MMA Life

MMA Life

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Have you ever wondered how Rich Franklin can possibly be 185 pounds or how Georges St. Pierre is 170 pounds? To make the mark for their fi ght, they cut weight. Weight cutting has become commonplace with the majority of fi ghters in mixed martial arts. Most fi ghters want to be as big as possible going into a fi ght. After all, any advantage you can have over an opponent will increase your chances of victory. Fighters like to have every benefi t that is available.

There are many fi ghters in this sport that walk around at a weight signifi cantly higher than their fi ghting weight. Former UFC Middleweight champion Rich Franklin is typically 205-210 pounds when not fi ghting while light heavyweight contender Forrest Griffi n has been rumored to walk around as high as 230 pounds. But not all fi ghters believe there is a benefi t from being larger. Dan Henderson, who held the PRIDE welterweight (183 pounds) and middleweight (205 pounds) titles, had more success at 205 pounds than at 185 pounds. Even though Henderson is fi ghting Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight championship (185 pounds), Henderson has repeatedly said he prefers to fi ght at 205 pounds.

There are several ways for fi ghters to cut weight, and they are often intertwined. Typically, when a fi ghter is within a few days of weigh-in, he will heavily alter his diet. This includes eating little to no food, as well as very low fl uid consumption. Another common way to cut weight is by sweating it off. If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Ultimate Fighter, you’ve seen fi ghters put on a sweat suit and sit in a sauna. Depending on how much weight needs to be cut, the fi ghter can be in the sauna for hours. While effective, sitting in saunas and sweating off too much water can have detrimental effects. Losing too much water weight can affect the fi ghter’s endurance and overall energy going into a fi ght, thus giving him a distinct disadvantage.

Each fi ghter has his own unique method for cutting weight. Lightweight contender Kenny Florian has a technique that keeps him strong and also allows him to have plenty of energy for a fi ght. “My walk around weight is between 168 and 172 pounds. As my training load increases and my fi ght training diet changes, my weight comes off naturally,” explained Florian. “I arrive for fi ght week no more than fi ve or six pounds away from 155 pounds. My fi ght week diet changes again, and my weight comes off again. By the morning of the day of weigh-ins, my weight is 155 or up to two pounds above 155. If it is, I basically sweat it off shadow boxing or doing a quick workout for no more than thirty minutes.”

Kenny also believes that being the biggest doesn’t always translate into success. “I don’t believe in being as big as possible and doing a big water weight cut,” Florian said. “I would much rather feel strong and energized then trying to cut water and feel depleted. I have a nutritionist who is also a high-level triathlon competitor that monitors my weight and manages my diets year round for the different phases of my training leading up to a fi ght. [The three phases are] the strength and hypertrophy phase, explosion/ strength phase, and “gas in the tank” phase. He works in conjunction with my strength and conditioning coach. Each of the three phases calls for a different type of diet and routine. My full circle of phases is three to four months between fi ghts.”

World Extreme Cagefi ghting middleweight fi ghter Logan Clark has a much different way of cutting weight. “Through the course of a training camp, I will get my walking around weight down between 200-205. When I taper off in training during the last two weeks, my weight will come back up to about 205 before I start the weight-cutting process,” explained Clark. “Throughout training, I consume a great deal of water. Every day, I consume a gallon of water and during training camp that tends to increase. When I am tapering off, and especially in the week before the fi ght, I will water-load. This simply means that I consume as much water as I feel that I can safely handle. This helps me cut back on calories by taking up some space in the stomach. So when I fl y out for the fi ght a few days ahead of time I am about twenty pounds over fi ght weight, but I am carrying a great deal of excess water weight. I will also avoid eating a lot of sodium as I head into fi ght week.”

“My cut from there on generally has me dropping a few pounds per day, just working out once in the morning and once around fi ght time at night,” Clark continued. “This helps to get my body into a rhythm for fi ght night. During this time, I eat fruits, veggies, and some lean meats while avoiding starches. I don’t know all of the science behind my actions, but my plan is compiled from the advice of other fi ghters, so I generally trust it.”

Clark also has a different method than Florian for shedding the last few pounds. “The night before weigh-ins, I am ten pounds overweight. I have gradually cut out fl uids during this time, but I still consume some water until the evening before weigh-ins. I’ll work out that night by grappling, hitting pads, a bit of bag work, and/ or some running depending upon how I feel. This will drop three to four pounds. Day of the weigh-ins, I get up and have a preliminary weigh-in at six to seven pounds over. I’ll throw on my rubber suit and some sweats and head for the gym and sauna. I generally alternate riding a stationary bike with sitting in the sauna. After about an hour of this, I’ll go and check my weight. I should have three pounds left to drop then, so I’ll go back to the hotel room and take a nap,” Clark said. “I try to drop the last of the weight as close to weigh-ins as possible so that my body is dehydrated for as short a period as possible. About an hour and half before weigh-ins, I get all of my gear on and head for one last set of sauna/bicycle sets. I always make weight.”

On the other hand, there are some fi ghters who cut a smaller amount of weight like Frank Edgar. Edgar walks around at 165 pounds, and generally just does a strong diet and manual labor to get the unwanted pounds off. “I just get on the treadmill and sweat it off,” said the New Jersey native. “I diet down quite a bit. I eat smaller portions and watch my diet.”

World-renowned mixed martial arts trainer Greg Jackson has fi gured out his own methodical way to cut weight in order to keep his fi ghters strong and healthy. Jackson’s camp has some of has some of the best conditioned athletes this sport has to offer, such as Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Georges St. Pierre, Leonard Garcia, and Nate Marquardt. Most of the aforementioned fi ghters are much larger than their fi ghting weight, but Jackson has found a system that works well for them. “I usually have them diet down to within eight pounds, then cut weight using the sauna or treadmill.” Jackson does believe that his method is accurate though. “Some fi ghters cut weight in ridiculous ways. When you start cutting ten or twelve pounds, I’ve noticed through trial and error that performance gets affected.”

Promoting fi ghter safety is the main concern of all the athletic commissions. There has been concern among medical professionals about the short- and long-term ramifi cations of cutting weight improperly. In fact, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission had changed its policy for combat sports in championship bouts, so the fi ghter must weigh in thirty days prior to his fi ght, and be within 10% of his target weight. The fi ghter must also weigh in seven days prior to his fi ght, and must be within 5% of his target weight. Then, the fi nal weigh-in will occur twenty-four hours prior to the fi ght, where the fi ghter must make the contracted weight. This methodology is to encourage fi ghters to walk a
round closer to their fi ghting weights, instead of cutting large amounts of weight improperly.

One question that fi ghters, trainers, and fans alike wonder, is how much does cutting weight affect performance, and if it does, what is the best way to cut the weight? “Obviously, performance suffers,” explained Dr. Joseph Estwanik, MD of the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians. “It is well proven in documentation that performance suffers after you lose the weight. Even a 2% rapid loss of body weight, also knows as fl uids, can affect your endurance by 20%. So, my advice that if guys want to be their best, is that the fi ghter gets within a reasonable point, so that the weight loss is gradual getting to their desired body weight, so it’s not just all water weight. What I personally have concerns with as far as competitiveness, fairness, and safety is that it makes no sense if people weigh in 24 hours ahead of time to compete for a division, and in fact weigh ten or twelve pounds over that when they touch gloves, then in fact we’ve defeated the purpose of weight classes,” said Estwanik.

There are some very dangerous methods that are not recommended by any doctors or athletic commissions that some inexperienced fi ghters may try to lose excess weight. One of these very risky methods is water deprivation. This could be very dangerous, because a lack of water intake can result in serious dehydration, which can be fatal. Diuretics are another way to lose unwanted weight unsafely. Most, if not all, athletic commissions ban this type of drug from entering a fi ghter’s system. Diuretics can increase the excretion of water from the body. These methods are highly discouraged and are not safe practice.

