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One Epic Weekend - Connor McGregor to Motocross of Nations

From the biggest UFC fight to the largest motocross race in the world. What could go wrong?

One Epic Weekend - Connor McGregor to Motocross of Nations

Sometimes a series of events comes together so perfectly that you just have to take full advantage of them… (and if you don't like reading, just scroll to the bottom for a timeline of this trip).

That pretty much describes my last weekend.

First, a little back-story though. Ever since 2005 at Ernee, I've attended the Motocross of Nations and I’m not going to lie, they have all been awesome. This year had obviously been announced as taking place at RedBud in Michigan and I was excited to see the square-off between Jeffrey Herlings and Eli Tomac. Flights had been booked, rental cars sorted and hotels scouted out. It was all coming together nicely.

Standard Strip shot.

Then while at Lommel, I received some distressing news… Conor McGregor’s UFC comeback was scheduled for Las Vegas on October 6th. Now I’m a pretty big UFC fan, having been to events in Vegas, Dublin, and Liverpool before and knowing that he was fighting on Saturday night at a Motocross of Nations would inevitably mean I’d miss it, either because of work, or because I’d be in the middle of a campsite field somewhere.

I was pretty bummed out about it, but then the mate that told me the news gave me a spark of inspiration that set forth the whole series of events that would eventually see me not only going to the Motocross of Nations at RedBud, but also UFC229 in Las Vegas.

Now when you plan something as ambitious as this, you are going to need a bit of luck and thankfully, for the most crucial element of this whole trip, I did. For some reason, Spirit Airlines run a flight out of Las Vegas at 12:34 on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, which arrives into Chicago at 6:08 am. It was literally the perfect time for me. An hour earlier and I wouldn’t be able to watch the McGregor fight (aka the main reason for going) because I’d need to be at the airport. An hour or two later and there'd be no chance I could make it from Chicago to RedBud in time to watch all the main events.

With my flights booked, it was just left to convince my friend to join me for the Vegas portion of the trip. That took about one Whatsapp message and a short time after that, he had his flights sorted from London. It would be his first time in Sin City, so the plan was to both arrive Thursday and try and see a bit of Vegas before spending the Saturday in the T-Mobile Arena for the fight. Another genius move on my part saw me give him some clothes, so that I could just travel in the stuff I was wearing, meaning a quick getaway and a swift passage through the airport post-fight.

This was the crowd just for the weigh-ins!

And that’s basically what we did. We hit up numerous casino bars and restaurants during the day, including the UFC weigh-ins, which we hadn’t planned, but we happened to be in the neighborhood. We did however book tickets for Steve Aoki in Omnia nightclub for Friday night, just to really cement the Vegas experience and do a bit more than just drink in random places.

Steve Aoki puts on one helluva show.

On Saturday morning though, despite two horrible nights of jet-lagged sleep, we headed off the arena, to soak in the atmosphere and prepare for the biggest night in UFC history. With plenty of Irish coming over for the fight, all the bars were packed and everyone was of course in good spirits. Whilst chilling at a bar, I whipped out my phone and tried to keep up to date with MXoN qualifying, just so I had some clue what was happening at RedBud, but really my attention was on the UFC.

Of course, everyone has probably seen the result by now and the crazy aftermath to McGregor’s loss, but the whole card was actually pretty awesome with 10 finishes from 12 fights (if my memory serves me correctly). Being a fan of the sport, more than a fan of McGregor, I didn’t mind the result and I was in fact more worried about getting out of there in time to catch my fight (and not getting involved in any of the other fights kicking off). My last visual of the ring saw McGregor clinging to Khabib’s afro hair wig thing while about 10 people tried to grab it off him. I couldn’t afford to stick around for too long though as every Uber driver I’d used over the weekend told me it would be chaos trying to get a ride after the fight and I daren’t miss my flight.

Nosebleed seats, but it really didn't matter. The atmosphere was amazing.

