This is my first blog as my partner Amanda and I took two months away from our regular lives and escape the Australian winter to chase the sun in Europe (Via Thailand and New Zealand) and train Brazilian jiu jitsu!
We have recently returned from our trip and now I will get stuck into writing about it!
A bit about us:
My name James and I am from New Zealand and Amanda is Irish but we both live in Sydney, Australia. Amanda began her training a few months ago while I have been training for several years.
A quick trip home before the journey begins:
The first leg of the trip to Europe involved a quick trip for myself to go back home to Christchurch, New Zealand. Since I had quit my job to go travelling I thought why not take a quick trip home to see some friends and family? The fact that there would be a UFC event only an hour flight away in Auckland also made the decision to pop home an easy one.
While I was home I had the opportunity to visit the new facility of the gym I used to train at before I made the move to Aus. Famous in New Zealand for being one of the toughest MMA gyms in the country, the gym formerly known as Strikeforce had relocated to a larger facility joining forces with a muay thai and a BJJ club named Groundworx.
The first thing I noticed when I walked through the doors of the new gym was how absolutely freezing it was. The temperature did not change when walking inside from outside, in fact I think it got colder! Christchurch in the middle of winter can be a cold place, especially when you have got used to the warm climate in Sydney. The whole reason Amanda and I had decided to go to Europe at this time of the year was to escape Winter, and here I was standing in the middle of a gym in Christchurch with toes that felt like they were about to get frost bite.
One of the great things about jiu jitsu is the friends you make. Being back home I was looking forward to testing myself against one of my old training partners and good friends Anthony. The last time I had trained with him was about a year prior and he mopped the floor with me. I had been training extremely hard in Sydney ever since and I was looking forward to seeing if I had managed to close the gap.
We paired up during the class and after doing some drills it was time to roll. Finally, here it was, time to see if I had bridged the gap compared to the last time we trained together. Time to see if all the hours I had put in over the last year would amount to a more competitive roll with my good friend. I knew he had been training hard too, I knew it was going to be an intense roll – they always were.
Because of the limited space on the mat we started from our knees, we slapped hands, bumped fists, it was time to roll. Anthony fell to his backside, willing to play guard. I pushed ever so slightly on his knee, looking to pass, “here we go” I thought to myself, let’s see if I can pass his guard. Within seconds of me looking to pass we both heard a pop. I immediately backed off as Anthony grabbed his knee in pain. ‘Ah fuck’ I thought to myself.
Anthony’s knee had turned the wrong way and an old injury had been aggravated. I went and grabbed him some ice as he sat on the side of the mat unable to roll. While Anthony iced his knee we both talked about how much we had been looking forward to testing ourselves against one another. Ah well, maybe next year then!
UFC in Auckland
After spending five days or so in Christchurch it was time to head up to Auckland to watch the UFC where New Zealand’s greatest ever athlete Mark Hunt would take on Derrick Lewis in the main event.
As an avid mixed martial arts fan, I was extremely excited about heading to Auckland for a live event. Not only were some of my favourite fighters from New Zealand and Australia competing, but 17 of my friends from Christchurch were making the journey up with me.
The weekend got extremely boozy as it was the first time in many years that this many of us had got together. After a heavy night on the piss the boys were up bright and early extremely excited to watch some hand throwing. For many of them it was their first live UFC experience and the fights lived up to the hype!
The highlight of the card was seeing all the New Zealanders win.
Luke Jumeau from Hamilton impressed in his octagon debut and Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker proved that he belonged in the lightweight division knocking out the durable veteran Ross Pearson with a vicious knee. In the main event Kiwi legend Mark Hunt got the 10th knockout victory of his career when he battered Derrick Lewis.
A great thing about the UFC is the accessibility of its athletes to the fans. During the weekend and after the fights we got to meet a number of the fighters including former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
After the fights we went to Dan Hooker’s after party where a large number of the Kiwi and Aussie fighters were celebrating. It never ceases to amaze me how much time these guys have for their fans. They are more than willing to have a chat and give an insight to their lives as elite athletes and professional fighters.
The weekend up in Auckland ended up being a bit of a whirlwind. While it would have been great to get some training in, there was little chance of that when I had so many friends wanting to get stuck in at the pub.
It was a great weekend away with my mates from high school who had not been together in such numbers for many years.
After a fun filled week back home in New Zealand it was time to head back to Sydney, link back up with Amanda and head to Phuket for a 6 day stop before we head to Europe!
Follow on Instagram : j.averis