Weight cutting has played a pivotal role in mixed martial arts, both helping and hindering fi ghter performances. Fans have seen size play a part in fi ghts, such as the April 2003 fi ght between Matt Hughes and Sean Sherk, where Hughes was able to out-muscle Sherk through the majority of the fi ght. We’ve also seen fi ghts where size didn’t play a factor, such as when Randy Couture and Tim Sylvia fought for the UFC Heavyweight title earlier this year. But as the sport grows and fi ghters become more aware of their bodies, weight cutting is sure to be a mainstay in mixed martial arts.

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The Coppola Art Exchange showcased Danzig’s photography and George’s drawings at “Reflection,” an event that blended Southern California’s upscale art scene with its passion for mixed martial arts.

 

“More and more educated people are fighting and more and more educated people are fans,” said Danzig. “It’s just something I think will be normal in a few more years, and this is just one of the beginning steps.”

 

George, who moved to Los Angeles to attend the Art Institute of California and pursue an art career before becoming a professional fighter, added, “It’s a chance for Mac and I to show the people that, yeah we fight for a living, but we do it because we enjoy it. We love to fight. We’re not doing it because we have nothing else to go on. Art is just another one of our passions.”

 

Event sponsor and Projekt Label’s Chris Leo suggested the turnout was, “All you can ask for,” as fighting’s stars—former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett and UFC’s British standout Dan Hardy—supported their PKG teammates.

 

The difference between Danzig’s and George’s pieces? “Chad’s are definitely more violent,” joked Barnett, who helped name one of Georges’s sketches “Stabby McStabface” (although “The Babyface Assassin” contends it should have been Blocky McStabface).

 

With the gallery split between Danzig and George, both had compliments to offer each other.

 

“Chad has a really good eye for the work that he does. I like a lot of his stuff. It’s really cool. Its fun,” said Danzig of George’s graffiti inspired work. George pointed to The Ultimate Fighter season six winner’s dedication to his craft and professionalism despite that it’s a hobby. “The hours and the time that he actually puts in his pieces, is incredible,” said George.

 

So what’s a more difficult profession: artist or mixed martial artist? “They’re both the same—critics punch you in the face in art and in MMA,” quipped George.

 

The fighters sold several works as the Los Angeles short skirts and big money men poured in and out of the event. Free drinks gradually shifted the show’s feel from formal to fun. Sporting a New Orleans Saints hat and an AC/DC shirt, Dan Hardy dished out cash for two of Danzig’s photos. Hardy plans on hanging them back home in England. In addition, he commissioned George to create a masterpiece, because his training partner’s art reminds him of the stuff he enjoyed at Nottingham Trent University.

 

Danzig and George considered their debut art show to be a success. It was a culmination of years of their work, and if both can unearth the motivation to produce more pieces of art, another gallery may be in the near future.

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Saturday, July 19, Fedor Emelianenko is set to face Tim Sylvia under the banner of Affl iction‘s fl edgling MMA promotion. The Russian heavyweight legend has been the subject of frequent discussion, for while his prowess is evident whenever he enters the cage, he has not faced any of the other champions in his weight class. The closest he has come to a well-matched fi ght very well might be arm barring bears in the Siberian wilderness.

Mention Fedor in conversation with hardcore MMA fans, and you’ll be bombarded with passionate opinions on both sides. His fans consider him the undisputed king of the heavyweight ranks, while his critics think he’s the most overrated fi ghter in history, and would be handily defeated by the UFC’s heavyweights.

Fortunately, the debate may be soon laid to rest. His battle against the former two-time UFC champion will likely either secure his legendary status or prove his frailty against one of the best the sport has to offer.

FEDOR EMELIANENKO

Fedor is widely regarded as one of the top heavyweight mixed martial artists on the planet, even though he has never set foot in the top MMA promotion, the UFC. Holding a 27-1 record, Emelianenko was at the top of most heavyweight rankings for his entire tenure as PRIDE’s heavyweight champion, from March 2003 until the organization dissolved.

Emelianenko’s place in the rankings is controversial. Detractors claim that years of fi ghting inferior opponents has unfairly infl ated his record. Additionally, other former PRIDE standout fi ghters, such as Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, have performed disappointingly outside of Japan. There is no indication that Emelianenko’s success will continue against UFC talent.

Even the lone blemish on Emelianenko’s record is contentious. The Russian’s sole loss came in a Rings tournament in December 2000, when he faced Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (26-18). Seventeen seconds into the fi ght, Kohsaka opened a fi ght-ending cut with an unintentional illegal elbow strike. Usually, if a fi ghter wins with an illegal strike, the fi ght is ruled a no contest (or loss via disqualifi cation if the strike was intentional). However, as the event was a tournament and Emelianenko could not continue, Kohsaka was declared the winner and allowed to advance. As a result, Emelianenko had his fi rst and only loss.

The fi ghter’s background in the Russian martial art of Sambo prepared him well for MMA competition. Emelianenko is a decorated Sambo practitioner, winning the World Combat Sambo Championship and the Russian Combat Sambo Championship. He’s a strong grappler, with half of his wins coming by way of submission. But he’s also an incredible striker, with punishing stand-up and brutal ground and pound.

Sylvia might be the fi rst legitimate competition Emelianenko has faced in four years. His last fi ve fi ghts have been unorthodox at best. Most recently, he defeated 7’2” Hong-Man Choi at Yarennoka! While his opponent prior to that fi ght, Matt Lindland, is a legitimate MMA threat, Lindland is a middleweight and not even in Fedor’s weight class. His three other recent fi ghts were Mark Hunt, a 275-pound super heavyweight with a 5-3 MMA record, 43-year-old Mark Coleman, an MMA legend past his prime, and 400-pound Vale Tudo // PHOTO BY SUSUMU NAGAO fi ghter Zuluzinho.

TIM SYLVIA

Sylvia, who trains at Pat Miletich’s MFS camp, is a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. He fi rst won the title by defeating Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41. He successfully defended his second title, won by defeating Andrei Arlovski at UFC 59, by winning a rematch with Arlovksi by unanimous decision at UFC 61, and defeating Jeff Monson by unanimous decision at UFC 65.

Sylvia fi nally lost to Randy Couture at UFC 68. After the Couture fi ght, Sylvia defeated Brandon Vera at UFC 77. As Couture’s estrangement from the UFC left the heavyweight division without a champion, the win against Vera granted Sylvia a shot at the interim UFC heavyweight title. Sylvia won the fi rst two rounds before falling victim to Nogueira’s slick submission early in the third round.

The fi rst thing you notice about Tim Sylvia is his stature. Sylvia is 6’8” and has to cut weight to make the heavyweight top limit of 265 pounds. Sylvia’s primary strengths are his standup and his reach. He has a background in wrestling and grappling, but hasn’t demonstrated much of either inside the cage. To his credit, Sylvia did show off adequate submission defense in his bout with Monson at UFC 65, and even attempted a triangle choke in the bout.

MATCHING UP THE FIGHTERS

Four of Sylvia’s last fi ve wins have come by way of decision. By comparison, Emelianenko has fi nished thirteen of his last fi fteen fi ghts. A decision-heavy fi ghter is typically at a severe disadvantage when facing an opponent with the ability to fi nish fi ghts.

Emelianenko’s primary strengths are Sylvia’s greatest weaknesses. Sylvia has diffi culty with strong wrestlers and grapplers – outside of his loss to Couture, Sylvia’s three other losses were all by submission. Additionally, Sylvia’s most valuable tools will not be particularly effective against Fedor. Sylvia’s extraordinary reach will not be much of an advantage. Emelianenko has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to close ground against much larger opponents.

