Best Enemies

“I’m gonna break you.” I laughed, and not just because of the obvious reference to Drago in the Rocky movie, but also because I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had trained too damn hard with too high-caliber opponents to be “broken” by anyone. Especially not the fuzzy- headed Brazilian bastard standing in front of me in the Yokohama Arena, staring me down through his two beady eyes, which are set entirely too close to one another, just begging me to punch them wider apart. At this point in the night, I realized, “I fucking hate this guy.”

After a snarky laugh, I said, loudly enough to be heard over the tame Japanese crowd, “Yeah, we’ll see, we’ll see!” and went back to my corner to prepare for a full-fledged grudge match at Dream 9.

“I love ya bro!” Two fighters cuddle in a warm embrace in the center of a bloody cage, one woozy, with a small, mustachioed cut man chasing him around with a cotton swab and a waif-thin grey-haired doctor shining a flashlight in his eyes to check for dilation. Even though his corner wants to help the now “deceased-looking” fighter, who has just flopped down on his knee at an impossible and disgusting angle due to a punch from his new life partner, he refuses to break free from the warm confi nes of the other man’s bosom. These men had no quarrels with one another before the fight, and now they are damn near making out in front of thousands in the arena, along with the millions watching at home. Not quite ever my style, but I can understand it. A good friend of mine is Tim Kennedy. He’s a real American hero who serves in the U.S. Army, and is a damn good fighter inside the cage as well. We get in there against each other, and we go for it. We’re trying to beat the hell out of each other. Same goes for Denis Kang, Jake Shields, or any other of the thousands and thousands of fighters I’ve met, buddied up with, but still may have to fight. We are in this business for a reason, and that’s because we are fighters. We’re all friends, but it’s just business.

I remember when, as a young lad, I lived in a van outside of Tiki’s gym, the HB Ultimate Training Center, in Huntington Beach, California. This sounds like a shitty existence, but when all you want in life is to become like your idol, Tito Ortiz, you’d happily do things like this. I mean, this was pretty much at the height of the mania for Tito and, for some reason, for Limp Bizkit, so a lot of people were making bad decisions. I spent a lot of time being Tito’s beat-up dummy, being much smaller than my lanky frame would allow. And I remember the training partnership between the two stars of the 205-pound division, Tito and Chuck Liddell, two men so opposite in personality and fighting style that it was funny to see them as friends. Then again, maybe they weren’t friends. I never saw Chuck being especially buddy-buddy with Tito; and now there’s the infamous breaking of the “pact” by Chuck. Tired of living in the shadow of the loud talking, flamboyant champion, he decided, “Hey, it’s just business.” I can’t say I blame him. You still can’t find many fighters with the name recognition that Ortiz has. Hell, I want to fight Tito now. Not just as a revenge thing. We are fighters. It’s our job to fight each other. We don’t make money by being friends, and I don’t have to hate a guy to want to fight him. But it doesn’t hurt.

I asked one of my friends, Joe Warren, World Champion Greco-Roman wrestler, and the guy who just beat the hell out of Kid Yamamoto, about competing against his friends. He said excitedly, “They’re just the object for me to run through. I put all that out of my mind, and leave it all at the edge of the mat.” Makes sense to me. You can’t let emotions get in the way. You have to be an ice-cold killer robot, sent back from the future to terminate your opponent, and possibly run for governor of California. Afterwards, you may return to the blubbering sack of estrogen that you beg to be, and do a sudoku puzzle with the guy in the other corner. The ability to take friendship out of the equation in a fight seems to be something unique to fighters. That’s because, when most people lash out at someone else, their attack usually comes from a place of pain, heartache, and anger, with a force of rage that sprays in every direction, only coming into contact with the target intermittently. But a fighter has to focus all of his pain, heartache, and anger on his target, striking it directly, precisely, and efficiently. Sometimes a fighter has to do this in front of screaming masses for damn near half an hour, so this laser beam had better be military grade, and used with discipline.

About a minute and a half into our grudge match at the Yokohama Arena, with all of Tokyo watching, and with my Internet cult staying awake to watch on HDNet or stolen online streams, I let out a bit too much “Mayhem.” I accidentally soccer-kicked the Brazilian alligator in the head, illegally.

Now I can see how this could be misconstrued as an angry rival taking advantage of a situation and acting like an oafish brute who deserves to have his fighting license revoked. Since it WAS a grudge match, it would only make sense that I would revert to such dastardly tactics during a world title fight. I assure you, your honor, that this was NOT the case. I was simply attempting one of my legal techniques and misjudged the trajectory of my shin bone, landing the kick milliseconds after Mr. Souza had touched the ground. I have always respected the man known as “Jacare” as a great jiujitsu champion who deserves all the praise he receives.

All that being said, personalities do clash. I understand this. I see it in bars, in the gym, on Internet chat boards. If someone doesn’t get my sense of humor, or doesn’t have a sense of humor at all, I don’t get along too well with him. Usually, the group known as the “Haters of Mayhem Omnipotent” are people who don’t get the fact that I’m making a joke 98 percent of the time, and who decide to hate me for it. The “Mayhem Monkeys,” on the other hand, are in on the joke the whole time and realize that the other group is just a bunch of uptight sticks-in-the-mud who probably need to dislodge said sticks from said mud hole. I don’t understand Portuguese very well, but I have the feeling that my good buddy Jacare doesn’t ever get the joke. I can’t blame him. A lot of my craziness seems to translate best into Japanese, which, given my normal choices in girlfriends, is perfectly okay with me.

Instead of just ignoring my shenanigans, he chooses to use them as a reason to belittle my skills as a fighter and to peg me as just a “clown” and a “stupid fool,” or whatever the translation from Portuguese might be. Maybe it’s just a culture clash. Maybe it’s the same thing you get when you run into someone for whom, for some reason you can’t quite explain, you have a touch of the “fucking hate that guy.” I didn’t mean to punt him. It was an accident. Normally, I treat every fighter like the rest of my buddies. A guy I look up to as a brother, Dan Henderson, has never once talked ill of any of his opponents, and I’ve helped him train for many. Even the “blood feud” between another one of my brothers, Rampage, and his longtime rival, Wanderlei, didn’t seem to be a personal thing, just pure competition. Maybe I’ll simply take some cues from my “big brothers” on this one and keep it all business. And maybe you can join the throngs of the “Haters of Mayhem Omnipotent” when I say, “Fuck that guy.”

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