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Pierce explains travel woes
The rigor of traveling long distance is something every fighter in the UFC will experience at some point in his or her career.
Whether it's a delayed flight, missing a trip to the airport, waking up late, a hotel room not being comfortable or any other number of reasons, traveling can be a quick, easy affair or it can end up feeling like a long trip to a prison stay if things don't go accordingly.
UFC welterweight Mike Pierce has seen every corner of the United States during his fight career, and has also traveled overseas to places like Australia when that's where the promotion asks him to compete. His latest bout will take place at UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Shields in Sao Paolo Brazil, but Pierce's travel experiences for this excursion just landed him a whopper of a tale to tell when he gets back home in a week.
"I've traveled a lot. The middle east, I've traveled to Australia, I've traveled to a lot of different places and this has been by far the worst traveling experience I've had so far," Pierce told FOX Sports by phone will still awaiting a flight to Brazil on Saturday.
It all started after he landed in Houston for his connecting flight to Brazil on Friday. He was flying out about five days prior to the fight, which is fairly normal timing for the athletes to arrive at an international destination. Pierce and his coach Phil Claud boarded the plane ready for the multi-hour trip to Sao Paolo when the problems started to mount.
"We got there and our flight originally was at 9 o'clock and it got delayed till 11, which is cool whatever," Pierce explained. "Then we get on the plane finally and right off the bad it's hot inside, which wasn't a big deal but they're like 'oh, yeah there's something wrong with our AC, maintenance is going to take a look at the plane and figure it out'. They delayed it two or three different times.
"We had to be on the plan for at least two or two and a half hours before they finally made up their minds that they were going to cancel the flight and the pilot was uncomfortable piloting the plane to Sao Paolo."
So Pierce and company exited the plane after sitting there for over two hours just waiting to take off. Sweaty and uncomfortable from sitting in an airplane seat for that long, Pierce just wanted to get some sleep because it was obvious he wasn't getting to Brazil on Friday.
Back in the airport, the former Portland State wrestler became even more agitated as he waited and waited and waited some more for airline officials to finally give the passengers the necessary information so they could plan for a hotel stay for the night until they could catch a flight the next day.
"So we all unboarded the plan and then waited literally until about 4am to get our hotel vouchers and all that stuff and get shuttled out to the Hilton waiting to catch another flight," Pierce said.
As of Saturday, Pierce was still sitting in the Houston Hilton, awaiting the time when he could catch his 9pm flight out to Brazil. It's not a pleasant experience to hurry up and wait at airports and random hotels for days on end when a fight in front of thousands of fans against a very tough opponent lie ahead, but Pierce has done his best to not let the situation get him down.
"I'm just trying to stay positive," Pierce said. "Right now I'm still in the states so that's good, I don't have to worry about anything in the water and just doing my normal thing as if I was in Brazil. The schedule for me has been the same, pretty much. The only thing that's been a hindrance has been the delay and that whole episode of trying to get our flight handled."
There are fighters on the UFC roster who will openly discuss how much they despise being booked for international events. The many hours spent on planes added to the struggles of finding the right foods while trying to plan for weigh-ins coupled with huge time differences can make it a pretty uneasy experience for an athlete who is expected to perform at peak condition come fight night regardless of how the last few days have gone for them.
Pierce won't be rash about this situation, however, because traveling is just part of the deal he signed up for when he wanted to be a UFC fighter. If a bad flight and travel misery is enough to knock you off your game, according to Pierce, maybe the UFC isn't the place for you.
"This is part of the business," Pierce said. "I heard something from somebody that the UFC's got quite a few more shows overseas and I think a lot of them in Brazil for 2014 so it's just the evolution of the sport, especially with the UFC. People are either going to have to get used to it, deal with it, or just fight somewhere else."
Arriving in Brazil won't make things much easier for Pierce either. He's been called the welterweight Chael Sonnen for the way he's attacked Brazilian fighters in the media, and openly flaunted a desire to beat the country's best inside the Octagon.
So after all of his travel misery he will be greeted with a chorus of chants and death threats from the Brazilian crowd, but strangely enough that's the moment when Pierce is in his element. He actually feeds off of the negative energy so he encourages the Brazilian masses to scream bloody murder for 15 full minutes if that's how long he's in the Octagon.
It's going to make a win taste that much sweeter.
"I'm expecting nothing but the best boos and hate speeches, but in Portuguese so I won't understand it. I'm sure I'm going to get a great reception, which is cool," Pierce said. "I'm cool with that. It's only going to put a smile on my face. This will be very sweet when I get my hand raised at the end of the night."
Getting his hand raised means Pierce will have to go through recently converted middleweight Rousimar Palhares, who makes his first trip down to 170 pounds for this fight. With all of the delays, missed flights and late night stays at hotels just trying to get to Brazil, could this come back to bite Pierce when he steps into the Octagon with Palhares?
Well, let's just say it's not making Pierce any less confident on the surface at least.
"He's got one trick and that's leg locks, big deal," Pierce said about Palhares. "I'm ready for it, I'm prepared for it and he's going to get knocked out so I don't care."
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