What an honor – tonight I cornered a friend in his first MMA exhibition fight, and he ended up having his hand raised as the winner by Phil Baroni in what was one of the better MMA fights I’ve had the pleasure of watching.
Every month, Tiger Muay Thai holds a “BBQ Beatdown,” a night of amazing Thai bbq and fights at the big gym facility. This month they had a fair crowd of people and served fantastic food that many of us inhaled – it didn’t hurt that they also had Chang by the keg, which I admit is considerably more drinkable than Chang in the can or bottle.
Tonight there were also three Muay Thai fights, two Western Boxing fights, and two MMA fights. Everything was fun to watch, but the MMA fights were what I was really looking forward to since my friend Michael had signed up for it and was going up against Kenny, another guy from our class. Mike and I have spent a lot of time working with each other (he’s the guy I caught with an amerikana last week in the class tournament) and talking after class, and he is a really cool guy. He’s an endurance mountain biker with no fight experience who is out here for a couple months because he also loves MMA and wanted to give it a try, and wanted to go full bore into it. He opted into the fight Friday night, so had less than a day to mentally prepare for it, but with all the conditioning and work we do in class he and Kenny were physically pretty ready. Kenny is an experienced grappler with 10+ jiu-jitsu tournaments under his belt, but minimal real world striking experience.
The fight was a modified rules MMA exhibition fight – three three minute rounds, no elbow strikes, no knees to the head standing, no heel hooks. They also wore shin guards and bigger than normal gloves to reduce the chance of damage. In spite of this, in the first fight between Olle (the little teeny guy I triangled last week) and Tobias, Tobias ended up shooting for a single leg right as Olle threw a leg kick and ate a knee on the side of the head for his trouble – opening up a huge gash gushing blood on his head. Really unfortunate – they cleaned up the blood in the cage for Michael and Kenny’s fight, but left big slippery puddles on one side.
I can’t wait to see the video of the fight again, it should be up on youtube in a couple days and I’ll link it in. It was a great fight overall – Mike and Kenny both stood up and banged for most of it, exchanging some very crisp and controlled striking (especially since neither had much real striking experience). Both were calm and collected and put each other in danger a number of times. I was constantly yelling out encouragement and instructions to Mike (you see so much more from the corner than you do when you’re in the fight) and he did an amazing job of listening and putting it to use. Unfortunately no one was cornering Kenny and it was a big advantage for Mike to have someone talking him through everything.
I could tell that both guys had big adrenaline dumps within the first minute and were gassed out, but they did an amazing job of gutting it out for the remaining rounds, never slowing down and keeping a nice even pace. At the end of round 2, our instructor Ray Elbe came in and told Michael “It’s just three minutes, it’s nothing, you can do this, it’s just three minutes.” Sage advice.
They fought all three rounds and went to the judges, who awarded the victory to Michael by split decision, having his hand raised by the New York Badass, Phil Baroni. It was awesome to see the heart these guys showed and an honor to be a part of it – it meant a lot that Michael asked me to corner him and I almost shed a manly tear when he told me how much it made a difference to him in the fight.
Kenny, Michael and I spent a couple hours after the fight chumming it up and discussing it, a great way to chill out while everyone else started to party harder and get ready to hit the town. As I type this now in my room relaxing, most of the people have left to Pattong but there’s still plenty of drunken revelry and karaoke going on – I’m sure I’m missing out on all sorts of debauchery, but my elbow is killing me and it’s time to unwind for the night.
On a sad note, three other guys who were training here all week went home and I’m sad to see them go as we all got along really great and they were quite cool. Safe trip, Ben, Larkin, and Fred! I’m going to miss this place when I leave on Wednesday…