I just a spent nine days in Rio and am home for about 48 hours before I head off to Salt Lake City. After a 16-hour travel day that stretched two continent and multiple time zones, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the last week and a half. It was an amazing trip, but it was a whirlwind. Not only that, it was punctuated by moments of such surreality that it’s hard to process it all.
Here’s what I mean.
Surreal moment 1:
Ronda winning another world title. We went down to Brazil to watch my sister Ronda’s world title fight. In the last five years, she’s risen through the ranks of MMA to become almost unarguably the most dominant athlete in the world. (Sports Illustrated even ran a cover story saying as much.) I’ve been to every single one of her UFC title fights except for the one before this fight (because I had a weeks old baby). You would think we’d be used to this whole craziness by now. You’re wrong. It’s the same feeling of nervousness and the same elation when she wins every time. Then we’re rushed in the cage where we hug her and jump up and down, and we’re rushed through in a throng of security as people scream Ronda’s name – and it is still very much surreal.
Surreal moment 2:
The penthouse suite of the Copacabana Palace Hotel. We always had enough food to eat growing up, but there were years where things we tough. My stepdad was in the hospital for a long time and then he died. We lived in this crappy rental house where the floor kind of sloped and things were always falling apart in a town of 15,000. It was, let’s just say, less than ideal. And now, literally half a world away we’re staying in a two-bedroom, four-bathroom penthouse with two butlers and a semi-private pool in the nicest hotel in Rio (a city of 6.5 million), ordering room service and staring at the ocean.
Surreal moment 3:
Christ the Redeemer. Whenever I travel, I always try to see the one real touristy thing in the city if it has one. For example, when I went to Athens in 2004, I made sure to go to the Acropolis. (I missed the Alamo when I was in San Antonio last year though!) When we were going to Rio, I said that we had to go to Christ the Redeemer, so we did. As with every time, I go see the must-see attraction, I was pleased I did.
Surreal moment 4:
It’s a small word. I was sitting on the exercise bike at the Sheraton gym the day before the fight when I turned and saw a woman looking at me like, “What the hell?” And I immediately without being able to place her, found myself thinking the same thing. Then I tried to wrap my brain around who it was and where I had seen her before. It was one of those moments where you’re seeing a person so out of the element where you usually see them that you just can’t process it. I racked my brain: Did she work for the UFC? (We were at the event hotel.) Did she work at the hotel? I definitely know her. Why do I know her? Then it dawned on me. She is my next-door neighbor – from home! It turned out her boyfriend (my other next-door neighbor – we say “Hi!” to them, but we’re not close – they are cordial to us, but we have three kids and a dog, and they are single and quiet) works for a production company that worked for the UFC. He was coming to Brazil for work, so she joined him. And here we were running into each other in a hotel gym in Rio. We marveled at what a small world it is. And it was just another reminder of how random and unexpected life really is.