January 2011

January 2011


Alistair Overeem slinks down treacherously steep steps and goes straight to the fridge for a yogurt. He’s kept the living room dark, perhaps not to wake his brain too much before he returns upstairs, where his girlfriend Zelina is sleeping. His pad is an hour outside of Amsterdam and a 10-minute drive from his primary gym, Fight and Power Academy, in a foggy suburb called Leusden, where his flat is sandwiched between others in an ondescript complex. It’s far from big baller, but it’s furnished nicely with a couple of plush white couches, brown shag carpet, a flat-screen TV, and a black dinner table.


He’s just risen from a slumber brought on by another hard session at the gym. At the moment, he’s busily preparing for the finals of the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix in Tokyo, Japan, though today was a little different: Ben Saunders stopped by to roll. Not the one you may think—this Saunders has gold teeth, heavy tats, and an ivory voice that’s made a splash on The Voice of Holland, the Dutch version of American Idol. It turns out that Overeem is Saunder’s idol, and he trains BJJ and kickboxing when he’s not cranking out tunes. Not to be over matched, Overeem knows a thing or two about carrying a note. He sings karaoke. It’s a job requirement as a regular visitor to Japan, but he won’t say what his go-to number is.


“Can I sing or what?” he calls to Zelina. “Yes,” her voice chimes from above.


And lately, he’s had plenty of reasons to croon. It’s been more than three years since he’s lost an MMA fight. He’s the current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and a breakout star in K-1 after a pair of upsets over Badr Hari and Peter Aerts. He’s currently ranked between fourth and tenth on most top-10 MMA heavyweight lists. To boot, he’s found traction online as the subject of The Reem, an online documentary that draws between 50,000 and 60,000 views per episode.


Overeem rests his forearms on the dinning room table, bringing his trapezius muscles near level with the top of his head. It’s been quite a ride as of late, and a stark difference from his days as a dangerous 205-pounder who often got starched by top-tier competition during his years in Pride. He’s non chalant about the change, but then again, he’s minutes removed from dreamland. “I had my bad time,” he says.


That means over training, a bad relationship, a falling out with a member of his coaching staff, and his mother’s bout with type-III colon cancer. (She recovered only to later be diagnosed with kidney cancer. She beat that, too.)


“Although I could motivate myself for training and stepping into the ring because I’m a positive person…it just cost energy,” he says.


Overeem now applies a simple equation to all the aspects of his fighting life: things either give or take energy. His goal, of course, is to surround himself with the former. He has new trainers…and Zelina.


“I consciously made the decision to change everything,” Overeem says.


Not everyone is impressed with his reversal of fortune. One critic, UFC president Dana White, says the caliber of Overeem’s competition has folded along with Pride. He says Overeem hasn’t defended his Strikeforce title enough, and his work in K-1 has taken him out of the top 10 MMA debate.


“A fucking great guy, I like Overeem,”said White in an interview with MMA junkie.com. “I have nothing but respect for him. But it’s an absolute fucking joke that anybody would rank him in the top 10. And anybody that wants to debate with me, and tell me why Alistair should be ranked, go ahead, fucking-fire-away. I’m ready. I want to hear it. Can’t wait. If on your rankings you have him in the top 10, you should be fucking embarrassed.”


In May 2010, Overeem defended his Strikeforce belt for the first time in nearly three years when he pounded out Brett Rogers, who at the time was on several top-10 lists. The rest of his MMA competition in the previous three years has been unranked.


Overeem’s head hangs. “I hear it,” he says of White’s criticism. “It goes in one ear and out the other. I am very satisfied with the way my career is going, and next year, I’m going to be back in the United States. Even if I’m not ranked up there, I will be. The fights are going to come. Fabricio Werdum is going to come. Fedor Emelianenko is going to come. I’m going to show the world that I am going to beat these guys, and then I’m going to be up there. If I’m not up there already, it’s just a matter of time.”


And who will step up to fight. Werdum, who owns a 2006 submission win over Overeem in Pride, said he was injured following his upset over Emelianenko, and Emelianenko was subsequently unavailable for a title shot, which prompted Overeem to accept an invitation to the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix. (Werdum now says he can fight, and Emelianenko also piped up after the Grand Prix booking made Internet rounds.)


“I’m going to make them eat their words because I like to prove things to myself,” he says of his critics. “My father always said two things to me: ‘Whatever you do, do your best,’ and, ‘If someone bothers you, hit them so hard that they never think about bothering you again.’ I would like to think that those two things came out in my career.”


“The Demolition Man” is awake now. There’s a challenge out there: to be the first dual champion in K-1 and MMA. It’s time to turn on the lights.


Documentary Man


The Reem is a sequel of sorts. Overeem first paired with Dutch filmmaker Eldar Gross to create Demolition Man, a full-length documentary that chronicled his unsuccessful bid to win the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. The film garnered positive reviews at the 2006 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, but its release was blocked when Zuffa, LLC, purchased Pride and disallowed the use of fight footage.


As Overeem’s heavyweight career blossomed in 2008, Team Overeem decided to give it another go. Instead of a full-length documentary, the piece is released online in episodes and was supposed to culminate in about with Fedor Emelianenko in 2009. While the bout with Emelianenko has yet to materialize, fans can get a behind-the-scenes look at Overeem’s mission to become a champion in K-1 and MMA.


“The first movie ended, and I got my face messed up by Shogun,” he says. “If you saw it, you were like, ‘Hey, this can’t be the ending.’”


Let’s hope The Reem has a happier ending. Visit www.thereem.com to see the documentary.


A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into MMA training, so don’t overlook something as painless as proper nutrition planning to keep you performing at optimal levels. Just as you regularly wash your mouthpiece every night (you do wash your mouthpiece, right?), you need to pack your MMA training fuel, including: pre-training snack, in training hydration, and post-training recovery snack. These nutritional necessities will keep your energy levels maximized and the risk of fatigue and injury minimized.


Go Steel


While plastic water bottles may be convenient, many leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) into your water. BPA is an endocrine system disruptor, meaning it mimics hormones such as estrogen, possibly leading to hormone irregularities, as well as myriad other health issues. Stainless steel water bottles are a much safer alternative.


Remember, these recommendations are for quick, convenient, portable snacks. Your regular meals and snacks prepared at home should consist primarily of whole, clean, unprocessed foods with the proper balance of carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat.




In the 30–60 minutes prior to training, carbs are king. Carbohydrates digest quickly, help maintain blood glucose levels during exercise, and replace much needed muscle glycogen (storage form of the carbohydrate glucose within the muscles). Low-fat and low-protein content of the pre-training snack is necessary to facilitate gastric emptying (the time it takes for food to leave your stomach) and to avoid gastro intestinal distress. Approximately 40–60 grams of carbohydrates should be sufficient. Some athletes have no trouble consuming these carbs from solid foods, such as apples, bananas, or a Power Bar Fruit Smoothie Bars. For fighters that prefer liquids or semi solids,consider items such as Gatorade G1 Prime sports drink, gels from Power Bar and GU, or an all-natural fruit/veggie juice.