Sylvia also won’t be able to utilize his size and strength to clinch, as he did against Vera. Emelianenko’s Sambo and Judo provide an extensive repertoire of throws from the clinch. If Sylvia attempts to tie up, he’s likely to fi nd himself on his back.

Expect this fi ght to be fairly one-sided. Sylvia is a legitimate opponent and should provide a great measuring stick, but I just don’t see any realistic way for Sylvia to win, outside of something like a stoppage due to a cut.

While I’ve counseled against relying on “MMA Math” in previous articles, in this case looking at common opponents does have value. It’s important to note that Emelianenko has two wins over Nogueira, who recently defeated Sylvia.

As of press time, betting lines for this fi ght haven’t been released. However you can try to predict your own line and be ready to jump on the opener. I expect this line will open strongly in favor of Fedor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Emelianenko an 80% favorite or better at open (-400 to -450), with Sylvia in the range of +350.

However, I believe that Emelianenko will win this fi ght close to 90% of the time, making him an acceptable bet at anything short of -550. I expect the fi ght will go no farther than the second round, with Emelianenko winning via submission. And I’m sure the following day he’ll be back to arm-barring bears.

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Due to evolving submission games and more televised fi ghts than ever before, fans are being treated to submission spectacles like it’s Christmas morning. While recent slick subs by Dustin Hazelett and Rosimar Palhares wowed crowds, the sneaky maneuvers have had a long, storied, and success-laden history in mixed martial arts.

These ten submissions were chosen on both historical and technical value, and are in chronological order. What? You thought I was going to rank them too?

ROYCE GRACIE DEFEATS DAN SEVERN VIA TRIANGLE CHOKE: UFC 4, 12/16/94

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master was pinned under four-time All-American wrestler Dan Severn for more than fi fteen minutes before he managed to slowly work his way into a triangle choke. A little-known maneuver at the time, Gracie’s use of the triangle put it on the radar of every serious fan. It was exciting, too. Before the submission, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before strength would prevail. However, its immeasurable historical value, not the technicality, is the primary reason that it appears on this list. Of course, it does not hurt the legend of Gracie that Severn outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds. Gracie was quoted as saying “a lot of people made the comment that the fi rst UFCs were a big infomercial for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Yes, they were. But it was reality.”

RUMINA SATO DEFEATS CHARLES TAYLOR VIA FLYING ARMBAR: SHOOTO, 1/15/99

The historical signifi cance of this bout was little, if any. However, the technical prowess of the move was unlike anything fans had ever seen before. Sato’s fl ying armbar, just six seconds into the fi ght, was the quickest and slickest submission of all time. This record stands today. Fans in the modern era of MMA have seen some incredible events, but pointing their attention toward the video of Sato’s move never fails to draw top submission consideration.

KAZUSHI SAKURABA DEFEATS RENZO GRACIE VIA STANDING KIMURA: PRIDE 10, 8/27/00

It was billed as the fi ght of the century, and it certainly lived up to its potential as the two stars pounded away at one another for nearly ten minutes. As the fi ghters seemed to be at a standstill near a corner in what was the fi rst static moment of the match, Sakuraba snatched a kimura out of thin air, spinning Gracie to the ground and snapping his arm in the process. Gracie refused to submit, leaving the referee to call the fi ght a few agonizing seconds later. The win against Renzo Gracie, considered to be the best in his family, solidifi ed Sakuraba’s place among the greats and puts a severe dent in the once ironclad façade of BJJ.

RYO CHONAN DEFEATS ANDERSON SILVA VIA FLYING SCISSOR HEEL HOOK: PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2004, 12/31/04

One of the prettiest moves in the book, it was also one of the most unexpected. Anderson Silva was happily doing his Anderson Silva thing (winning the standup war with precision striking and takedowns at will) when Chonan snapped in the heel hook before the man who trains BJJ under Nogueira could make a move. The loss, in an ironic way, actually contributed to Silva’s legacy. The heel hook is the last time that Silva truly lost (save a DQ), and the fact that it required one of the rarest moves to beat him only adds to the mystique.

SHINYA AOKI DEFEATS JOACHIM HANSEN VIA GOGOPLATA: PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2006, 12/31/06

It was at this New Year’s Eve event that “Tobikan Judan” or “Master of Flying Submissions,” Shinya Aoki, performed what is thought to be the fi rst successful gogoplata in MMA competition. He would save the fl ying for future victories. The gogoplata, a complicated move in which the shin is pressed against the opponent’s trachea from a guard position, was more of a piece of technicality than a possibility. Aoki changed that school of thinking by famously applying the hold just a few minutes into the fi rst round. Add in the fact that Hansen was (and is) regarded as one of the top fi ghters on the planet makes this a shoe-in for the list.

NICK DIAZ DEFEATS TAKANORI GOMI VIA GOGOPLATA: PRIDE 33, 2/24/07

Just a few months after the fi rst successful gogoplata came the second one—a shocking victory by Nick Diaz over whom many considered to be the best lightweight, Takanori Gomi. Diaz was having his way with Gomi in a standup war before switching attacks and securing the gogoplata. This incredible underdog victory, which came in the rarest of fashions, deserves to be on this list, despite Diaz later testing positive for marijuana.

ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUEIRA DEFEATS TIM SYLVIA VIA GUILLOTINE CHOKE: UFC 81, 2/2/08

If fans missed Minotauro’s resiliency in his UFC debut against Heath Herring, they had no choice but to watch history repeat itself as Nogueira came from behind to submit Tim Sylvia in the third round. After taking a beating for two full rounds, Nogueira surprised Sylvia with the guillotine choke, becoming the fi rst man to win championship belts in both PRIDE and the UFC. Sylvia would later comment, “I hate BJJ.” Submitting the former champion in the world’s premier MMA organization ensured that even casual fans would recognize him as a top submission fi ghter.

ANDERSON SILVA DEFEATS DAN HENDERSON VIA REAR NAKED CHOKE: UFC 82, 3/1/08

Just a month after Sylvia was defeated with a historic submission, Silva looked to rewrite some history of his own. More than three years had passed since the loss to Chonan, and Silva found himself as champion, ready to defend his belt against his toughest test to date. Dan Henderson was often referred to as “Decision Dan” for more than one reason: while he didn’t fi nish all of his fi ghts, he was equally diffi cult to fi nish. But somehow, after being kept on the ground for most of the fi rst round, Silva turned the tide in round two and moved to Henderson’s back, where he quickly locked in a rear naked choke. The win cemented Silva’s legacy in the sport and allowed him to unify the PRIDE and UFC championship belts.

SHINYA AOKI DEFEATS KATSUHIKO NAGATA VIA TOP MOUNT GOGOPLATA: DREAM 4, 6/15/08

When Bas Rutten fails to correctly identify a submission, you know something is up. Shinya Aoki weaved more of his legendary magic at a DREAM event that saw a seemingly impossible variant on an already amazing submission. Aoki managed to get a top mount position, which is much different from the bottom position he prefers. Instead of attempting to ground and pound, Aoki decided to utilize his favorite bottom mount submission…from the top. And thus, “gogoplata from mount” was born. Aoki would go on to fi ght in the fi nals of the lightweight tournament, further perpetuating the legacy of the Japanese fi ghter’s creative and unusual body of work.

FEDOR EMELIANENKO DEFEATS TIM SYLVIA VIA REAR NAKED CHOKE: AFFLICTION, BANNED, 7/19/08

In the midst of a production war with the UFC and just the second time he had fought in the United States, the mighty Russian surpassed all expectations with a 36-second win over former champion Tim Sylvia, who surely regrets fi nding himself on the wrong end of this list…twice. In less than the amount of time it takes to toast a bagel, Fedor did what took Randy Couture fi ve full rounds. The transition and submission were textbook, as Fedor became the fi rst WAMMA champion and was recognized as a legitimate star in the states.