Thankfully, I made it before the masses and got to the airport in plenty of time. As I was only bringing the clothes I was wearing, I swept through all the checks with my boarding pass nicely loaded onto my phone. The 50-minute wait until boarding was possibly the longest of my life as I was now crashing pretty hardcore. The lack of sleep really caught up to me at this point, so as soon as I got on the plane, my head touched the headrest and that was it until I awoke upon landing in Chicago. Unfortunately, I was at the very back row, so getting off the plane took ages, which combined with my rental shuttle being late, meant that getting out of the airport took a bit longer than I'd hoped. Still, by 7:00 am I was on the road and heading towards Michigan, with hopes that my two-hour drive would see me arrive in plenty of time.

And just as it looked like the final part of this weekend would be a smooth one, I hit a couple of roadblocks. The first one being the extremely annoying placement of a timezone change on the Michigan border, meaning that instead of arriving at 9:00 am (and maybe having a quick powernap before racing), I’d be arriving at 10:00 am. Then that 10:00 am became even later because I was informed by my fellow journalists that B Parking was a complete write-off and I’d have to find somewhere else to park. So it ended up being around 10:30 by the time I’d hitchhiked into the track (thanks to whoever it was who gave me the lift) and walked through the warzone campsite.

Not the way I hoped RedBud would look when I eventually arrived.

As annoying as that was, I was still pretty pleased to have made it in plenty of time (even got to watch the B Final) and soak in what turned out to be another pretty awesome Motocross of Nations. Much like the UFC, you all know the result and have dissected every little thing about it, but while I work in the industry, on occasions like this I am still just a massive fan. Much like my ‘A Year in MX’ in 2007, this was an ambitious plan, but one that ended up working out almost perfectly and while I’m not quite on Tanel Leok’s level, I am proud to have increased my MXoN streak to 14 years in a row and chucked in the biggest UFC event ever on the same weekend.

Race time!

What have I done since then? Sleep.

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Thanks for reading about my little trip and I hope you all had a good weekend with a whole load of good stories, whether you were camping at RedBud or chilling at home with some brewskis and a couple of mates. The Motocross of Nations is always a crazy weekend and I truly hope a lot of people make the trip over to Assen for 2019 or Ernee for 2020. If you're a motocross fan, I promise you won't forget it.

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TL;DR rundown of my weekend:

Wednesday, 3rd October
17:40 – Arrive into Chicago airport
19:00 – Rent car, in order to leave my stuff in while I travelled to Vegas and to quicken Sunday morning procedures

Thursday, 4th October
07:40 – Fly to Vegas after a jet lag-riddled sleep
09:39 – Arrive in Vegas, check out the T-Mobile Arena and grab some food
13:30 – Check into the awesome Days Inn by Wyndham hotel (nearest and cheapest option)
17:00 – Head back to the airport to get my mate who arrived
17:46 – Grab the first of many drinks…

Friday, 5th October
04:30 – Wake up after another bad night of sleep (jet lag/alcohol combo)
05:00 – Denny’s breakfast before deciding that hair of the dog was the best approach
08:10 – Hair of the dog fully initiated
14:00 – Checked out the UFC weigh-ins
16:45 – First time up Stratosphere
22:01 – Head into Omnia

Saturday, 6th October
03:30 – Leave Omnia
05:50 – Wake up after once more suffering with jet lag
07:00 – Denny’s breakfast before once again deciding that the hair of the dog was the best approach
12:10 – Drinks in New York New York, whilst checking out MXoN qualifying results on my phone
14:30 – Enter into T-Mobile Arena to watch UFC 229
21:20 – Get slightly nervous about how late the McGregor fight was starting, but totally pumped about the other fights
22:05 – McGregor taps, pandemonium breaks out
22:10 – Swiftly walk to the Uber pickup point
22:21 – Get the Uber and head to the airport
22:45 – Walk through security and try and stay awake for about 50 mins before boarding commences

Sunday 7th October
00:34 – Flight leaves Vegas
05:38 – After approx. 3.5 hours sleep, we arrive in Chicago
06:40 – Shuttle finally arrives to take me to my rental car
07:01 – I’m on the road
08:30 – Lose one hour crossing from CST into EST
10:35 – Park the rental car, hitchhike into the track and reach my final destination: REDBUDDDDDD

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