If intense training lasts more than an hour, refueling and rehydrating during the workout is key. A sports drink containing 6–8% carbohydrates and electrolytes will give you easily digestible carbs, as well as the water and electrolytes lost from sweating. Ironman Perform and Gatorade G2 Perform are two readily available drinks of this kind, providing 50–70 calories, 14–17 grams of carbs, 110–190 mg sodium, and 10–30 mg potassium per 8 fluid ounces. Many athletes alternate between plain water and sports drinks to get the recommended 30–60 grams of carbs and 16–24 ounces of fluid per hour of exercise. These are general guides, especially for hydration, as sweat rates differ for every athlete. You can find sweat rate calculators online to get your customized hydration recommendation.




Recovery nutrition is vital. Within the first 30 minutes after training, strive to consume 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. A 150-pound athlete would need approximately 75 grams of recovery carbs to start to replace glycogen stores. Protein also takes the stage at this point for muscle building and repair, but amounts will vary depending on your training. If you’re hitting the weights hard on a regular basis, you’ll need 20–40 grams of protein post-workout along with the carbs above. If strength training has taken a backseat to more cardio, 15–25 grams is sufficient. Natural peanut butter and jelly on wholegrain bread, Gatorade G3 PRO Recovery, or Muscle Milk, are all portable recovery snacks that give you a carb/protein combo. Keep drinking water too. You’ll need 16–24 fluid ounces per hour of intense workout.


In just 10 short years, Long Island native, Timothy Ferriss, has gone from Princeton grad to author, entrepreneur and angel investor. Ferriss is the bestselling author of The Four-Hour Workweek, which reached the No. 1 status in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Even though Ferriss has amassed experience in collegiate wrestling, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, among other disciplines, he considers himself a fan more than a practitioner. On the heels of his success with The Four-Hour Workweek, comes his new book, The Four-Hour Body, a compilation Ferriss feels can be very beneficial to the practicing mixed martial artist.


TF: “Most people associate me with professions of time management and productivity while working with companies like Google, Microsoft. The reality is that my obsession with physical tracking pre-dates all of that by about 10 years, so I’ve re corded almost every workout that I’ve done since age 18, and I’ve done thousands of blood tests—my house looks like an ER because it has so much medical equipment, and the reason I waited to write this book, which I’ve always wanted to write more than The Four-Hour Work week, is that the The Four-Hour Work week gave me access to the best scientists, the best doctors, and the best athletes and persons in the world…


I think there’s no audience that this will address more than the mixed martial artist because my athletic background is all based on grappling and striking. So my point of reference for everything was the physical attributes of the mixed martial artist, and that could range from maximal strength development to ultra-endurance to dissipating heat or cutting weight. Almost every one of the 50 topics covered in the book applies to a mixed martial artist.”




Ferriss isn’t one for understatement; here are the titles to some of the sections in the book.


• From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days
• Six Minute Abs: Two Exercises That Actually Work
• Hacking the NFL Combine
• Ultra Endurance
• Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep
• Pre-Hab: Injure-Proofing the Body
• Effortless Superhuman
• How To Add 100 Pounds to Your Bench Press
• How to Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini
• Living Forever: Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun


You get the drift.




You’re offended by step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to give a 15-minute orgasm.


A common theme that I have gleaned while visiting MMA training centers across the country the past few months is that the majority of gyms are against air conditioning. A close second is that most successful gyms and fight teams are like a family.


Although MMA is considered an individual sport, fighters depend on their teammates, coaches, and training partners to help them prepare for their next bout and lean on them for advice, support, and guidance.


Uriah Faber’s Team Alpha Male is made up of several friends whom he has known since high school, and it could be compared to a college fraternity. American Top Team, led by father figure Ricardo Liborio, has a heavy Brazilian influence that places a high premium on family. Twin brothers Trevor and Todd Lally, who run Arizona Combat Sports, are very familiar with the competitive nature of family and don’t let a few squabbles get in the way of their success.


Like every training center and fight team, all families are unique with their own combination of strengths and weaknesses, but, at the end of the day, you always know that they have your back.


Ultimate Fitness/TeamAlpha Male

Location: Sacramento, CA
Uriah Faber and Matt Fisher


Fighters Who Train at Alpha Male


• Urijah Faber: Former WEC Featherweight Champion
• Danny Castillo: UFC Lightweight
• Joseph Benavidez: UFC Bantamweight
• Chad Mendes: UFC Featherweight
• Kyacey Uscola: Tachi Palace Middleweight
• Justin Buchholz: Former UFC Lightweight
• Lance Palmer: Four-Time D-I All-American Wrestler


What You Don’t Know


• Many Team Alpha Male members have, at some point in their careers, lived on “The Block,” which is comprised of five rental houses that Faber owns and rents out to other fighters in Sacramento.


What Separates Alpha Male From Everyone Else?


Team Alpha Male forms like Voltron, and Urijah is the head. I think we are the best looking team in MMA.”—Danny Castillo


American Top Team

Location: Coconut Creek, FL
Dan Lambert, Ricardo Liborio, Conan Silveira, and Marcelo Silveira


Fighters Who Train at ATT


• Thiago Alves: UFC Welterweight
• Thiago Silva: UFC Light Heavyweight
• Hector Lombard: Bellator Middleweight Champion
• Mike Brown: UFC Featherweight
• Jorge Santiago: SENGOKU Middleweight Champion
• JZ Cavalcante: Strikeforce Lightweight
• Denis Kang: W-1 MMA Middleweight
• Jeff Monson: IFC Heavyweight
• Cole Miller: UFC Lightweight
• Bobby Lashley: Strikeforce Heavyweight


What You Don’t Know


• Although the Coconut Creek, Florida, location is considered American Top Team’s main headquarters, there are 18 other locations in the Sunshine State and training centers in Connecticut, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Illinois.


What Separates ATT From Everyone Else?


“We have many world-class fighters and a lot of great coaches, and they all give you little bits and pieces. My fight game is like a mosaic—you take a little piece from each guy and put it all together, and then you have your painting.”—Mike Brown


Arizona Combat Sports

Location: Tampa, AZ
Trevor and Todd Lally


Fighters Who Train at ACS


• Jamie Varner: UFC Lightweight
• Pat Runez: UWC/PFC Flyweight Champion
• Ryan Diaz: KOTC Bantamweight
• Estevan Payan: Bellator Featherweight
• Jacob McClintock: Bellator Welterweight


What You Don’t Know


• After sharpening their MMA skills at AZ Combat, former ASU wrestlers CB Dollaway, Ryan Bader, and Aaron Simpson left the team in June 2010 to start their own gym. However, the next generation of former Sun Devils is beginning their careers at ACS including John Moraga, Clifford Starks, and Pat Runez.


What Separates ACS From Everyone Else?


“We don’t use wrestling to win. We use wrestling to add to our fighters’ stand-up. Most wrestlers can’t strike, and we try to teach them to use their strengths to build up their weaknesses.”—Trevor Lally


If there’s one thing we love about living in the South, it’s sweet Southern belles like Athens’ own Charlie Brooke. Don’t let the puppy dog eyes fool you, this is one Georgia girl that isn’t afraid to bite.


You’re an Athens girl huh?Is it safe to assume you’re a ‘Dawgs’ fan too?


Oh yeah!


Did you make it to the game last weekend?


