Letter from Abu Dhabi II

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There was an open “training session” with the fighters in the hotel this morning. But my eyes first cracked open at 10am, I rolled over and only woke up again at 1:30 pm, knocked out by jetlag. I was wide awake as the fighters took to rest, and we went off to shop. Fruit shopping.

At the wholesale market, we found white guava, and I managed the feat of introducing a fruit – perhaps the best one of all – to a specialist on the subject, Rilion Gracie. Mangosteen. In the USA, I only found it in a catalog at a market in Brooklyn; in Brazil, during a very short window of time, you just might find it. But a box of eight (each fruit is the size of a prune) costs around 50 reais. We grabbed a box of 12 for 60 reais and ate six (boxes) right then and there.

UFC publicity in Abu Dhabi mall. Photo: Luca Atalla

Rilion put away a tub of date honey, and we bought a kilo each to take home, guaranteed to sweeten our acai for a good while. On our return, he tells me a bit about the morning training session, and the encounter between Renzo and Hughes:

“The two had a long embrace and Renzo said it was an honor to fight him,” he recounted. And I was thinking of how Renzo was able to break the hostile paradigm of his opponents in the tense lead-up to a showdown, when the colossal presidential palace imposed itself on our view and thoughts, looming over Comiche Avenue, bathed in the turquoise blue of the Persian Gulf.

Back at the hotel, I caught Renzo’s 10-minute escape training, all based on hip movements; Frank Edgar’s warm-up, which tires me out just watching it; and, in the other room, the final minute of Demian’s fourth round. The challenger to the under-185 lbs title spent a further few minutes going over situations with Xande Ribeiro, and end of activities.

Warm-up of Frank Edgar, challenger to BJ's belt. Photo: Luca Atalla

In the restaurant, Hughes had already finished dinner, and his chair sat a few centimeters away from the round table where the rest of the troop was seated, his gaze fixed downwards. He wasn’t sad, just entertained by his cell phone in an exchange of text messages.

Minutes later, backpack on his shoulders, André Galvão showed up looking lost. Demian invited him to take a seat right away, and warned him he should hurry, the buffet would close in minutes. He hugged his former teammate but politely declined the invitation, saying he had to find Joinha (manager Jorge Guimaraes) and took off. The two who represented the same Jiu-Jitsu academy for years, are in opposing camps, André being one of Anderson’s helpers, in Jiu-Jitsu.

Nothing from that encounter (in 2005) counts now; we’re both totally different fighters” Demian Maia

The previous day I’d asked Demian what he thought about that, and he used the word “funny”, but in the sense of “ironic”. Nevertheless, he made it clear he understood completely and agreed with the direction MMA was taking.

I further queried whether, in the exchanges in which he partook, he had trained with Anderson, since he is such a good friend of Rodrigo Minotauro.

Demian trains for Anderson with Xande. Photo: Luca Atalla

“Not as of late. We trained once in 2005, when I was starting to do MMA, at a time when Léo (Vieira) was helping Vitor (Belfort). One day Anderson showed up there, and we did a standup session where he only hit me with his lead hand. Then we went to the ground. He was a brown belt, and I don’t think anything from that encounter counts now; we’re both totally different fighters now.”

Perhaps this second letter would have had more about Anderson, and something about BJ, were it not for jetlag. I promised that tomorrow I’d make up for that, but that was the first time I wrote this article. And that was before the internet dealt me a white belt sweep kick, and I lost everything. This is the second version, worse than the first, I confess. And it’s already four in the morning. So let me eat my mangosteens. And good night.

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