Las Vegan Evan Dunham believes his infant daughter may have sensed something evil in the air on Sunday night.
“She just wouldn’t fall asleep,” the UFC lightweight veteran said. “It was about 2 in the morning when she finally went out. I think she kind of knew something was up.
“But when she fell asleep, that’s when I finally pulled out my phone and saw what was going on.”
Dunham, who will fight Beneil Dariush on the UFC 216 card Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, has a clear view of Mandalay Bay from his home.
“I looked out and it looked so normal from a distance,” he said of his view of the hotel from which Stephen Paddock rained bullets on concertgoers across the street and killed 58 people. “But to know what was going on down there was just so surreal.”
Dunham was up all night following news reports and texting friends making sure everyone was OK. He eventually found out the co-worker of one of his close friends, who Dunham had just met for the first time a week earlier, was among the deceased.
“It was just super sad,” he said. “Everyone in Vegas was affected it by it. Even if it’s just knowing someone who knew someone. We’re a small community. People don’t think of it that way. Around the country, they see it as a place to come in and leave, but people who live here know it’s a strong community. I think it will even unite us a little more, but there’s not really much positive you can take out of something like this.”
Dunham, 35, hopes to get a win on Saturday to help start the healing process in whatever small way he can.
“I’m really excited for this fight,” said Dunham, who has won four straight. “I’m in a good spot in my career and I’m ready to go in and carry Vegas on my shoulders to a ‘W.’”
He knows he’ll have to keep his emotions in check.
“Part of me wants to go out there and just forget the game plan and just scrap hard like I used to,” Dunham said. “I’m a little smarter than that now, but my goal is to go out there and get a win for the city. It’s the first big event since it all happened.”
Dunham hopes fans and tourists aren’t concerned for their safety. His wife and daughter will be in attendance for the fight and while he knows the atmosphere may be tense, Dunham is confident in security and law enforcement.
“I told my wife, ‘Be aware,’” Dunham said. “I’m sure nothing is going to happen. I have entire faith in the police out here. They do a fantastic job and I’m sure they will continue to do a fantastic job keeping everyone safe now and in the future, but the world is different now.”
The bout will lead off the main card at 7 p.m.