No, I was working for AXE that night, but I saw a lot of it on tv.


How long have you lived in Athens?


Well, I was born in Lawrenceville, but I spent most of my life about 10 minutes outside of Athens


Southern girl through and through, excellent. What do you do for fun in Athens?


I like to go to the clubs here and in Atlanta and dance. I love to go camping, and I love to cook. Especially baking, I absolutely love baking. Working out is kind of a hobby of mine too. And I go to a lot of the MMA fights in and around Atlanta.


So you are an outdoorsy girl that likes to party and cook. That’s a pretty formidable combo. Do you have a nerdy side at all?


Oh, definitely, I love playing Wii, and Forza Motorsports on the Xbox, and i’m on my laptop all the time Tweeting & Facebooking. I think that’s pretty nerdy.


Are you a badass at Forza? Could you hang with The Stig?


I’m out of practice but I’m pretty good. I can definitely hold my own. I’m really good at Wii boxing too.


Are you saying you can throw a mean punch?


OH Yeah!


Speaking of punching, how is ring card business going?


Well, I was working for Sin City Fight Club, which became  Sport-FightX, but it recently came under new ownership. I’m not sure if they’ll be using me anymore for their fights.


I think they would be wise to. Maybe after this you can negotiate a new contract.


Yes! Sounds like a plan.


So you’re a fan of the sport though, obviously?


Oh, definitely.


Do you have a favorite fighter?


I totally knew you’d ask that. I’m gonna have to say Urijah Faber.


Faber is a bad mofo. Most girls we ask seem to like GSP.

Yeah, I hear people say that all the time.


Have you been the cause of any bar fights up there lately?


Haha, never! The last thing I need is to get arrested. Last New Year’s Eve, I was working at Flanagan’s though, and we had like three fights that night, it was practically a brawl. I am always the first one there to cheer them on though.


Trouble with a capital “T.”


A troublemaker with her heart in the right place!


That’s great actually. No one wants a boring girlfriend.


Definitely. I’m the bad girl that you can still take home to Mom.


Heard any bad pick up lines lately?


Yeah, “Did it hurt?” “What?” “When you fell from heaven.” I mean, really?


That’s pretty bad but I’ve heard worse. What kind of guys are you attracted to?


I like guys with a playful personality because that’s how I am. And I like guys that are cocky, because they can handle being made fun of. And they have to be strong, mentally and physically.


Sounds like you’re a woman that knows what she wants and how to look out for herself.


Yep. That’s what happens when you have a cop for a dad and two brothers that are in the Marines.


Please remind us to never upset you. What does your dad think about you modeling and generally causing a ruckus?


He’s not happy when I get into trouble, but he still loves me. I am good when I’m at home, I cook and clean and take care of the family.


Want to send a shout out to your brothers?


Yeah. To all the Marines in VMFA-122 and all our troops at home and abroad, thanks for all you do! Come home safe!


Well said Charlie. Ooh-rah!


“Porra! Porra! Porra!” I’m screaming, partially because I just learned the Brazilian multipurpose cussword, but mostly because I’m being jumped by José Aldo and Nova Uniao’s gang of lightweights.


After teaching Nova Uniao some of our wrestling techniques, we were being welcomed with a light hearted beating, and at this point in the face-slapping, multi-man dog pile,I was now being bitten on my ass. I wriggled away from the ass biter, but was suddenly being simultaneously arm barred by José Aldo and his training partner as someone laughed with a Portuguese accent and snapped a photo.


“Let me go, José Aldo,” I screamed, since he was the only guy I knew by name, in a room full of world-class fighters. I escaped, or was released, and was now out of breath, but a small guy, sensing my exhaustion, jumped on my back, put both hooks in, and stretched me out. José came back to abuse me more, probably due to his love of Bully Beatdown and his desire to abuse the handsome, charismatic host.


I met my breaking point, and from my terrible position, I grabbed Aldo’s gloved hand and bit down on his forearm. “Desperate times…”as they say. I should have known that retaliation was coming. The same tattooed guy from Part I of this adventure (see the December issue, or get a subscription already) BIT ME AGAIN! This time, it was a hard, nasty one on the back. This Brazilian mini-riot lasted about 30 minutes or so, and finally, when a truce was called, we went to enjoy a signature of every gym in Brazil—a freezing shower. They don’t waste money on hot water in Rio. As I disrobed, everyone burst into laughter—the last bite left a huge bruise.


We all got a good laugh out of that, and after the icicle shower, we go out into the dirty streets of downtown Rio, which is completely tiled with tiny trapezoid rock. These stones give the city a character that is slightly dingy, as well as rustic. It’s a place with fantastic character—not the cookie-cutter asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks that we are accustomed to in America.


We headed down to the local sandwich shop, and even though I’ve eaten the purple black frozen berry pudding with every meal, I still spout “Um Ass Eye EE!!” I’m met with a frozen bowl of sweet goodness, while still expressing my disbelief at the back-biter, and my regret for not returning the favor. Strong looking porters walk through the streets carrying rickshaw-type carts—filled to the brim with pineapples—in front of the facade of a house that looks very much like an old mansion in New Orleans. I devour the pudding while super tour guide Marcelo Alonso laughs to the rest of this table in his thick Brazilian accent, “Man, this guy is Brazilian now, he loves the açaí.”


We headed back to the parking garage, and I paused to high-five some of the guys, including José Aldo, who is even cooler in real life than in the cage. While doing this high-five love fest in the streets of Rio, one guy’s face stood out to me, but I couldn’t remember why, that is, until one of his partners in crime pointed at the guy and pantomimed a biting motion. It took a second to register, but when I saw his tattooed neck, I knew what had to be done. I gave a high-five, pulled him into the bro hug, and bit down on his trapezius muscle hard enough to bruise him through his tattoos.


“Porra lesque,” I yelled—the equivalent of “Fuck, Dude”—and laughed up a storm with the rest of the crew as he scurried off into the yellow streetlights of RDJ. Joe Rogan had mentioned to me, before I left on this journey, some type of bacterial infection that comes from rat droppings that makes men and women more aggressive and affects a large portion of people in Brazil. I started to wonder if I was infected.


I wondered if extreme fatigue was one of the symptoms. We had been working out hard now, every day, running on next-to-no sleep the entire time and climbing a mountain here and there. Just as I was considering this in the backseat of the car, Marcelo Alonso, not wanting to wait for some slow driver to take a left, skill fully cuts off a more timid driver through his left side. It’s a move I always wished I could make in America, but I must not have contracted the rat-doo virus yet. With some technical swerving, we were back on a busy, two-lane highway that overlooked the beach, which, despite being late into the evening, was illuminated all the way down the shoreline as far as I could see.


“I’m giving you guys tomorrow off,” says coach Ryan Parsons, snapping me from my stare out the window “We’ve been running you guys hard.” I looked over at teammate Pat Cummings, who has bruises on his exhausted looking face and no skin left on his feet—a testament to being a wrestler who never trains without his shoes on…until this trip. “Day off? Sweet! What’re we gonna do?”