A quick glance at the top ten will reveal that nearly half of the submissions on this list came in the last calendar year. This pattern reveals two truths regarding the sport: First, with the disintegration of old organizations and the amalgamation of new ones, each submission victory has the potential to be that much more symbolic due to the combination of titles. Second, the increased submission education in the s
port allows even the least technically sound fi ghters to achieve competent ground games. The previously average become talented, and the previously talented become incredible.

As the sport and its fi ghters mature, fans can expect to be treated to faster and more unique submissions than ever before. Even Shinya Aoki couldn’t dream up what we’ll be enjoying in a few short years.

Apologies to: Rosimar Palhares’ armbar of Ivan Salaverry, Nate Diaz’s triangle choke of Kurt Pellegrino, Fedor Emelianenko’s armbar of Mark Coleman, Matt Hughes’ armbar of Georges St. Pierre, Frank Mir’s armbar of Tim Sylvia, BJ Penn’s rear naked choke of Matt Hughes, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s anaconda choke of Heath Herring and triangle-armbar of Mark Coleman, and Marcus Aurelio’s triangle-armbar combo of Takanori Gomi.

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“That’s the unfortunate thing about hype—when there’s a lot of hype behind you and you don’t live up to it, it goes away really quick.” —Dana White, UFC 149 press conference

Ultimate DisappointmentsIt’s probably our fault—overzealous media members—who, in our endless quest for an intriguing story, over-hype an athlete who has yet to prove anything at the next level. Every sport has endless examples of athletes never living up to the expectations that the media and fans place on them (see JaMarcus Russell in the NFL or Kwame Brown in the NBA).

Mixed martial arts has seen its share of fighters who have experienced success in other promotions only to struggle when they make their long-anticipated debut in the UFC. Do they fold under the bright lights and pressure of the big show? There’s no doubt that it’s a whole new level of stress when a fighter making his UFC debut is walking to the famed Octagon in front of 15,000 rabid MMA fans, and suddenly ring announcer Bruce Buffer is screaming “It’s time!” Many industry experts believe that experiencing “Octagon jitters” is natural, but how an athlete deals with the jitters is what marks the difference between success and failure.

“Octagon jitters are real as far as allowing the pressure of the event to affect your performance,” says Greg Jackson, one of MMA’s most successful trainers. “Making sure that your mind is focused on controlling what you can control and letting the rest go is very important.”

MMA legend and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten also believes a successful transition to the UFC can be a psychological challenge.

“When a fighter makes his name in another organization and the UFC starts to take notice, there’s a lot of hype to live up to,” Rutten says. “They’d better be good and have confidence, because some will wonder if the level between the UFC and their old organization is a big difference. Once they start thinking like that and other people tell them that the UFC is a much higher level, doubt starts kicking in. Once doubt gets ahold of them, some fighters can’t deal with it. They need a few fights to overcome this feeling. Others will never have a problem. It’s all in your mind.”

Matt Hume, the founder of AMC Pankration in Kirkland, Washington, has trained some of the biggest names in the sport, including Rich Franklin, Chris Leben, and Demetrious Johnson. Hume believes the fighter’s preparation is the key to Octagon success.

“Teach them everything they need to know as an amateur before becoming a pro,” Hume says. “You need to have patience to reach your technical goals before making the jump. Be honest with them about their true ability to be successful at the highest levels of MMA. If they are truly prepared and capable, it should be treated like any other fight that preceded it.”

Former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields was riding a 14-fight winning streak and was widely considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA when he finally signed with the UFC in 2010. The potential of Shields facing the UFC’s top middleweights had MMA fans drooling, but a lackluster and semi-controversial victory over Martin Kampmann in his Octagon debut had critics questioning if he could compete on the biggest stage.

Shields did nothing to silence those critics when he lost back-to-back fights to George St-Pierre (for the UFC Welterweight Title) and Jake Ellenberger. Since the losses, Shields has earned much-needed wins over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Ed Herman, improving his UFC record to 3-2, but many fighters have not experienced the same success.

Here’s a look at five fighters who did not live up to the hype-train when they stepped into the Octagon.

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović

Pre-UFC Record: 21-4-2
Notable Achievements: 2006 Pride World Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion/1999/2000 K-1 World Grand Prix Runner-Up
UFC Record: 4-6

After winning the 2006 Pride Grand Prix and earning victories over some of MMA’s best fighters—including Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, and Mark Coleman in PRIDE—Cro Cop entered the UFC in 2007. He defeated Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67, but then he dropped consecutive bouts to Gabe Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo. Cro Cop left the promotion to fight three times in Japan before getting a win over Mostapha al-Turk in his return to the Octagon in 2009. It would be a rollercoaster ride the rest of his UFC career, and after losing three straight fights to Frank Mir, Brendan Schaub, and Roy Nelson, Cro Cop walked away with a disappointing 4-6 record.

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto

Pre-UFC Record: 18-3-1
Notable Achievements: 2005 K-1 Hero’s Lightweight Tournament Champion
UFC Record: 0-3

Known for his aggressive fighting style and controversial personality, Kid Yamamoto’s move to the UFC in 2011 after a successful fight career in Japan had fight fans excited. However, he’s yet to get a “W” in three UFC fights, dropping bouts to Demetrious Johnson, Darren Uyenoyama, and Vaughan Lee, who supplied Yamamoto his first loss via submission in front of his countrymen in Saitama, Japan, at UFC 144.

Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama

Pre-UFC Record: 12-1-2
Achievements: 2006 Hero’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion
UFC Record: 1-4

“Sexyama” won a split-decision victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 100 that earned him Fight of the Night. However, following his impressive debut, Akiyama has yet to get back into the win column, losing four consecutive fights to Chris Leben, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, and Jake Shields. Winning three Fight of the Night bonuses has eased the pain.

Wanderlei Silva

Pre-UFC Record: 5-1
Achievements: PRIDE Middleweight Champion/2003 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Winner
UFC Record: 4-7

In his first UFC fight, Silva was TKO’d by Vitor Belfort at UFC Brazil in 1998. He then beat Tony Petarra at UFC 20, before losing to Tito Ortiz at UFC 25. By the time Silva returned to the promotion in 2007, he held records for the most wins, knockouts, title defenses, and longest winning streak in PRIDE history. He has not, however, experienced that same type of success in the UFC. Following his latest defeat to Rich Franklin, “The Axe Murderer” has dropped to 4-7 inside the Octagon.

Jason “Mayhem” Miller

Pre-UFC Record: 16-3
Achievements: Superbrawl Welterweight Champion/ICON Sport Middleweight Champion
UFC Record: 0-3

Miller made his first appearance at UFC 52 in 2005, where he lost a unanimous decision to Georges St-Pierre. “Mayhem” bailed, and proceeded to earn wins-galore in other promotions, before returning to the big show six years later. He may have wished that he didn’t come back. After two uninspired, lopsided losses to Michael Bisping and CB Dollaway, the UFC brass sent Miller packing.

Dishonorable Mention

Kimbo Slice – UFC Record: 1-1
The YouTube sensation was given the opportunity to compete on The Ultimate Fighter 10, where he beat Houston Alexander in the finale. In Slice’s next fight at UFC 113, Matt Mitrione picked him apart, and he was promptly cut from the roster.

Rolles Gracie – UFC Record: 0-1
The son of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneer Rolls Gracie, Rolles was one-and-done after Joey Beltran TKO’d him at UFC 109, prompting Renzo Gracie to call his performance “embarrassing.”

