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The drama exploded right next to Megan Olivi.
Serving as the reporter for UFC 261, Olivi tried to intervene as her ESPN colleague and former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier got into a heated confrontation with YouTube star, amateur boxer and professional provocateur Jake Paul.
“I was right next to it, and I was trying to stop him [Paul], like, ‘Come on dude, sit.’ But what am I going to do?” Olivi told The Post, while discussing her new podcast, “Becoming A Fighter.”
“I was right next to him and I clearly had no physical abilities to stop it from happening,”
It was all part of a hectic card on April 24 that also included Chris Weidman’s gruesome leg injury — a compound fracture of his right tibia and fibula — which he sustained just 17 seconds into his fight against Uriah Hall.
“I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely in tears,” Olivi said, noting that she couldn’t watch the replay.
The Paul-Cormier incident was not nearly as gruesome, though it did provide plenty of headlines. Prior to the event, Paul and Cormier traded insults through social media and other media outlets. After the confrontation, Cormier told ESPN that things didn’t escalate because he didn’t want to get in trouble at work.
The viral moment occurred as Paul received boos and other lewd comments from the UFC 261 crowd. Cormier, who was part of the broadcast, added while on-air that he “pointed at [Paul] and said ‘don’t play with me,’ because I’ll smack him in the face.”
“[Paul] felt like it was necessary and who’s to say that if he feels disrespected he shouldn’t stand up for himself,” Olivi said. “But, it was during a live broadcast, and [Cormier] is a pro, he did what he felt was necessary, and he came right back to the desk with his headset on. He was a complete professional.”
Olivi is earning the same reputation. The only woman on UFC’s pay-per-view broadcast, the 34-year-old has her hands in nearly every aspect of coverage on fight night — from helping build the show, to conducting interviews, providing analysis and much more. What viewers don’t see, are the behind-the-scenes moments, where Olivi is running back-and-forth from the octagon to backstage press areas, as well as stepping in when unplanned moments suddenly arise.
Weidman’s injury occurred when he tried kicking Hall and the blow landed just below his opponent’s knee.
“To see that happen to anyone is absolutely horrific,” Olivi said. “We know him really well, his family, his wife was in attendance. He had just lost his father-in-law a few weeks ago, so we already know emotionally there was so much on the plate.
“There is a risk when athletes step into the octagon, and we do everything so carefully to ensure safety, and this is a rarity, it’s certainly something we don’t see often.”
Olivi went on to note that it was “difficult” to pivot back into the event as planned after seeing the “traumatic event” up-close-and-personal.
“I think all of us [on the broadcast] took quite a while to get back in gear. You don’t forget that you saw that,” she said. “I saw our UFC staff doing the very best they could to make sure [Weidman’s] wife was there before he got in the ambulance and that he was getting the correct medicine he needed right away.”
Weidman, who’s been documenting his recovery on social media and YouTube, underwent successful surgery in Florida before returning home to Fort Mill, South Carolina, where he’ll continue his rehab and recovery. In a post-surgery Instagram video, Weidman said he has to remain off his feet for about eight weeks. As far as training is concerned, he said doctors predict he’ll be healthy in six-to-12 months.
Olivi’s new podcast, “Becoming A Fighter,” aims to tell unique, personal stories about fighters before they became known UFC athletes. Her latest episode features Leon Edwards, whose fight against Nate Diaz has been rescheduled for UFC 263 on June 12, in Glendale, Arizona.
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