When we awoke the next morning, the godfather of Brazil, Marcelo Alonso, had arranged the best present he could for me and Pat: hang gliding. I was so excited when I heard this news that I did a Jersey Shore fist pump double time, and Pat followed suit. We arrived at the beach that served as the landing zone for the gliders, and I started to get psyched. This was basically a childhood dream. Actually, the childhood dream was to fly with rocket boots, but this was about the same. The action journalist that he is, Marcelo Alonso followed behind our official hang-gliding vehicle, and we charged up the mountain in a much shorter time than expected, mostly due to the 45 degree inclines that the small SUV had to endure through the leafy-green rainforest mountains. We climbed higher, and a happy tension built.


Finally, we reached the top, hopped out of the truck, and marveled at the view. We weren’t quite as high as our last mountain climbing adventure, but that didn’t matter. We were about to jump off this mountain. As this was sinking in, I became increasingly amped. Standing on the wooden deck platform, Pat and I began singing at the top of our lungs, “IIIIII just want to fly, like a bird up in the-sky, I’m so high, high high high higher than high,” and then, for a photo op, I did a jumping split leapfrog over Pat’s back dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. The jump prompted this exchange with ace photo journalist Marcelo Alonso and my hang gliding instructor, whose face was growing more concerned that he would be jumping off of a cliff with a kite strapped to his back with me.


“Sorry to ask, but this man looks like he’s plugged into 220 volts of electricity. It looks like he doesn’t need wings to fly. Did he use some ‘additive?’” Marcelo explained to him that I often get excited, and he relaxed a bit. After a few test runs on the ground, we took a sprint and jumped free of the earth. Now, I had been imagining this since I knew what a hang glider was, and maybe it’s due to my adrenaline gland being burned raw from fighting for so long, but as soon as we were in the air, I felt the most serene and calm feeling I had felt ever. I looked down at the beautiful beach, the fantastic mountains, and the favelas (slums)ant-hilling up the sides of them, which looked oddly perfect from a far, and I had a revelation.


I’m here in Brazil. I’m doing the things that I’ve always dreamed of doing. When I first started my MMA journey, I had imagined this, all of this—training with the most skilled nameless fighters on earth, eating food I couldn’t pronounce, right down to flying through the air above luscious jungles and picturesque beaches. This is real. I am here. “Please do not touch my control bar,&#822
1; the nervous pilot barked (Marcelo had not yet explained that the pilot thought I was coked out), snapping me out of thought and back into the realization that I’m still hundreds of feet in the air, masterly banking left and right, occasionally catching a warm air current that extended our lofty descent to the beach. I finally let out a yell of excitement, and before I knew it, we were catching our feet on the sand.


Upon arrival on the beach, Dr. Parsons had his shoes off and had joined a small group of soccer-fan-looking people in a strange hobby. Pat and I watched as the three took turns balancing on what looked like a cargo strap that had been pulled taught between two palm trees about a foot off the ground. An older gentleman gracefully walked across the tightrope from one end to the other, as I walked to one of the many beach stands that dot every beach in Rio and came back with a celebratory água de coco (coconut water) for me and Pat. As we slurped the young opened coconuts, we watched in awe as a young woman danced across the wire, occasionally putting her leg out for balance like a ballerina. By this time, Ryan Parsons was getting the hang of this low-flying circus act, and he was actually able to take three or four steps until it got too unstable to walk on. Unable to ignore the challenge, both of the adventure twins attempted the walk, but I just came away agreeing with Pat: “Damn, that’s hard.”


“I have a meeting tonight,” says Dr. Parsons, and Marcelo had Brazilian journalism to type up, leaving Pat and I to fend for ourselves. We marched down to the happening street in Barra that we had frequented for food, and in a twist of homesickness, we found a Mexican restaurant along the lines of open air cuisine.We plopped down on the patio, ordered enchiladas and margaritas in Spanish, and listened to talented musicians play American pop songs, sometimes subbing in Portuguese verses. “Damn, this guy is good,” says Pat. “I’ll tell you what else is good,” I say, “this margarita! UM MAIS AMIGO!” “No, DEUSH!” yells Pat.


The girls at the next table got a good giggle from our obvious lack of Portuguese. Now that there was no chaperone, it felt like school was out for the summer, and taking into account our flying adventure, it now felt like a bit of a vacation. We cracked up about the trip, downed some spirits, made friends with everyone that surrounded us, and high-fived the waiter while singing along with a Beyonce song. “Where do we go dance tonight?” I asked the waitress who had taken a special interest in me, since she spoke the best English in the joint. “Baronetti, in Ipanema, is good place tonight.”


“Baronech!” we exclaimed in unison, paid the bill, dropped some Reis in the tip jar for the over-skilled and underpaid guitarist, and thanked everyone for the experience, but no one understood us. Before we could get to the street, Dr. Parsons walked up with some reporter or librarian, or someone boring, and tried to encourage us to sit down. Yeah, right. The powder keg had already been lit, and the last words I remember from him were: “Have you guys been drinking?”


Taxi, tunnel, another streetlight, beach, another town, and I’m singing “The girl from Ipanema.” We stumble into a long line, and I ask, “Que es esh? Baronech?” This got some giggles and some affirmative head nods. I saw Pat’s dismay at the line, but I’ve spent along time in Hollywood, so I knew the drill. I walked right up to the very front of the line and did what you are supposed to do. I looked important. Literally, in two seconds, the velvet rope was pulled back, and we were ushered into the club with the instructions, “Have fun, and no fighting.”


Fun we had. When I say “dance,” think super gay go-go dancers at a gay pride festival. We DANCED. And before long, we had every woman in the entire club surrounding us. If they weren’t shaking their heads in disgust, they were joining in the excitement. A few guys gave us dirty looks, but no static. They just must have had too much rat feces around them. For some reason, in the club, you have a membership card, and you don’t pay cash until you leave. So I was just waving my card about, slapping shot after shot and laughing hard, finally noticing how cool the LED ceiling looked. Then the haze is heavy.


Lights up. Crowd rumbling. Pay my card. Run to a taxi. Head out the window in a long tunnel. Hotel lobby. Now really singing, “The girl from Ipanema” in my hotel room. Awaken in a stupor. What? Where? Who? “Hurry up.We have to go. We’re late.” No food, no water. Charging into the crumbling courtyard of a South American sports complex, the tennis players stop between serves to look at the hung-over American with the wacky hairdo. We climb the stairs, and I’m wondering how I ever got out of bed, but when I see the sign on the door, I forget all about my physical body and feel another kick to my, thus far, abused adrenaline gland: “Brazilian Top Team.” Standing in the doorway is the legend Murilo Bustamante, I’m ecstatic when I see the room full of tough Brazilians warming up in the gym that looks like a converted classroom. How many dreams can come true in one trip?


One of my favorite active fighters, Toquinho is there, and before I know it, we’re training. He’s kicking my ass, then I’m kicking his, then back to mine, and the round is over without getting my knee broken from one of his famous leg locks. The training goes on, and although my heart is in it 100%, my body considers vomiting on a training partner who asks, “You okay, man?” I’m fine. I’m living my dream. Nothing is taking this from me. The grappling rounds begin, and I roll with a friendly guy who I had been talking to before training began. After some positioning and scrambling, this skinny bastard catches me in the sneakiest anaconda choke ever. I had never seen an entrance into it like that. Not only that, but before the end of the round, he catches me in it AGAIN, from a slightly different variation. I’m incredulous, but I thank him for the excellent training, and I inquire about the move to attempt to get it in my arsenal. We leave the gym, and epic tour guide Marcelo Alonso explains, “Man, that’s Milton Vieira, he’s the inventor of the anaconda choke. He teach it to everyone, the Nogueiras, everyone, man. It’s very nice.” Yes, yes, it was very nice.


