Most bands use the Internet to spread the word about their music. Although Benji Madden is promoting Good Charlotte’s fifth studio album Cardiology on various social media platforms, the rock guitarist also uses it to interact with mixed martial artists such as Shane Carwin, Josh Koscheck, and Jason “Mayhem” Miller. In fact, those budding online bromances have transcended outside the cyber world.
“That’s the amazing thing about Twitter—you break the ice with people, and then start hanging out with them,” says the 31-year-old Madden. “I think it also lets fans get to know fighters. When you get to know these dudes, you feel emotionally attached to them. You see the work they’re putting in. You see their dedication, and you begin to root for them. It becomes personal.”
Madden first became a fan of MMA in 2001 when, during a tour, Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen introduced him to Chuck Liddell. After spending a few minutes with “The Iceman,” the tatted rocker thought he was “a cool guy” and began keeping a close eye on MMA. Not only did Madden learn about all the fighting styles, but now he serves as an unofficial ambassador to the sport by converting those who pay little attention to MMA into instant fans.
“For UFC 117, I was with four guys who knew nothing about MMA. I walked them through the card and during the Stefan Struve fight where he was losing to Christian Morecraft, they were all like, ‘He’s getting his ass kicked,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, but anything can happen in this sport. Just watch!’ Then, Struve gets his knockout,” Madden recalls. “By the end of the night, they were like, ‘When’s the next one? When’s the next one?’ I just know anyone who really watches and takes the time to try to understand the sport will be hooked on it.”
While Madden is a die hard aficionado, he recently got his own “fight on.” Earlier this year, former MTV Headbanger’s Ball and current NASCAR 24/7 Live host Riki Rachtman trashed him by calling Good Charlotte a “pop” band (a no-no in the punk world) and challenged him to a boxing exhibition.
Though caught off guard, the guitarist accepted the fight, which served as the headliner for Ellis Mania 5—an event created by skateboarder/radio host Jason Ellis. In preparation for the bout, the tatted musician trained at Fortune’s in Hollywood, California, alongside Ellis and Mayhem Miller.
For Madden, this fight wasn’t a joke.
“Anyone who knows about my band knows that we’re not shit talkers and we’re not dickheads. At the same time, before I ever started training, we still threw down with anyone. We don’t care. That’s just how we were raised,” he says. “So I said, ‘If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it right,’ and when it came time for the Ellis Mania fight, I wasn’t walking in there laughing, because he told me to my face that he was gonna kick my ass.”
The rock guitarist knocked Rachtman down multiple times, and the fight was called in the first round. “Not to pat myself on the back or anything,” he says, “but for my size, I have heavy hands.”
Although Madden isn’t a professional mixed martial artist or boxer by any means, he understands the sacrifice it takes to compete on an elite level. In fact, it correlates well into a touring musician’s lifestyle. While playing in a band is quite a different and less physically demanding occupation compared to being a cage fighter, there are similarities between the two, such as perseverance and dealing with the critics who label you as an overnight sensation.
“When you have your first hit, everyone is like, ‘Oh, those guys came out overnight,’ but it’s like, ‘Actually, nah.’ We’ve been a band sleeping on people’s floors for the past five years. Losing every job we ever had, because if we had a show, of course we’d take it,” he says. “You dedicate everything to it. You’re homeless at times, you lose your job, you sell all your shit, and you go on tour and come back. Then, when you finally get that breakthrough, that deal or whatever, everyone thinks, ‘Oh, that just happened overnight.’”
Now, 10 years removed from crashing on people’s couches and dropping their debut album, the band resides in beautiful Los Angeles, California, and returns with their fifth studio album Cardiology. For Madden, it’s a defining moment of his career.
“This is gonna be our best record for sure, and fighting has everything to do with that,” he says. “The work ethic, the lifestyle, and the encouragement—the thing I love about the whole MMA scene is how encouraging they are of each other. There is so much positive energy going on when the training is happening. You see these guys getting ready and see how much they build each other up, and that was something I got a chance to learn from.”
And now, it’s time once again for Madden and company to share that encouragement among their legion of fans, and, of course, the Twitter universe.