April 29, 2011
For Trevor Fitzgerald, the chance of a lifetime all started with a little luck and a ballsy request.
On Friday afternoon, the 35-year-old waited in line at a fan expo in Toronto's Direct Energy Centre with an unlikely question for UFC president, Dana White.
For 45 minutes, Fitzgerald listened as the folks in front of him graciously thanked White for bringing the UFC to Ontario - then promptly treated him like Santa Claus.
Some asked for better seats. Some begged for tickets. One pleaded for the shirt off Georges St-Pierre's back. Yet, most settled for a funny photo next to the top boss, who cleverly sported a Toronto Maple Leafs T-shirt.
But when Fitzgerald finally got his shot at the microphone, he offered up an idea that was perhaps the most outrageous.
He started with a playful jab, telling White that it always seems as though he has trouble putting championship belts on his fighters after events.
It's the belts, White explained. They just don't snap. So, they've switched to Velcro to make it easier on him.
Then, Fitzgerald went for all the marbles.
"After Georges St-Pierre beats down Jake Shields," Fitzgerald started, to immediate cheers. "Can I have the honour of the putting the championship belt around his waist?"
The question seemed to daze White for a moment.
"That's a tough request," the president said. "But f*ck it, I'll do it."
The place erupted. Disbelieving fans could be heard shouting, "Are you kidding me?" And moments later, Fitzgerald was near the stage sharing his cell number with White's bodyguard so that they can set this whole thing up.
For Fitzgerald, it's an absolute dream come true.
The father of two from Fort Frances, Ont. (population: 9,000 or so) had told his buddy, Jeff Wright, that this was his plan all along. He'd heard that the UFC president was prone to moments of bold generosity and always puts fans first.
"I just thought ‘what the hell?,'" said Fitzgerald. "He may just say yes."
The fact that Fitzgerald is even going to one of the biggest sporting events in North America is a testament to his good fortune.
When he considered buying tickets months ago, his wife, Corrina, reminded him that his five-year-old daughter Emily has a dance recital on Sunday. In short, she said he couldn't go.
But when his name was drawn in a raffle at his local Boston Pizza - two tickets, a hotel room and airfare - his better half was singing a different tune.
"My wife just said that I was obviously destined to go," he said.
And if GSP pulls off a victory, that destiny will include being the guy behind the guy, strapping that gold across his waist.
"It'll be the experience of a lifetime," he said.
But what happens if GSP doesn't win?
"I'm not doing it if it's Jake Shields," said Fitzgerald, adding that he'll just hand the belt back to White, stand back and hope he doesn't fumble.