The next hours are blurry. Maybe it was the constant stream of adrenaline finally coming down. Maybe it was exhaustion finally setting in. We made a stop at the beach in Ipanema and sat on some chairs that they have for rent, as a constant stream of vendors came by to sell tea, snacks, and, I think, pot. The beaches in America suck in comparison. I reclined, and although I never can sleep face-up, I think I passed out. Really, I’d like to think that this was all a dream. A crazy açaí filled dream that changes your life when you wake up. In a way, it was. I had expectations of Brazil from my own imagination, the Brazilian friends that I have, and the movie City of God, but this trip blew all of them away. I’ve left so much of the story out—another trip to the favela where I danced the samba, learning some BJJ techniques from the coach of an archenemy of mine, Jacaré, and Marcelo Alonso’s silent sidekick—who was with us the whole time but never spoke—that I dubbed “Silencio.” I awoke on the beach and admired Brazil in a whole new way. I watched groups of people expertly play volley-soccer with their feet, and realized that the people of Brazil play with passion. I never understood why my Brazilian-American friends have so much love for their home country, but I do no
w. They have a lot of love to give. Everything they do, they do with a fury. It’s an unmatched passion. I don’t know if it’s the glorious views, the aggressive women, or the900-foot Jesus, but something gives them a passion that allows them to excel at whatever they choose, be it fighting, hang gliding, or driving in traffic. I would like to think that a little bit of this passion rubbed off on me during the trip. Then again, it could be a viral pathogen contracted from rat turds.Time will tell. PORRA LESQUE!


When Bryan “The Beast” Baker stepped into the cage on June 24, 2010, to fight Alexander Shlemenko in the Bellator Fighting Championship Middleweight Tournament Finals, very few people had a clue that the biggest fight of his life was being fought outside of the cage.


Baker, a 24-year-old with a13-1 record, entered the cage that evening battling chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)—a cancer of the white blood cells, and a condition where the average five-year survival rate is approximately 54%. However, nobody outside of Baker’s family and close friends knew it that night, and he preferred to keep it that way.


“I didn’t need anybody giving me any kind of negative reaction or trying to make a decision that would change my life,” says Baker. “My mind was on winning the tournament, and that was that.” It didn’t matter that he was suffering from anemia, fever, and fatigue.


Diagnosed on April 19, 2010, Baker could have pulled out of the tournament and cited the life-threatening disease as the explanation. But the Team Wildman fighter went against his family and doctor’s orders, and he proceeded to enter the tournament with his first fight a mere 10 days later.


“When I set my mind to something, I get it done,” Baker explains. “There are no rules that you can’t fight with leukemia. So there was no reason for me not to fight.”


With only two days of abbreviated training, Baker laid waste to Sean Loeffler at  2:43 in the first round of the highly competitive tournament. It was an amazing feat, considering all that he was going through. However, the Bellator tournament schedule has fighters compete at a grueling pace, and Baker was scheduled to fight again less than a month later in the semifinals against Eric Schambari. Again, Baker struggled through a five-day training camp but scored a resounding submission victory at 2:29 in the first frame.


Despite suffering from a possibly fatal disease, “The Beast” was fighting on a higher level. He was determined to topple the juggernaut of leukemia, but the fight outside of the cage was taking a toll on his body. Baker would goon to lose in the finals against Alexander Shlemenko by first-round TKO, but rather than point at his condition, Baker pointed at himself.


“It was just one of those days where I couldn’t snap to it,” he says. “I just didn’t have the right mindset going into that fight, and I paid for it.”


Baker never uses his condition as an excuse. There are no excuses for Baker, only obstacles to overcome.


Back in February 2010, Baker and his trainer Thomas Denny moved their training camp to Colorado in order to prepare for the upcoming Bellator tournament. It was going to be a grueling camp, but nothing that “The Beast”—nicknamed for his ability to outwork everyone in the gym—couldn’t handle. The thin air and high altitude present problems for all fighters who train in Colorado for the first time. So, being short of breath and a bit weak was nothing out of the ordinary.


“I thought I just needed to get used to the altitude,” Baker recalls. “A few weeks went by and everyone was getting used to the altitude, and I was getting worse. I actually got sick and passed out in the bathroom. My vision was off and my skin was turning green.”


His family and coaches were unsure if it was mononucleosis, a staph infection, or something else. It turned out to be “something else.”


“I had blood work done and sure enough, I had leukemia,” Baker says, exhaling when he cites the date April 19, 2010—the day he was diagnosed. “It happened so fast. In a week, I went from being normal to having cancer.”


While most people with a life threatening condition would take heed to the doctor’s advice to not compete in a fight scheduled 10 days later, Baker is cut from a different cloth. He doesn’t take “no” for an answer.


“I’m a really positive person, so I just looked at battling this disease as another obstacle that God put in front of me that I had to overcome,” Baker says. “Just like in a fight, in life, you have things thrown at you from all different angles, but you can’t let those things stop you from doing what you want to do. They’re just obstacles that you have to overcome.”


In the months since being diagnosed, Baker has made a remarkable recovery thanks to the drug Gleevec. As of press time, the cancer is in remission, and Baker will be back to his beast-like ways that garnered him attention in the first place. That’s a scary thing, considering what he accomplished at 40% strength.


“The longer time goes on, the deeper into remission I’m going to become,” he says. “I’m only getting better and stronger since the last tournament. I just know I’m going to dominate that tournament next time and get my shot at Bellator Champion Hector Lombard.”


With the cancer in remission, Baker fully intends on competing in next year’s middleweight tournament, which kicks off in January. To prove that he’s ready for another shot, Baker qualified for Season 4 by disposing of UFC light heavyweight challenger and MMA veteran Jeremy Horn with a dominant three-round unanimous decision victory.


“I showed that I still want it with my victory over Jeremy Horn. I showed that I am still here. I am getting better and overcoming a lot of things,” Baker says. “I’m an all around fighter that keeps expanding. You are going to have to bring so much to the table to beat me.”


Hanging prominently—but curiously—in the front office of the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York is an enlarged photograph of one of the most seminal victories of Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba. The photo is from the closing moments of the fight between Sakuraba and Renzo Gracie at Pride 10, won by Sakuraba from a standing kimura with just 17 seconds remaining in the second and final round.


This victory by Sakuraba was his third over a member of the Gracie family, and arguably his most impressive. When he defeated Royler Gracie at Pride 8, Sakuraba had a weight advantage of more than 40 pounds, and the fight was stopped by the referee, which was supposed to have been against the special rules of the bout. When he defeated Royce Gracie in a 90-minute marathon match during the Pride Grand Prix 2000, Royce had fought only once in the previous five years. While the victory over Royce, whose corner threw in the towel, tremendously enhanced Sakuraba’s popularity and reputation, there were still many who questioned his talent.


