In memory of my dad (THE STARS ALIGN Jan 16th 2008)

THE STARS ALIGN Wednesday 16th January 2008. 9.15pm I was just leaving the gym after another day of classes and was heading to the old George, the AFC’s resident pub when I had a double take on a group of people out side the kebab shop. When you see someone that you know but don’t know your brain goes haywire, which was what happened because the group was BJ Penn and his training team!! I said hello and asked if I could have a photo with him! BJ being BJ said no problem, Simon took the photo with his phone and after I thanked him BJ was just about to walk away when he asked if we had just finished training because he was looking for a guy called John! You could have knocked me down with a white belt, BJ Penn was looking for me. BJ explained he was staying at an apartment block close to the gym away from the Marriott where the rest of the fighters are staying so that he can come and go as he pleases, and someone told him to come and see me for a private place to train, WOW. BJ, Rudi Valentine, Jason Parillo and Gary went back into the gym with me much to the surprise of the coaches still training! lee Mair was punching the speedball with his private class John and stared in disbelief as BJ walked past ( lee said the class went a bit wrong after BJ left , due to shock! ) After checking out the gym BJ said would it be possible to do his pre-fight prep for the Saturday’s lightweight championship fight at the metro arena against Joe Stevenson ( does the pope kiss tarmac) it would be an honour. After saying goodbye I went to the pub, high on the thought that BJ Penn was going to train at my gym, eager chatter turned into a sleepless night and a warning from my lovely wife Kerry to “GO TO SLEEP!” 4 year old John went to sleep, recounting the night over and over again. Morning came and a few phone calls to friends to tell them what happened had everyone buzzing but I had one problem, no one was allowed to watch but me!! NO ONE every thing had to be kept under wraps until fight night. What a secret! Thursday 17th January The day past slowly my mind kept drifting to the conversations of the previous evening, will they come? Or change their minds, do I ring them or do they ring me the usual mind games of adrenalin The clock turned to 8pm and I set off to the gym with no phone call! Kerry said not to be worried, but there is always is some doubt in your mind at great times in your life. I parked the car and just got out when my phone rang they would be there at 9pm!! Team Penn arrived on mass , kitted out and went through a full pre-fight prep and 5 x 5 minutes round of MMA sparring and a warm down , I sat with Gary ,BJ’s shiatsu expert and watch as if in a dream one of the best MMA and BJJ fighters in the world training and fighting in my gym. I chatted to Rudi about Master Hatsumi (my Ninjitsu grandmaster) as Rudi had met him in Hawaii, and he showed me Hawaiian traditional arts and I had one of the best nights of my life with a group of people that are so good together and have a strong bond together they inspired me! When we finished BJ gave me a BJ Penn top and I gave BJ an AFC top, and locked up the gym, while the team went for kebabs, BJ cutting weight could only look on!! He did ask after the fight on Saturday would the kebab shops still be open I said yes that brought a smile back on his face. Off they went down the street leaving me with my heart and head bursting again with emotion. Saturday January 19th Off to UFC 80 with my best friend Syd and his wife Lisa, wearing my top BJ gave me! (I was not going to wear it thinking I would look cheesy but Kerry said if someone asked where I got it from I can say BJ Penn!) BJ was great and won by stoppage! To top off a great few days. the reason for the title of the blog was that 16 years earlier my father died on the 16th of January 1992 at 9.15 pm the time I met BJ Penn outside my gym, is it fate , was it a fluke , all I think is thanks dad I love you !! x 7 years later BJ is still my hero but my first and last hero is my dad! Love you xxx

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