Jorge Santiago – UFC Record: 0-2
Santiago won the Strikeforce Middleweight Grand Prix in 2007 and the Sengoku Middleweight Grand Prix in 2008, but he was taken out by Brian Stann and Demian Maia in his only two UFC fights.

James Toney – UFC Record: 0-1
The former World Champion boxer talked (incoherently most of the time) his way into an MMA fight against Randy Couture at UFC 118 in 2010. Couture shot a low-single, tenderized Toney from mount, and mercifully submitted him with an arm triangle.

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I. The Mayhem Show

Some people are just blessed with more energy than the rest of us, I think as I watch my friend Jason” Mayhem” Miller at his manic best whipping up the crowd of screaming fans on the set of his hit show Bully Beatdown, I’ve been here two days at the invitation of the show’s producer Eric Van Wagenen. They’re taping all the fight sections of the season’s episodes back to back over a few days in a mammoth warehouse on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah. Mayhem is earning his money as the show’s host, jumping frantically around and waving his arms in the air psyching the crowd to “get up” The people in the crowd are also in on the act. They know the wilder and more dramatic their reactions to Miller and to what they will see later in the cage the better their chances of getting seen on TV. Miller leaps onto the side the cage and hangs off it like a monkey, glowering and glaring into his close-up, while another camera attached to a giant crane scans out over the crowd for the reaction shot.

The show, in its second season has a simple premise. It gives victims of real life bullies the chance to get even with their persecutors by having them fight a professional mixed martial artist. The show even throws money into the equation because if the bully accepts the challenge they get a chance to win 10,000 if they can survive two rounds with the pro. Here’s the twist. Every time the bully is tapped out or knocked down 1,000 dollars is subtracted from their total and goes to the victim.

The show has been a huge ratings success and attracts some big name mixed martial artists to be involved with it. While I’m here I see Eddie Alvarez, Jake Shields, Andre Arlovski and several others devour their respective bullies. Once he’s whipped the crowd into enough of frenzy to suit himself and the producers, Mayhem begins to shoot his promos and introductions to the show segments. He works off a hand full of multicolored index cards that were given to him by the show’s producer Eric Van Wagenen. Van Wagenen crouches on his director’s perch at the foot of the cage and Miller and discusses how to do the various shots with miller and the cameramen. Miller always snaps out of his hyperactive antics and pays rapt attention to whatever Van Wagenen says. As out of control as Miller sometimes appears to be in actuality he’s a real pro. He does several readings of each line, giving it a slightly different take each time and he almost always nails it.

During my first day on the set Van Wagenen spoke glowingly of Miller and his contributions to the show’s success. “I write the show,” he said before pausing for emphasis “and Mayhem sells it. There wouldn’t be a show without Mayhem. Mayhem lets the audience in on the joke,” Van Wagenen explains. “and the joke is that these guys (the bullies) are fucking crazy to want to try to fight a professional MMA fighter. Mayhem lets the audience in on it early. So it’s fun to follow along right into that moment when your bully’s let in on the joke,” Van Wagenen is good natured, with wicked sense of humor and can’t help but smile at the thought of the bullies getting their reality check every episode. “And that moment comes about two seconds after Big John starts the fight. You see that look in the bully’s eyes.” Van Wagenen calls it the “Oh Shit moment.” And he says it’s the most real moment on Reality Television.

“Why do any of the bullies do it?” I ask him. “Haven’t they seen the show? Don’t they know they’re going to get destroyed?” “One of the wonderful tenants of reality television” he says “is that when you cast people, they always think that it’s not going to happen to them. Everybody always thinks that they’re going to be the exception to the rule.” He continues with a happy grin “God bless them. We love that kind of thinking.”

II. Can’t we just all get along?

After Miller cuts his opening lines the “victims” as they are called come to the ring. They’ve been cast not only for their stories but also for the pitiable way they look, they might as well have VICTIM written in bright red letters across their foreheads. Mayhem plays the part of the cool big brother as he listens to the victims complain about the unjust treatment they’ve had to endure. He elicits a tale of woe from each victim and I can’t help but chuckle at the over the top howls of indignation and cries for revenge from the crowd that punctuates each of the victim’s ignomies. “Help me Mayhem,” the victims say in exasperation as each one details the wrongdoings they’ve had to endure – “he pushed me down the stairs-he wrecked my car- burned me with an iron-breaks all my stuff – tea bagged me in the pool- owes me money and won’t pay me back-slapped methrew food on me at work- always comes to my house and clogs my toilet etc…” Mayhem does his best to look shocked and shakes his head in disbelief.

Next it’s time for the Bullies to be introduced and they come to the ring in a torrent of abuse- a lot of it so nasty that I’m sure they’ll have to edit it out for TV. When the bullies come face to face with their accusers the victims show the tell tale signs of real stress. They turn read, shuffle nervously and look down. Miller always teases the bullies and makes fun of them during these sections. He can always tell just how far to push them without going overboard and this builds suspense until the pro fighter is announced. The first time a bully knows who it is they will face is when they see the fighter walk down the aisle to the cage. Both Mayhem and Van Wagenen told me they were waiting for the day a bully sees his pro come through the cage and says “Fuck this!” and walks off the set. Hasn’t happened yet though.

To watch the fights, Miller is sits with the victims, perched above the crowd in a special bleacher. The fights all follow pretty much the same pattern with the bullies getting thrashed and beaten again and again to the delight of the crowd. However the reality of the situation doesn’t seem to register with the bully until about thirty seconds into the fight when he has been taken down and submitted for the second time. If you’ve never been in against a world class grappler, and I’m sure none of the bullies have, the experience is one akin to being devoured alive or maybe what it feels like to drown or suffocate. Slow, tortuous, irresistible. If the producers of the show wanted the bullies to feel helpless, having them manhandled by the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Jake Shields Andre Arlovski is the best way to do it.

III. The Lights go down

A huge man sits slumped over in his chair in the makeshift locker room where the bullies are taken after the fights. The doctors check them out to see that they haven’t been too seriously messed up during the fights and they conduct the follow up interviews for the show. He shakes his head his hair still dripping with sweat and looks up at one the interviewers” Y’all are mean Dawg.” He says in disbelief. . “When I heard them say Andre Arlovski,” he says running his fingers through his hair as he stares at the floor “I thought it was a joke.” He shakes his head again and breathes hard.” That was fucked up.”

I make a point to follow the bullies back stage and watch them after their fight. I want to see their authentic reaction to what had happened after the lights had gone down and the adrenaline had settled. They all deal with it in different ways. Some get angry throwing their stuff or slamming the locker doors. Some seem depressed or despondent- humiliated. A couple just sit there complying
with whatever the production people tell them to do in the dazed and docile way of the recently concussed No doubt though, they have all been physically dominated in a way they have probably never experienced before and most seem legitimately humbled. The ever perceptive Big John McCarthy, who reffed all the fights, put the reality check this way.

“They do not understand the levels that separate the average person from the professional athlete. Actually that bully may think they’re good at fighting. Maybe they hit somebody in a bar and that person went down or something, but they don’t realize what their level of good is compared to someone who’s really trained’s level of good is. There’s just light years’ separating them. The best part about this is a lot of them say, (before the fight) ‘I’ve never had my butt kicked,’ and they get their butt kicked.”

I also get a chance, post fight, to speak to the fighters and victims. I am surprised at how seriously the fighters take their job as bully punishers. A few told me that they themselves had been bullied once upon a time, Arlovski said that up until age 14 when he started to get a little size on him that he had been mercilessly bullied in his native Belarus and that it felt good to put his bully in the proper place.

“I understand what they [the victims] go through because I’ve been there before,” he says speaking just enough English for his Russian accent to be heavy and menacing.