Renzo Gracie, then 33 years old, entered the fight with a documented record of 9-1-1. He had defeated standouts Maurice Smith, Sanae Kikuta, and Oleg Taktarov, and had only lost a decision to Kiyoshi Tamura in Rings, while getting a draw with Akira Shoji at Pride 1. With both fighters wearing shorts and no shoes, this evenly-matched bout featured an array of back-and-forth striking and grappling, with Renzo holding his own throughout.


As the end of the fight approached, Renzo attempted a takedown and managed to gain standing back control, but Sakuraba trapped Renzo’s left arm. They eventually went to the mat, with Sakuraba turtling up, still holding Renzo’s arm. Then Sakuraba exploded upward, spun to his left, and twisted Renzo’s left arm into a kimura arm lock.As they went back to the mat, Renzo’s arm broke, and the referee stopped the fight.


Why is this photo hanging in the academy of this proud member of the Gracie family? Renzo gave two reasons: “The first reason is because I didn’t tap. So that was a victory of mind over my body,” Renzo says. “The second reason is to remind me that I need to improve every time. So, every time I walk in, I look at that picture and remember the defeat, and I go back to train again and improve myself. It’s a very humbling picture that I keep there to remind me of how human I am.”


Renzo believed he was winning the fight before the stoppage, and admitted, with a laugh, “I was already celebrating the victory, because in my head, I couldn’t lose in the last 30 seconds. And I lost in the last 17!” He also praised Sakuraba’s grappling and called his jiu-jitsu “unbelievable.”


Renzo summed it all up with this message: “Living and learning—that’s the secret to fighting.”


You’re a third-degree black belt in taekwondo. Do you still work those techniques?


I teach taekwondo, so I still review the basics and stuff. I’m working on getting my fourth degree. Eventually, I want to run a taekwondo school. That’s my goal—taekwondo mixed with an MMA gym.


Outside of your camp, what fighters do you look up to?


GSP for sure. When I first started, he was just an up-and-comer, and nobody knew who he was, and now look at him. I definitely look up to him and guys like Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida—traditional martial artists.


Do you consider yourself a traditional martial artist?


I’m definitely a traditional martial artist first and a mixed martial artist second.


Is the nickname “Showtime” hard to live up to?


It’s not a lot to live up to. “Showtime” is because I fight flashy. It’s not like an alternate personality. It just happens to be how I fight. It’s hard to explain to family and friends—it’s not a split personality. It’s a nickname in the cage and that’s it. Out of the cage, I’m still Anthony Pettis.


Do you consider yourself part of the new wave of mixed martial artists like Evan Dunham and Ryan Bader—fighters that have made an immediate impact?


My goal is to become the complete fighter. MMA is still a new sport, but a few of the fighters are fighting everywhere—good jiu jitsu, good grappling, good striking. Honestly, my little brother is the reason why I’m trying to keep up with everything. He’s wrestling in high school, his kickboxing is great, and his jiu-jitsu is good. Soon, I’ll be fighting guys who have been wrestling and striking their whole lives. That’s where it’s headed.


What does family mean to you in regards to your MMA career?


Family means everything. Family comes before any of this. If it ever came down to family and quitting mixed martial arts, I’d always put family first. Family is a big reason why I’m doing this. We grew up in a rough neighborhood. There wasn’t much for us to look up to. We didn’t have a lot of family members graduating college and having good professions. Most are regular workers making hourly wages. MMA is a way we can separate ourselves from that and do something we love doing. My brother looks up to me. I want to be his role model. He’s a big reason that I train as hard as I do and put everything I put into this.


Who beats you up the most in sparring?


Pat Barry.


UFC fighter Erik Koch is your roommate. What’s his worst roommate habit?


I’m not gonna put him on blast, but I’ll give you one. We have this George Foreman grill. I use it for all my chicken and all my food when I diet. He never cleans it after he’s done using it, so every time I go to use it, it’s all crusty and nasty.


What sport would you say you are absolutely terrible at?


Soccer. I suck at soccer. Even in high school, they said, ‘This Hispanic kid should play soccer,’ but I had no coordination in my feet or something—man, I suck at soccer!


When did you realize MMA was something you were good at?


I had my first amateur fight on my 20th birthday, and I finished the fight in 24seconds.


What country would you like to fight in?


It’s not a different country, but I’d like to fight in Puerto Rico. I’m half Puerto Rican and Mexican, so Puerto Rico would be a great place to go. There are a lot of Puerto Rican fans blowing up my Facebook, asking when I’m going to be fighting there.


You Milwaukee boys are known for your Miller Lite. What’s your favorite beer?


I don’t drink a lot of beer, but I like a Blue Moon every now and then.


Tell ya what, I’ll buy you a Blue Moon if you take me to Puerto Rico.




Thanks Anthony. We look forward to the next time it’s Showtime.


If I had it my way,” Rich Franklin mumbles under his breath, “I’d just do the red carpet thing, get the pictures over with, then turn around and go home.”


With just about each day becoming a completely new adventure for the former UFC champ, tonight Franklin finds himself at a red carpet charity event in the Malibu Canyon, at a hilltop mansion that’s part of the Malibu Rocky Oaks Winery, wearing a suit with a purple tie. This ain’t his cup of tea. He’d like nothing better than to take it off.


“Well, take it off,” his American Fighter clothing brand co-owner Jeff Adler says to him. But Franklin doesn’t, because the One Hope Foundation is honoring him with a humanitarian award for his work with soldiers overseas in Iraq, Europe, and Japan, and for visiting dozens of hospitals, including Walter Reed, Bethesda, and the Center for the Intrepid. He is happy to do those things.


He is less happy to be celebrated for it.


Walking around the $65 million premises, Ace doesn’t look as much like Jim Carrey as he might’ve five years ago, but these days he’s being accused of looking like the guy he is slated to fight next, Forrest Griffin. Maybe it’s the serially reconfigured nose or the broad neck or the unsteady way in which he walks. “Forrest always says that they flatter him when they mistake him for me,” Franklin says. “But I think they’re flattering me when I hear it. He has like two inches and 20 pounds on me, they must think I’m massive.”


Franklin’s business manager, a constantly in motion sprocket of a man named J.T. Stewart, is in high clover in this environment. He’s got himself a drink, and his thumbs are in his suspenders. There’s a band playing, fronted by a singer who has cornered the market in boxcar chic. Brooke Hogan (Hulk’s daughter) is having a glass of wine with an equally blonde companion (Hulk’s ex wife, Linda).


And through it all, former NBA player Cedric Ceballos is emceeing the event, with his Isaac Hayes voice prompting people to bid on the silent auction items that range from signed Elvis paraphernalia to Muhammed Ali’s white robe to a framed Bill Clinton mural, with three Time magazine covers and a signed shot of him chipping a golf ball on the green.


Franklin is out of element in a place like this. People who know mixed martial arts come up to him and comment on what a sick fight he has coming up with Griffin or talk about his TKO of Chuck Liddell. The ones who whisper have been informed he’s a fighter of acclaim and come up to say hello, just to meet a well known somebody in an intimate setting. There’s nothing novel in this treatment. Franklin is used to it. He shakes a lot of hands, poses for a lot of pictures, and, when nobody’s paying attention, drifts into the room where the Manny Pacquiao/Antonio Margarito fight is about to start.


