first time I’ve heard it this week. I’m not impressed at all. But as he approaches the ring and steps through the ropes I can sense his emotions. I can see the expression on his coach’s face. I can respect everything he’s had to sacrifice to be here right now. He sticks out his glove and I stick out my fist.

     


    This is the life of a fight commentator.

     

     

    2019 was a wild ride. It was my busiest year so far.

     

    Number of events: 36

    Number of fights I did commentary for: 462 (only live, not including in-studio commentary)

    Number of fights I did ring announcing for: 93

    Number of countries worked in: 13

    Number of promotions work for: 8

    Number of flights: 103

    Most kilometers travelled in one weekend: 5,200 km

    Some guest commentators I worked with: Artur Kyshenko, Regian Eersel, Tarik Khbabez, Manuel Charr, Peter Aerts, Zabit Samedov, Christian Eckerlin


    Thank you to everyone I worked with this year - everyone at FightBox, all the promoters, all the fighters, all the production teams, all the referees, ring announcers, coaches, flight attendants and pilots and everyone else who has supported me. I think I’ve got the best job in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m not sure what 2020 will bring, but I’ll be ready for it!


    - Daniel Austin

     

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