Right after I finish talking to Arlovski I run into Van Wagenen who gives me a knowing smirk “This is one of those times I feel particularly evil about what we do to these guys.” He says referring to putting the guy in there with Andrei.

The two former victims are now triumphant giving interviews and saying that since they’ve seen him take his beating, they know the bully’s learned his lesson and are willing to put things behind them. They pose triumphantly with Mayhem and heaping handfuls of fake money as the photographers click away. Justice, reality TV style, has been served.

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No! Don’t do it! That is the stuff that makes you test positive!” So went the adamant words flying out of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva’s mouth, genuine worry and concern painted onto his thick brow and mixed in with his resounding Brazilian accent that echoed off the walls of American Top Team. These words of warning had been directed toward a group of Silva’s own teammates who had been discussing legal supplements, the purpose of which is to naturally boost testosterone production. Silva, of course, was warning his friends about falsely testing positive for steroid use following the random drug-screening tests that state athletic commissions require mixed martial artists to submit to at any given show—the same type of test that had sidelined Silva from fighting in the U.S. at that very moment, for the very same reason he was forewarning.

Denial and excuse-making is oftentimes the tune sung by fighters who get popped for ingesting illegal performance-enhancing drugs, but that’s usually on camera. In public. In afterthought.

But in the shadows of the gym, encircled by a group of like-minded confederates who know the sacrifices of the game they play for money and glory and pay for with blood and suffering, it might only be there that true intentions be whispered and admitted without fear of reprisal or judgment. But even there, in the first place he called home outside of Brasilia, Brazil, Antonio Silva speaks with honesty and sincerity, even when he has no clue that a journalist dressed in fight shorts and a rash guard is casually mingling within earshot, right behind him.

“It is because of my tumor,” Silva would later explain, pointing to his head with a large finger. “[Doctors first noticed the tumor] when I did the medical exams for my first fight in K-1 Hero’s. Up until then I had only fought on small shows, and had never had an MRI of my head done.” The tumor that Silva speaks of was located inside his brain, on his pituitary gland, which is dubbed the “master gland” given its heavy hormonal role in the body, growth being one of them. And although the tumor has since been removed, the damage has arguably been done. Standing 6 foot 4 and weighing over 300 pounds at one point in his life, Antonio Silva suffers from acromegaly, a syndrome that can be caused by such a tumor, and whose symptoms include lowered testosterone levels, increased human growth hormone (HGH) production and resultantly large facial features, hands and feet—undoubtedly what earned him the second moniker of “Bigfoot,” aside from “Junior.” But it is the lowered testosterone that would lead the super heavyweight-turned heavyweight beast to make a simple mistake that would set off a chain reaction of sour luck and alleged injustices against the hulking fighter. “My HGH level is very high, but my testosterone is very, very low, because of my acromegaly. So I took a supplement that raises testosterone,” says Silva.

“It turns out that he was using a legal, over-the-counter supplement called ‘Novedex’ to help boost his testosterone before his last fight against Justin Eilers [in July 2008],” says manager Alex Davis, a man who currently assists Luiz Cane, Thiago Silva and Thiago Tavares, among others. “But there is an ingredient in Novedex that metabolizes into the same chemical form as Boldenone (an illegal steroid).” Unwise to this tidbit of knowledge, Bigfoot had taken the supplement and was later bewildered to learn that he had been fined and suspended for one year by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) following a false positive on his urinalysis test. But once the culprit—Novedex—was discovered, that’s when the trouble began. “We investigated and found out that Novedex makes a positive for Boldenone,” says Davis. “So we gathered proof that Antonio had used the supplement, and had him do another urine test after he stopped using it, and the test immediately came back negative.”

Boldenone, which is usually reserved for veterinary care on horses, has a very long half-life, meaning it can reportedly linger in the body for almost a year and a half after being used, and for at least a few months following even a small dosage. But the fact that Silva’s second test came back negative—following his immediate stoppage of ingesting Novedex— more or less spelled out what both Silva and his manager had asserted: Silva could not have taken Boldenone and tested negative mere weeks after having tested positive. Such evidence should have held enough weight for the CSAC to reexamine the case, both men thought, but the suspension was upheld following an appeal (and even an unproductive case in civil court), thereby threatening to cutoff Bigfoot’s very livelihood that affords his family food and the medicine necessary for treating his condition.

“The cost of my treatment is very high. Just the monthly injection I take is very expensive, not to mention the doctor’s exams. It got to the point where I had to put my health and well-being first,” says Silva, before running through the same-old-sameold he’s been proclaiming since Day One. “Also, I never took any steroids, I did not cheat. I spent the time and money to try and prove this through the normal channels to the CSAC even in civil court, but no one would listen or look at the proof. I need to take care of my family and my bills just like anyone else.” Meanwhile, EliteXC had collapsed as a company, Antonio Silva’s lucrative contract more or less with it. But whereas this proved frustrating and frightening to many fighters caught in the fray, the dissolving of Silva’s contract was more so a blessing in disguise for Silva, whose U.S. suspension and contractual gridlock had effectively held his career in limbo up to that point.

Motivated by a self-righteous contention of unwavering—and provable— innocence, and a necessity that only desperate men know, Antonio Silva and manager Alex Davis went to the land of the rising sun. Bigfoot had no choice, he says, but to take a fight within the Sengoku promotion in Japan, much to the displeasure of—and far from the official reaches of—the CSAC, whose suspensions only heavily insinuate a worldwide hiatus from MMA. This decision would spark an up-and-down speculation on the outlook of Bigfoot’s Americanized fighting career, and as of the date of publication of this piece—three days before Silva’s original suspension was to conclude (which was enacted by a CSAC that has since revamped its ranks, with murmurs of scandal allegedly lining the core of this decision)—it is unclear as to what Antonio Silva’s future holds based upon the facts of his case, the switching of power within the CSAC, and the “all in” gamble that a desperate giant took on his life as a fighter.

But that doesn’t stop Bigfoot and his manager from looking toward future challenges, including two separate op- ponents whose first names alone illicit a litany of emotional feedback from rabid fight fans: Fedor and Brock.

“I would really, really like that fight with Fedor,” says Silva, a BJJ black belt under respected ATT co-founder Ricardo Liborio. “Fedor is a great fighter, the best in the world at the moment, and if I want to become No. 1, he is the man I must beat, and I think I could do just that.” Whereas this is the cut and dried desire of every heavyweight fighter striving for greatness, it’s worth noting that Silva is arguably within spitting distance of this goal, as he remains one of few top heavyweights in the world who could not only pose a challenge to the likes of Emelianenko, but also one who is not currently under contractual obligation to the UFC.

Of course, this scenario could very well never play out, should Bigfoot eventually
end up within the UFC himself, once his contract with Sengoku is up. Following a historic night at UFC 100 that saw UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s heel-appeal swell to an ugly head and explode all over the Octagon, Antonio Silva just might represent the proverbial “big gun” that spiteful fans would pay big bucks to have the UFC pull out and aim at the 6’2 Lesnar in the future—and it would be with good reason, too. Despite standing two inches taller than Lesnar and tipping the scales at the same weight, Bigfoot displays a swift and free-flowing athleticism that is rare for a guy his size. Able to throw smooth head kicks at will (his first MMA fight was won with a head kick to his opponent, he proudly boasts), Bigfoot’s style is more comparable to the likes of a super-sized Miguel Torres, rather than the powerful and choppy mechanics that are attributed to the likes of Lesnar. But all of this is talk, paying fans realize, until the day they hopefully see this matchup come to fruition.

“Nothing else has happened – after July 27, his suspension is up,” Silva’s friend and manager, Alex Davis, says with relief and closure. “We don’t foresee any further action on the part of the CSAC, and we hope to put this issue behind us and move on.” Although neither of them explicitly says so, it’s clear that July 27 is a date that both men eye with hope, faith and a little trepidation, after which each man may breathe easily once again – and chalk this expensive and frustrating experience up to lessons learned and dreams yet to be pursued.