For all those who know who Franklin is, there’s at least one who might not. He’s the guy who says he’s going to pause the live fight, just as Pacman is making his way to the ring with Freddie Roach and his faction behind him. “It’s only for a few minutes,” he says. “They are just about to conduct the auction and present the awards. I will turn it back on right after.”


The Hollywood crashers moan a bit.What a buzz kill. Franklin feels like he’s had the rug pulled out from him, too. He’s a fighter. He wants to watch the big fight as it happens. He knows these kinds of big moments. You don’t pause big moments. Not even when they are toasting your philanthropic work.


Franklin starts threatening Stewart and Adler and anyone else near him to stay off of their cell phones. No spoilers. He then looks at the guy about to pause the fight.


“I promise,” the guy says, ushering everyone toward the stage on the terrace, overlooking Malibu and the Pacific. “If I don’t turn it back on right here where we left off, you all can kick my ass.”


Not taking this as a joke, Rich calmly asks for the man’s card.


To the man’s credit, he gives it to him.


It wasn’t all that long ago—right after Franklin lost to Anderson Silva for the second time in his native Cincinnati and was essentially relegated to “Gatekeeper of the Middleweights”—that he began telling everybody that he just wanted to put on exciting shows and to fight the toughest guys.


This, of course, sounded like concession, and the fight press couldn’t help but cue up the string section. Here was former middleweight champion Franklin, now in his mid-30s, heading off into the twilight of his career. He was acting on the side, starring in a movie called Cyborg Soldier with Tiffani Thiessen, where—as a genetically engineered super-soldier named Isaac—he uttered the unintentionally funny line, “All available evidence points to his elimination.”


Same went for his standing at 185 pounds. If he wasn’t charging toward that belt, or fending contenders off of it, then he had lost something in the way of seriousness.


Thing is, it was a little white lie.


“The only reason I left 185 pounds in the first place is because the UFC said they didn’t want me to fight Anderson again,” he says. “Even though I kept saying I just want to fight tough people, I think in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to fight for a belt.”


With no Silva trilogy and really nothing there to resolve from a fan’s perspective, Franklin fought his swansong in the division at UFC 83 in Montreal, overcoming Travis Lutter with strikes in the second round. “I was trying so hard to land that left cross and win Knockout of the Night,” he remembers. “The bonus was like $70,000…but I kept grazing him, couldn’t land it clean.”


Part of the reason Franklin was a celebrated champion is that it’s in his blood to think this way. He has said on numerous occasions that his favorite technique is the one that finishes fights. People in the business of selling pay-per-views like this philosophy. After Lutter, Franklin quietly walked away from the division where he never failed to put on an exciting show. His successor, Anderson Silva, cannot make the same claim.


“Rich drives me crazy,” says his long time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training partner and friend, Jorge Gurgel. “Because, the thing is, he always gets dropped, but then he recuperates and wins. Rich is like the king of…oh shit, he dropped Rich Franklin…oh shit, Rich Franklin recovered…oh shit, Rich Franklin just knocked him out! It’s hard to watch.”


It’s in that teetering-on-the-brink-of disaster-feeling that the one-time math teacher at Oak Hills High School has found his audience. There was the night he won the title in Newark, trading with the late Evan Tanner until the doctors waved him off. There was the knockout of Nate Quarry, that massive left which was so spectacular that the term “Quarry’d” was invented, a synonym of KTFO. There was his war with David Loiseau, which he fought with a broken left hand (as a south paw, no less), when Dana White surprised him by piping in AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock for his walk out.


“That song started up and I began getting cold chills,” says Franklin. He engaged in a five-round war that night, and successfully defended his belt.


And of course, there were those brutal battles with Silva.


The first time he and Silva met in Las Vegas, his Muay Thai coach Neal Rowe says, “They were trying to m
urder each other out there in that first fight—they were just weaving elbows.” Just as he had posterized Quarry a year before, Franklin would end up in a highlight reel—only this time, it was “Ace” being cut down by one of the greatest shows of precision striking on record.


Even when Franklin lost, he at least lost spectacularly.


As much as it hurt to lose the belt, the second loss to Silva was the more heartbreaking. After beating Jason McDonald and Yushin Okami to earn his rematch, Franklin and his camp—his first with Matt Hume—spent four weeks in remote Pinedale, Wyoming, studying, training, and obsessing over Anderson Silva. “We poured our heart and soul into that fight,” says Rowe.


Given the space of three years since that night, somewhat unsurprisingly, Franklin says he wouldn’t change his approach.


“If you look at the Cincinnati fight, I was doing really well in the first round,” Franklin says. “I was landing punches, controlling the punches…I took him down once, even though I wasn’t able to keep him down. I was fighting a good fight, but I just got clipped at the end of the first round. Any time your guys have to come out and basically carry you back to your corner, it’s not a good thing. Especially against a great striker like Anderson Silva, you’re a sitting duck out there. But I wasn’t about abandon what I do well.”


Yet, if he wanted to wear that strap again, he would have to at least abandon the middleweight division. He jumped up to light heavy to fight his friend Matt Hamill at UFC 88 in Atlanta, where he landed a thudding body kick to end it in the second round. A chronically obsessed food moderator, Franklin began using his food scale to make sure he was getting enough food to put on weight—and hold it—en-route to a match with Dan Henderson, where he helped make company headway in Ireland. He appeared on television, on ESPN’s MMA Live, and elsewhere, articulating the sport’s merits to anyone who inquired.


“I was sitting next to an old lady on the plane, and she said ‘UFC, isn’t that fighting where there are no rules?’” he says, sighing. ‘Uh, no, not exactly. There’s a harmony to the chaos.’ That’s what I  always tell people, that’s one of my lines—there is harmony within that chaos.”


Franklin did goodwill tours for the UFC, visiting troops and hospitals. Then he fought a pair of catch weight bouts, first breaking into the Germany market against Wanderlai Silva (decision win), and then a headlining fight against Vitor Belfort (where he was knocked out in the first round).


“After UFC 100, they pretty much didn’t have any headliners, so they needed me,” he says of the latter. “A rematch with Henderson would have motivated me. But it got switched to Vitor, and that played into why I lost that fight. I was burnt out. When you’re six weeks out from the fight and you’re walking into the gym and looking at the clock as soon as you walk in, it’s not good. And I knew that. But what are you going to do? Fake an injury? Pull out? Heck no. I’ve never done that in my life. I’m a company man.”


Even though he is being sarcastic when he says this (sort of), it was around the time of the catch weight bouts that people began using the term “company man” when describing Franklin.


Know what he says to that?


“Without the UFC, this sport wouldn’t be where it is today,” he says. “And you know what you need to get that stuff done? Company men.”


Franklin has made plenty of money for the UFC, and he has made a lot of money with the organization in the six years he’s been punching the clock. In his first fight against Jorge Rivera at UFC 50, he made a few thousand dollars in his submission win. This past June, he cleared $140,000 in his fight against Chuck Liddell (reported), in a bout he took because the UFC needed a replacement for the office reprobate, Tito Ortiz.


