Duck and cover: Brendan Fitzgerald reflects on hiding under table during UFC Mexico City chaos

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Brendan Fitzgerald laughs about it now, but for at least a moment there, he was genuinely concerned for his safety while chaos erupted last month at UFC on ESPN+ 17.

“Just a second of ‘let’s not take any chances,’” Fitzgerald told MMA Junkie on Friday.

What that led to was a viral moment the UFC play-by-play announcer didn’t see coming.

After Yair Rodriguez landed an eye poke on Jeremy Stephens just 15 seconds into their main event, it was evident that the fight was in jeopardy. Stephens’ eye had closed and wouldn’t open. Referee Herb Dean gave Stephens a full 5 minutes to recover, and with each passing second, the pro-Rodriguez crowd in Mexico City grew increasingly restless.

Once the 5 minutes elapsed, Dean had no choice but to call off the fight. Fitzgerald had a feeling what was coming.

“As soon as Herb did the wave, I looked to my left, and I saw like a couple of heaved cups full of beer,” Fitzgerald said. “You could see splashes in the air and stuff. I was expecting it.”

It was pandemonium inside Arena Ciudad de México, with fans throwing stuff left and right into the cage – which only got worse for Stephens. As for Fitzgerald, he continued telling viewers about what was happening around him. When he saw his stage manager dodge a flying object, that’s when Fitzgerald took cover under the commentary desk.

“I dipped right then,” Fitzgerald said. “I kind of audibly said it while I was doing it. I said, ‘All right, I’m gonna duck under the table here.’”

UFC play-by-play announcer Brendan Fitzgerald (right) took cover while fans threw beer cups inside Mexico City Arena. (USA TODAY Sports/Instagram)

For anyone who watched the broadcast and missed Fitzgerald’s mention of shielding himself, you’d have never realized he was crouched under a table. That only became obvious after his broadcast partner, UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping, shared video on social media.

Was it an overreaction? Maybe. But Fitzgerald thought about his wife and 4-year-old son in that moment.

“What flashed to make me go under the table there was, it was my second straight week (on the road), I was missing my family, and just in one tiny part of my brain I was like, ‘I want to get home and see my family tomorrow,’” Fitzgerald said. “You never know what people are going to throw in that moment. And, of course, it’s mostly just plastic cups with beer. I kind of said it on the broadcast, too: ‘Really, it’s a dry-cleaning bill.’ I knew in that moment I wasn’t in harm’s way, but I didn’t feel like getting a beer shower, either. I felt like staying calm and still talking through what was happening.”

Which he did. Like a true professional.

But still, after Bisping’s video went viral, Fitzgerald took some flack from the internet for being too scared. Not that it bothers him.

“I’ve always been able to laugh at myself,” Fitzgerald said. “So it’s like, (I’m) happy to get it in that way. …

“Whether you’re one of those that called me a wimp or not in terms of what I did, you’re helpless with what’s happening. There are thousands of people in the crowd that are just heaving stuff. There’s no way to out-tough that. There’s no way to play defense against somebody that’s just throwing stuff.

“We were kind of sitting ducks. And, again, it’s plastic and beer, over-dramatized by what I did. But we can laugh about it. And I can laugh about it.”

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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