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Their nicknames may get you laughing, but LMFAO is training to party…and they know it.

Sky Blu isn’t laughing right now. Actually, he’s in a little bit of pain. Home from an extensive tour in support of LMFAO’s gold-certified sophomore set Sorry For Party Rocking and performing during the halftime show of the Super Bowl, the covocalist of the electro pop duo is sitting in a recliner with an orthopedic pillow behind his back.

The party animal, otherwise known as Skyler Gordy, is nursing three herniated discs. Although his extreme sports background as a teenager hasn’t contributed to the injury too much, his hectic tour schedule has deteriorated his back. Living the rock star lifestyle, which includes constant traveling packed jam-tight into small places, has simply taken its toll. Sky Blu, however, is looking to correct that. In just a few weeks, he plans to resume his Kung Fu training at White Tiger Martial Arts in Los Angeles, California. After all, the martial art has helped him on both a physical and mental level.

LMFAO“I need to mold my body and get back into the shape I was in when I was younger so this doesn’t happen again,” says the 25-year-old. “Once our schedule clears, I’m going to get back in the dojo. I’m usually there anywhere from two to four hours—training, meditating, and learning about the history of the martial art. I’m interested in where it comes from and why it was created.”

He’s not kidding. Briefly mention the topic and the party rock musician will rattle off a five-minute summary about the nearly 400-year history of White Tiger Kung Fu (also known as Bak Fu Pai)—a Southern Chinese discipline passed on from Daoist monk Fung Doe Duk to Grandmaster Doo Wai’s family in exchange for keeping him hidden from the Qing Dynasty.

Truth be told, fighting is in Sky Blu’s blood. His grandfather, Berry Gordy, Jr., competed as a featherweight boxer and won the golden gloves before he created iconic record label Motown. In addition, Sky Blu’s father, Berry Gordy IV, who is keeping him company on this bright winter afternoon, learned a couple of fighting disciplines that he taught his son. “We both took Shotokan karate, and before that, my pops took judo, so we’d wrestle around the house,” says the LMFAO member. “We had punching bags hanging up in every corner of the room, so we would always train on that.”

Sky Blu lived in the Pacific Palisades— a neighborhood within Los Angeles—and grew up with several members of the legendary Gracie family. Through them, he became familiar with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While he didn’t obtain a belt or become a ground wizard by any means, he learned how to defend himself when the fight hit the floor.

“I started picking up a lot of skills from that,” he recalls. “I studied a lot of the Gracie tapes, and really started utilizing it and rolling with a lot of my friends who had been doing jiu-jitsu for years. Just the fact that I know how to be calm on my back is important. I started doing pretty well and competed with some cats that were my friends. They really tested me.”

Not only did his father introduce him to various martial arts, but it was also his pops who showed the electro pop sensation a tape of UFC 1. Sky Blu was hooked immediately when he saw his MMA idol and local hero Royce Gracie dismantle the opposition in the tournament. Over the years, he and his dad have attended various fight cards, including UFC 60 and UFC 76, featuring the headlining bout between Chuck Liddell and Keith Jardine.

In fact, Sky Blu originally aspired to be in the UFC. “I used to want to be an MMA fighter, bad,” he admits. “I was doing all these different types of disciplines. But then, my music career took off, and I didn’t have the time to train, and I probably would have got my ass beat, because I didn’t have the time to do it.”

Then again, music is in his blood, too. Formed in 2006 with his uncle, Redfoo, both members of LMFAO were Los Angelesbased deejays who possessed a spirited vibe, a rock-tinged swag, and a smooth hip-hop delivery to boot. The electro pop duo signed with Interscope Records in 2008 and dropped their Grammy-nominated debut album Party Rock a year later. It contained smash records “I’m in Miami Bitch,” “La La La,” and “Shots” featuring Lil’ Jon. In addition, “Get Crazy” serves as the gorilla juicehead theme song to Jersey Shore.

LMFAO’s biggest success came in 2011 when they dropped their sophomore set Sorry For Party Rocking. The 10-track collection, which was certified gold, spawned numerous hits, including “Party Rock Anthem” and “Champagne Showers” featuring Natalia Kills. Their mega single, “Sexy And I Know It,” went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the charts in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The California twosome will continue to support Sorry For Party Rocking in the spring. Although Sky Blu’s herniated discs won’t be entirely healed, he’ll be able to manage the pain a little bit better. “I’m still gonna have to deal with it, but it’s gonna get less and less painful,” he says. “Basically, I gotta train to party!”

On set with Overeem

Last August, LMFAO filmed the music video for their playful single “Sexy And I Know It” in Venice Beach, California. Days before the shoot, Sky Blu got a phone call from a friend who represented Alistair Overeem and offered to bring him by the set.

Sky Blu, a fan of “The Demolition Man,” was excited to meet one of his favorite mixed martial artists and even decided to throw the monstrous Dutchman into the music video. He’s not hard to spot in the video.

“He’s like the coolest guy ever,” the musician says. “We got some shots of him for the video. We kicked it, and he was just a cool dude.”

Once the cameras were off, however, the two talked about their martial arts background and that led to a future challenge. “I told Alistair that we’re going to spar, and I was playing around with him on the set. He’s so strong that he doesn’t even know his own strength. He grabbed me, and I was like, ‘Ah, no! I gotta film in this outfit, man,’” Sky Blue says with a chuckle. “He is absolutely colossal.”

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Vegetarians pass flyers to impressionable teenagers outside the entrance of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte, North Carolina, in an attempt to persuade them that eating meat is wrong. Once inside the venue, kids line up to display their killer skills on Guitar Hero. Others head to the skate ramp. A plethora of 15-year-old girls hold cardboard signs that offer “FREE HUGS,” some of which parade around in bikini tops and those short-shorts that read “juicy” on the ass. Coincidently, the Trojan soldiers give out condoms to promote safe sex. Between the six stages, various activities, and band tents, concert goers are entertained. Although this is the typical Warped Tour environment, the potential for a mixed martial arts growth looms.

 

Known as the biggest alternative festival of the summer, Warped Tour is the land of opportunity. Since its creation by Kevin Lyman in 1994, the event has showcased some of the biggest names in music, up-and-coming talents, worthwhile causes, and action sports that complement the punk rock culture. As Bryan Kienlen, bassist of punk quartet The Bouncing Souls, says, “Each year, it’s a snapshot of what the kids are in to. It was always supposed to be set up to be music and lifestyle combined.”

 

Perhaps, among this sea of humanity, MMA is a perfect lifestyle fit.

 

Pitching A Tent

 

Throughout the summer festival, artists,companies, and organizations set up tents to interact with fans and spread brand awareness about their merchandise or causes. Clothing brand Glamour Kills, headphone manufacturer Skull Candy, and suicide prevention/depression nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms all developed a larger presence due to this tour.

 

With the rise of MMA, which is growing more and more each day, an organization like Bellator FC, Strike force, or even the UFC could benefit by setting up a tent of their own and appealing their product to the younger demographic. “No company can ever have too much exposure,” says Dan Kenny, bassist of metal group Suicide Silence. “It would be smart to possibly have a street team with flyers passing them out to people to watch an upcoming event. UFC could totally benefit with a Spike card or something.”

 

Andy Williams, guitarist of melodic hardcore act Every Time I Die, agrees and takes the idea a step further. “It needs to be well educated,” he explains. “It can’t be something like a full-on Affliction covered, TapouT head-to-toe guy screaming with face paint on. I think it should be some sort of educated things [and] have videos, almost like a little seminar.”