“I felt bad that Tito got hurt while on The Ultimate Fighter 11, but they called me in to build a fight between the coaches,” he says. “It’s an example of me being a company man, sure. But I think people were more excited to see a fight between Chuck and I anyway.”


“I was skinny—really skinny in high school,” Franklin says after a meal of sashimi at a Loews hotel in Santa Monica. He says he weighed 155 pounds in his graduation picture, and therefore, no, he didn’t fight much back then, and if you saw him “You’d know why.” People in the atrium are giving him the surreptitious leer, the double-take that always betrays somebody trying to place a familiar face. Franklin smiles at them, says hello, and keeps talking.


“Actually, I’m quite proud of that picture,” he says. “Most people might be embarrassed by something like that, but I look at it as, do you know how difficult it was, coming from that starting point, to be able to do this?”


In the same breath, he lets it be known that he’ll never share that photograph (he’s not that proud), but his larger point comes through: the path to becoming a prize-fighting champion is as improbable as it is gratifying. By the time he was thrashing Ken Shamrock at the first Ultimate Fighter Finale, he’d already beaten the odds and made a case for sticking to the commonly mentioned (but seldom practiced) mantra of following your heart. By the time he beat Tanner for the belt, he was a protagonist in a ridiculous story that began in a unheated/non-air-conditioned 12×15-foot lawnmower shed, just him and his buddy Josh Rafferty training together with a goal of making it to the UFC. By the time he lost the belt, these things came crashing back to him, so as to form a new appreciation for “The next time I win it.”


You might know the rest of his story, but the Cliff Notes start like this—he didn’t come from much. He moved around a lot in Northern Kentucky and the Cincinnati area, idolizing Barry Sanders, the Bengals, and the Reds. Though his family was poor, they instilled their Christian beliefs in him, beliefs he holds to this day. To attend college at the University of Cincinnati, he earned scholarships and relied on grants. “I fell into that nice little niche of being the smart, poor kid,” he says, “which is great, because the government likes to help people like that.” Boom. He became the first Franklin to earn a college degree. It was in mathematics.


While working “a professional job, with retirement, a 401K and all that crap” as a math teacher, he began fighting. He gave up his security, and went for it. “My dad had a little bit of a problem with that,” he says. “But you’ve got to remember that MMA was way more underground than it is today. So when you tell people you’re going to quit teaching to become a professional fighter, well…”


Trying to make himself memorable outside of his performances—he was 14-0 by the time he lost to Lyoto Machida in Japan in 2003—he fought in pastels. Who can forget the lime green trunks he wore against the man of 100-plus fights, Travis Fulton. “We got the material at Michael’s fabric store,” he remembers.


When his name got bigger, he made a clothing brand called American Fighter,and he chose to wear the Neapolitan colors that he has become synonymous with—pink and brown. Why? “Because, take a well-known fighter—let’s say, Sean Sherk—and tell me, what are his fight colors?” He’s used to the silence he gets
when asking that question. “Exactly.”


American Fighter is one of those big small companies, based in his hometown of Cincinnati, with five total employees. As a brand, it is also involved in philanthropic pursuits. It’s part of the reason he’s in Los Angeles. Oh, and he went and attended the premiere of Hamill, the cinematic biopic on his friend and deaf MMA fighter, Matt Hamill. He has a part in it.


“My part was really small, and I was curious to see how it would turn out, because I was on set for such a short amount of time,” he says. “They did a great job at it. And hey, they didn’t edit me out, right? What a waste of film.” He laughs.


He’s also in a Christian-based film, The Genesis Code. And he’s supporting troops and making appearances and coaching The Ultimate Fighter on two day’s notice. And he’s getting ready to fight one of the sport’s biggest names in the former light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin. It’s the life of a bona-fide company man with a flair for pointing out the harmony in chaos and dramaturgy.


Cedric Ceballos begins a monologue,working fight metaphors into the greater causes that everyone has gathered for. It’s clear he’s getting ready to call Franklin up to accept his award on behalf of One Hope, the American Red Cross, Hope-North Uganda, and other causes. Right before he does, though, Rich turns to his manager and says, as if ignorant to what’s happening, “Hey, I’ve got to go take a piss, I’ll be right back.”


Stewart’s eyes get big, and he begins to stammer something along the lines of “Are you crazy, he’s talking about you!” But Franklin is already laughing, satisfied to get his business manager’s goat (yet again). That’s what he does.


Ceballos calls Franklin up, he accepts his award, and says a few words—“I feel so inadequate speaking into the microphone after Ced,” he says, using a high pitched voice for effect—and that’s that.Even though a good portion of the crowd knows he’s a prizefighter and a Good Samaritan,when Ceballos uses the word“warrior” to describe Franklin, it goes beyond what just about anyone but a fighter like him can know.


It’s easy to think back several months to his fight with Chuck Liddell. He took the fight dutifully as a company man and spoke with absolute sincerity and reluctance about not wanting to be the one to retire “The Iceman.” Yet, he did what he had to do. In the fight, Franklin took that big kick that broke his left forearm and could feel “the bones scraping again steach other in the arm.”


“I knew it was broken,” he says, “and it really took me out of my game plan, because I kept thinking to myself, what am I going to do next? Instead of fighting to win the fight, I started going into survival mode.”


What he did next was keep fighting. He kept his cool. When he got caught again by another kick late in the round, he landed a short right counter while fading away that dropped Liddell and an entire legacy all at once.


“He thought he had me hurt at the end of the round, and like vintage Chuck, he came forward heavy,” he says. “And so, I remember leaning…and I’d worked on a bunch of stuff with [boxing coach] Rob Radford, and we worked on covering with the shoulder and keeping my shoulder tight. I just remember rolling forward with my body on that right hand and it connecting. It didn’t hit hard, butit just had that feeling of knowing you did some damage. I followed up because, with my arm, I did not want to leave anything to chance.”


That was the latest in a long line of such fights—34 in all—he’s put on in his career. It’s the kind of performance that leads to celebrations in his honor in Malibu Canyon, and makes him one of the most famous fighters of his day. One would think that from time to time, a party is warranted.


“People always say to me, ‘Man, what do you do after the fights? How do you party?’” he says. “I’m like, well, last time I partied at an emergency room in Vancouver. The time before that I think I was partying in an ER in Germany. And I remember one time partying at an ER in Ireland. It’s the story of my life.”


Not the entire story. That remains to be told. “I think the highlight of my career is tomorrow,” he says. “I believe that.”


But that’s not what’s on his mind after the ceremony finishes up. Right now, he’s thinking about Pacquiao. He wants to see the fight. He goes back to the room with the television and is followed by a herd of people, most with glasses of wine in hand. Rich doesn’t drink. But when Pacquiao is picked up making his way to the ring, just where we’d left off as promised, he’s feeling it. He has the cold chills. It’s that For Those About to Rock moment.


As Pacquiao enters the ring, everybody lets up a wild cheer for the champion. It’s such a commotion on that Malibu hillside that, for a split second, it’s sobering to remember that there’s one person in the room who truly knows what that feels like.


And without saying a word, perhaps for the first time all night, Rich Franklin’s voice is heard.