(Preamble: If you only came here to get info on how to watch the fight, scroll to the bottom of this post.)
I have been in Manila a little over 24 hours now, and I will be fighting in a little over 24 hours as well. It's the first time in about five years since I've been here. The last time I was here, I made the final table of the APPT event, so I saw nothing other than the hotel and the casino. The time before, I stayed at the house of a jiujitsu friend, and we shuttled back and forth between the competition and his family's mansion. So suffice it to say I'm not really knowledgeable about the city, nor am I now.
Brief (tourist) Manila observations
The best thing about Manila is certainly the people. Manila is not a top-tier city to visit, but Filipinos are great people. They are, in general, very friendly people, willing to go the extra mile with respect to hospitality. I contrast them with Thais, whom for the most part I've generally felt are more or less merely tolerant of first-world tourists rather than genuinely welcoming. (This is understandable; in my travels, I have seen some abhorrent treatment of people in developing countries at the hands of 1st worlders.)
Yet things are often confused and difficult and unnecessarily complex here. Exhibit one is from pretty much as soon as we landed. We obviously looked for an official taxi, but the lines were long. But apparently there are legitimate cab companies that are not allowed in the airport, but just hang around touting outside. In most developing countries, using one of these guys is an invitation to get ripped off. We probably did overpay, but the experience was pretty smooth once we decided that it was reasonably safe.
The ironic part was that the MMA promotion had actually sent someone to pick us up. The only problem? They neglected to actually inform me of this. Later that evening, once I was in the hotel, I got some facebook requests and messages from the people who intended to pick us up. Durr. One of the people there even contacted my teammate to say, "Terrence is a hard man to get a hold of," which is a bit confusing since I actually went to the trouble of getting a local SIM card so that I could be connected to mobile data/Facebook/e-mail/WhatsApp/etc. I'm like the easiest person to get a hold of, in general.
The hotel is acceptable but they also do lots of strange things; the check-in process is arduous and there is way too much paperwork involved. They asked me for my booking number because they had three people with the name Chan checking in that day and had no way of differentiating. I mean, c'mon, it's like one of the ten most popular surnames in existence. The other thing I find bizarre at the hotel is that there is a metal detector that you are required to enter through, but they do not make you swipe your key card to get to your floor. They also charge for misplaced room keys, which I think is silly since keys are almost always lost on the premises, and also cost next to nothing.
The supermarket across the street is also paranoid by most first-world standards. My girlfriend went to do some shopping for basic groceries. They had to call a manager over to make sure that it was okay that she bring a bag of already-purchased items into the store. Normally in developing countries, simply being a white woman is sufficient to get preferential treatment from security. (I don't consider this good thing; this is merely an observation.)
The weight cut
Priority #1 was dealing with the weight cut. I arrived in Manila on Thursday afternoon weighing about 133.8 lbs for a contracted fight weight of 125 (with one-pound allowance for scale variance). After a quick nap I headed down to the hotel spa to shed what I could before the Friday 10am weigh-in.
The spa itself is exceptional, although again laden with very random rules, although here at least most of the rules pertained to personal hygiene (most humourously, many many signs pertaining to not peeing in the shower). I was actually a little bit worried that if the cut did not go well, we would get kicked out of the spa. The place is not a spa like any in the Western world; rather it is more like what we would call a water park. In addition to the sauna, steam room, and hot tubs, it also featured an 8-lane lap pool, a lazy river, and a wide variety of massage jets. In another context, I would have enjoyed this place a great deal.
But weight cutting is always miserable, even in the best of contexts. For those who will never attempt it, is hard to explain what losing 8-15% of one's body weight in a few days does to a person. The feeling is vaguely similar to having a very bad flu. But imagine having the flu, and saying that you could end it at any time by just getting out of the heat and drinking some water. You would do so immediately, every time. That's why weight-cutting is as psychologically difficult as it is physically difficult. In theory, you could end the misery at any time. But the fight -- the fight that you have worked so hard for-- is over. You will have let your teammates and coaches down. You will be sneered at by opponents, and any media. You will be considered untrustworthy by the promotion and may not be offered future fights or important fights. And so it is that such a small percentage of fighters actually miss weight, in spite of how awful it feels and how dangerous it is for the body.
After four hours in the hot tubs and sauna (with breaks, not consecutive), I was down to 129 by the evening. I was hoping to sleep off a pound or two by sleeping in thick sweaters, but lost just 0.4 lbs in a night of sleep. To contrast, when I am fully hydrated, I usually lose 2.5-4 lbs in my sleep. The body will do amazing things to ensure its survival.
So at 6:30am, I went down to the sauna yet again. I emerged at 9am at 126.0 on my own personal scale, but 56.4 kg (124 lbs) on the sauna's scale. I figured that it was likely the official scale would be somewhere in between the two, and as it turned out, I was 125.4 officially. (Most promotions will allow you to get on the official scale beforehand so that you can compare it to your own, but unfortunately this didn't happen here.)
The weigh-in itself was fairly uneventful, though the promotion did their best to make it an "event", It was held in a market similar to Seattle's Pike Place or Vancouver's Granville Island markets, but much smaller. There was a smattering of local media; perhaps a dozen or so. At the event, we were told by the organization that they are "trying very hard" to raise their profile, get sponsorships, and so on. For this event, we are being paid $100, which does not include our flight here. They put us in a dirty $20/night love motel. I did not stay there but my teammate did the first night and he complained of hearing couples fucking through paper-thin walls, disgusting smelling toilets, and no soap or blankets even (!). In any case, UGB MMA say they are trying hard to be a little more "legit", and I believe them. Rome wasn't built in a day.
So, here is what I look like when I am 10% smaller than I normally am:
You'll likely agree that I cut more weight than my opponent. I usually fight up at 135 and am dwarfed by my opponents because I do not cut. (see here). This time I dehydrated down to 125 whereas my opponent didn't, so this time I have the big size advantage, especially in height. As I write this, I am 136.4 lbs; pretty close to what I weighed when the fight was confirmed last Monday.
Someone on Twitter asked me what weight I would have to get before I look as shredded (or emaciated) as Conor McGregor fighting at 145 lbs. McGregor's coach said he weighs around 178, so using that as a baseline, it puts his official weight at 81.5% of his actual weight. My regular weight is about 140, and 81.5% of that is 114 pounds. I think most people would not consider 114 lbs to be a healthy weight for a 5'7" man. (As an aside for the MMA fans, this is why I think it's silly/hyperbolic to say McGregor was fighting "up two weight classes". The man is gigantic at 145 and legitimately belongs at 155 if he values his longevity at all.)
That's all the observations I have for now, as it is time for dinner (yay!).
Once again, the fight will supposedly be streamed at WSOFGC.com. The event begins at 7pm Manila time on Saturday night, which is 4am Pacific, 7am Eastern, and 11am GMT, and I am the fifth fight of the night, so you can adjust ~60-90 minutes accordingly. I hope to put on a good show for you guys!