 

But as Junior Flores, guitarist of punk band Set Your Goals, is quick to point out, people are there to see bands first and foremost. Lifestyle activities and product promotion are secondary. “Let’s say you’re doing some event at noon on a Warped Tour day, but there is a big headliner playing at the same time,” he explains.“Are kids gonna see what the UFC tent is gonna provide, or are they gonna go see a band they are there to see? It’s the same thing with any sponsors. They got Rock Band and you’ll see some kids hanging out there because they’re there to get entertained and stay in a tent away from the sun. But the minute a band they wanna see comes up, they’re gonna leave. It doesn’t matter what sponsor is there, so it would be a hit or miss.”

 

Music And MMA Are Cool

 

Action sports are a key fundamental to the Warped Tour atmosphere. For instance, there is a skate ramp every year where kids can shred, and whenever pro skater/musician Mike Vallely is on the bill, he’ll join in the festivities. In 2007, Mexican luche libre promotion AAA toured with six wrestlers and held matches every two hours. One year, there were even after hours boxing bouts between select band members.

 

MMA could very well be the next sport showcased on the festival, be it on an amateur or professional level. Greg Kerwin, lead guitarist for chick-led screamo outfit Eyes Set To Kill, likes the sound of it. “That would be badass man,” he says.“You get the half pipe going, and then, some dudes kicking the shit out of each other. And you got great music after that.”

 

Dan Kenny echoes those sentiments. “I could actually even see amateur cage fights during the day. They already have motocross, tattoo booths, and other random fun shit. If they had fights everyday or every other day, I think it could benefit both sides. People can watch a band and then be all ‘Shit! It’s 3:30 p.m. We need to run to this part of Warped to catch the fights and then go back to watching bands,’” Kenny says. “In all reality, I don’t see any of this coming true. It would take a lot of work and probably a lot of insurance policies. Even some states can’t adjust to MMA yet.”

 

It might seem difficult to achieve at present time, but if fighters and athletic commissions were to commit, then it could become a reality. Even tour organizer Kevin Lyman has had some preliminary talks about it.

 

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

 

Hard rock, heavy metal, and hip-hop have always been the top musical selections for fight organizations, as many feel the aggression and intense attitude perfectly complements the MMA vibe. While several bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and Suicide Silence are performing at this year’s Warped Tour, the festival itself has become a stronghold for lighter music like pop punk, pop rock, and ska—all of which are rarely ever used as theme music or for promotional videos.

 

Just ask Greg Puciato, vocalist of The Dillinger Escape Plan. “Warped Tour is not the highest on the list when it comes to bands that have balls,” he explains. “I don’t feel much in common with 90% of the bands on that tour [where] 15-year old kids have girl haircuts. That stuff is so foreign to me. When I look at the other 90 bands and they’re all 18 years old, they’re all making music that to me has nothing to do with rock and metal where I’m used to coming from. So I don’t feel it has anything in common with an aggressive sport like the UFC.”

 

Though a lot of heavier bands share Puciato’s view, Bryce Avary of rock solo project the Rocket Summer, feels very differently. “Music, in general, ignites in people’s souls, and it can create so many different kinds of emotions and really help people through hard times,” the song writer says. “It can get people pumped up, and Warped Tour is definitely a place where there is intense music being played that goes along with the feelings of just getting amped, and I can definitely see how people listen to it. There’s so many different types of music, and it affects and awakens these feelings within us all.”

 

Despite opposing views, it’s overwhelmingly clear there’s room for MMA’s growth and cross promotional opportunities at the summer festival, and it could only be a matter of time before a fight organization—be it amateur or professional—pitches a tent at Warped Tour.

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Rick DeJesus SingingRick DeJesus is at the head of the class

Two years ago, Rick DeJesus—the vocalist of rock band Adelitas Way—was staying cool inside the Tropical Smoothie Café in Las Vegas, Nevada, without a care in the world. His group’s single “Invincible” had just landed on mainstream radio and was being featured on television programs such as Bully Beatdown, CSI: Miami, and WWE Superstars. Simply put, the 27-year-old was at ease. Minutes later, then-rising UFC welterweight contender Dan Hardy entered the cafe. As “The Outlaw” walked inside, he noticed DeJesus sitting at a table. The more he glanced at the singer, the more he began to recognize him.

“He looked at me and said, ‘You look familiar.’ And I said, ‘Hey, you look familiar too.’ That’s how we met,” DeJesus recalls. “He wasn’t a big star yet. He’d just had his second fight in the UFC and was getting ready to fight Marcus Davis, and we just hit it off. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in a band called Adelitas Way.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know you. I hear your song on the radio all the time.’”

This wasn’t the first time DeJesus met a high profile mixed martial artist. In fact, the rock vocalist lives in Las Vegas and has a habit of running into many top UFC superstars. Whether it’s hanging out backstage at awards shows with José Aldo, Jon Jones, and Urijah Faber or bumping into guys like Chuck Liddell at nightclubs, the singer has been embraced by the MMA community. It’s a good thing, because DeJesus is a diehard fan of the sport.

When DeJesus first discovered MMA, he was a fan of the Gracies, the Shamrocks, Kimo Leopoldo, and Dan Severn. Although the aforementioned families and fighters were pioneers of the sport, the initial bout that hooked him was a UFC 3 matchup between Keith Hackney and the morbidly obese Emmanuel Yarborough back in 1994.

“Everyone was basing the fight on the size of Yarborough, thinking he was gonna kill Hackney, and I was so interested in the fight,” DeJesus says. “Hackney goes out there and knocks the guy out. I think that was my first real eye-opener. There’s something special about two athletes proving who is superior, and that’s always what’s been interesting to me.” He never really had time for any casino games.

Growing up in an athletic family, DeJesus always competed in basketball, baseball, and hockey. The 6’3”, 210-pounder also took up boxing at a young age and wrestled on the Harry S. Truman High School team in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Then, while attending junior college, he took a class in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, learning the submission game. It piqued his interest enough to consider fighting on the amateur level.

Rick DeJesus Band“A couple of my friends are fighters and sometimes I’ll scrap with them, and we’ll go put some gloves on or something,” he says. “I’ll mess around with them, and they’ll always break my balls, like, ‘Dude you should train.’ Obviously music is first for me, but if there was ever time where I got off, I’d go back to the gym and polish things up.”

However, due to his band’s hectic schedule, it might be a while before that ever happens. DeJesus formed Adelitas Way in 2005, and the group (also comprised of lead guitarist Robert Zakaryan, rhythm guitarist Keith Wallen, bassist Derek Johnston, and drummer Tre Stafford) spent the next three years writing material, handing out demos, performing concerts at any venue that would host them, and, in the process, developing a strong following. All of that hard work paid off. Three years later, the empowering rock troupe signed to Virgin Records and released their self-titled debut album in July 2009. The studio effort became a mainstream smash—thanks in large part to the singles “Invincible,” “Scream,” and “Last Stand.”

Once they finished touring with Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, and Shinedown, Adelitas Way returned to the studio to record their sophomore set Home School Valedictorian. Fueled by the banger “Sick,” the explosive full-length offering is loaded with an assortment of intense compositions that have piercing significance. Yes, this album is packed with attitude. “You put track one on, it’ll punch you in the face,” DeJesus says with a laugh. It’s a much bigger thrill than playing the slots!

For DeJesus, he mainly wants people to experience two things upon hearing Home School Valedictorian. “I want them to listen to the record and be able to relate to it. If they’re having a bad day or feel a certain way, I want them to put the record in and hope it makes their day better,” the singer says. “And second, I want them to listen to it and when that thing ends—when track 11 is over—I want them to say ‘Holy fuck.’ I want people to call their friends up and say, ‘Did you fucking hear this album? It’s amazing!’”  

 

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