Lauren McLaughlin always knew she wanted to work in sports. What the 2007 Cary-Grove graduate who went on to play college volleyball at North Dakota State never anticipated was that she would end up working as a publicity manager for Bellator, the country’s second-largest mixed martial arts promotion. It’s a far cry from her first job out of college, when she interned for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, opening her eyes for the first time to a behind-the-scenes glimpse into professional sports.
Sometimes, I wish the public could see a little more of the personalties that these guys have. It’s kind of funny because sometimes you do forget that these guys are real people. When I was with the Bobcats, the guys would get together on Thursday nights and watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” You have the MMA guys that are just hanging out and it’s really cool just to see them interact when they’re not in the cage fighting or when they’re on the stage. It’s just something that is really neat to be a part of.
I really didn’t know much about MMA at all. I would see it on TV or in bars here and there, but I didn’t watch it in my free time. But when I saw the opening with Bellator, I started watching a lot of YouTube videos, doing a lot of Google searches, but I never really knew what it was all about. Now, I know more about MMA than I ever thought I would know. But I don’t think people realize how much of real athletes and warriors these guys really are. I think MMA definitely takes a special kind of person and it’s just really crazy to see the hours and time these guys put in. It’s a sport that I don’t think people realize how in-depth it really is. You see these storylines developing and it doesn’t seem like it’s real. You think there’s no way some of these guys that have built these rivalries could hate as each other as it seems. But I can tell you that it’s real. It’s all real.
I knew MMA was real fighting but I was looking down and (a co-worker) asked me how I was doing and I said, ‘Oh, these guys are really bleeding.’ But I’ve l learned to have so much respect and compassion for the guys in this sport and there’s really a lot more to it at the end of the day as a sport. Our guys get a lot bloodier than say guys in the NBA or NFL. But this sport is a competition just like anything else. But it definitely took a while for me to be able to watch the whole (fight) and get into. But now, being surrounded it, I’m really into it because MMA is something that really sucks you in when you’re there. It’s something you get involved in. I hate to say I’m numb to all the blood, but now that I’m around it, it becomes kind of a regular thing as horrible as that sounds.
I try to play it down the middle, but over time, you definitely develop your favorites. It’s more the (fighters) that I have a connection with or the ones I’m working with on a daily basis. You see these guys and you start to get to know their families and their kids. You see them on the road and you check in with them in the offseason. You start to develop these some friendships because you do spend time with them. So it’s kind of a neat thing to be able to see a side of them that the average person doesn’t get to see.
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