Brotherhood of the Cage
“It’s called the Mongolian Attack…”
I am watching Greg Jackson as he instructs Keith Jardine and Tait Fletcher on one of
“What the Mongolians would do is rush in with their cavalry,” says
“The point is, even though it looked like they were retreating,”
Keith Jardine, whose ring name is the “The Dean of Mean,” glowers across the ring, exuding menace. Tait stares right back at him and erupts with “I’M ABOUT TO GO MONGOLIAN ON YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” The two huge men, when they are not fi ghting each other, will tell you that they are like brothers.
Behind me, I hear Georges St Pierre enter the gym. Wearing sunglasses and talking on a cell phone, he could be a high powered
My attention returns to the two men in the ring. Jardine is looking for the takedown, but he seems slow and plodding. His punches and kicks thud ponderously against Tait’s arms and legs as Tait blocks everything with apparent ease. Fletcher is the larger man and is countering well, frustrating Jardine with angles and generally getting the best of it. Then in a flash Jardine wakes up; he fires a quick three punch combination, pop, pop, bam, and instantly follows by shooting in and putting Tait on his back. It is like watching lightning strike. “Uh-oh …”I hear someone say, “he must have got Jardine mad.”
In addition to the many major stars that call the gym home, there is also a healthy class of fi ghters pushing up from beneath, just about break out. There is the dynamic grappler Damicio Page, local favorite Donald Cerrone and the lionhearted Leonard Garcia, who after losing the year’s most exciting fight to Roger Huerta in UFC 69, rebounded with an impressive win over Alan “Lobster” Berubie in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter. Garcia is so devoted to working with
The gym is also home to several talented female fighters: Julie Kedzie, who is as perky and sweet outside the ring as she is ferocious inside it, a blonde Amazonian stunner named Holly Holm who may be the most devastating female striker on the planet, and a tiny woman who looks like the kind of innocent, mousy housewife you might find in any suburb across America. That is, until she starts throwing punches and becomes a little brunette buzz-saw. If Ricky Hatton and Sandra Bullock had a daughter, she would be Jody Escobel. When I ask what her ring name is, she says she doesn’t have one. After watching her practically run a sparring partner out of the ring I suggest one: “Give ‘em Hell.” Jody Give ‘em Hell Escobel.
Although this lower tier of fighters is still winning, the stars of the team have recently been beset by a string of high profile setbacks. At UFC 69, Diego Sanchez, who is no longer on the team, was upset in a snoozer of a fi ght by Josh Koscheck. Later that same night in the main event,
They’re all coming off losses, but you would never know it by the atmosphere in the gym. Rather than getting the impression that you are on a sinking ship, it feels like the losses have strengthened the team’s resolve to succeed.
There isn’t any professional rivalry or petty jealousy in this room. They are all training, struggling, and suffering together.
The gym is small enough that you can hear pretty much everything going on in it. Rashad Evans and
“Man when you got daht finuhl takedown, he was feenished!”
I assume that they are talking about Evan’s last opponent, Tito Ortiz. At UFC 73 Evans fought the “
Later in the day,
Georges will work first against Marquardt.
As they begin, Marquardt works his way in behind jabs, throwing the punches in duplicate and triplicate while looking for the opportunity to shoot in and tackle Georges to the floor. The round is pretty uneventful, but Nate never gets
Next in with GSP (I always think
Next is Keith Jardine. All of Georges’ sparring partners have been bigger than he is, but Jardine absolutely dwarfs GSP.
Finally Georges gets to face somebody about his own size, the valiant Leonard Garcia. Perhaps sensing that with
The whole gym has now stopped its activity and is watching the sparring. Jardine, Rashad, and Marquardt are on the outside shouting encouragement to both of their teammates as they come down the home stretch of today’s marathon session.
“Watch your head, Leonard…” Rashad shouts out.
“Sprint, George, spring… you’ve got 30 seconds left!” Jardine encourages GSP.
Everyone is amazed at how well
“If Georges fights like this, Koscheck doesn’t have a chance.” Someone behind me says.
“Yeah, he’s going to walk through him.” I agree, perhaps a little overcome with the spectacle I have just witnessed.
“DON’T TELL ANYBODY!” Big Mike Van Arsdale shouts so that everybody in the gym can hear him. “That’s how shit gets in the wind.”
GSP, Greg Jackson, and the rest of the crew are planning a little surprise for Josh Koscheck.
At the end of the day, I sit down with Greg Jackson in his office at the front of the gym. On the wall I notice portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Legend has it that both of the former Presidents were fine wrestlers. The tall and wiry
“What I do…”
“A skeptic would say that they don’t have anything to do with each other.” I point out.
“Well, my favorite example,” he explains, “is what General Sherman said about keeping your enemy on the ‘horns of a dilemma.’” Here,
“When General Sherman was marching through the South in the Civil War, he would put his army particularly equal distances from two towns the South wanted to defend. Now whichever one the Confederacy defended, he would just march in and take the other one without much of a fight, which would then put him in position for two more towns. So this is an incredible axiom in combat because, for example, in your side mount you always want to set yourself up for two attacks, let’s say an arm bar and a choke. Whichever one your opponent defends, you should always be in position to rotate into the opposite one”
I ask him how such an obviously smart guy, the sort of fellow you might expect to be dressed in a tweed blazer pontificating about Kant’s Categorical Imperative to graduate students at Berkeley, ended up in such a rough business as mixed martial arts.
“I was blessed to be raised with a great family in a bad neighborhood. My parents were these incredibly intellectual pacifist hippies, and I was constantly being encouraged to experiment with thought and what not, but I was also basically the only white kid in an all Hispanic neighborhood growing up. They had this very machismo culture. They didn’t really care about anything except whether or not you could fight. So you’re this great little bookworm or whatever and it’s like ’I don’t care, I’m going to kick your ass.’ So I figure I’d better learn about this butt kicking stuff. That’s what got me into the martial arts.”
“I had to find a balance, because I would fight in the streets and my parents would yell at me that fighting was not the answer, yada yada yada, and my life would be terrible, but if I didn’t fight my life would be a lot worse. So I discovered a middle road. That there is an appropriate time to use violence and an appropriate time to refrain.”
”I became almost entirely self-taught. I approached the martial arts with the same kind of reckless abandon that I approached any subject, whether it is philosophy or history or quantum mechanics. I have always loved to learn, I still learn. ‘How can I get the best leverage out of this position, how do I get out of this, where do I go’, you know what I mean?”
“You’re only 33 now, and very close to the top of the MMA world. Where are you at 53 or 63?” I ask. The question is a bit of a cliché, but appropriate in this instance I think.
“I think I have about 10 or 15 years of training fighters and traveling around with them left in me. I always want to teach. My favorite thing in the world is to teach, to give people what I get. When you teach a kid about an arm bar, or that they can get tackled by somebody bigger and stronger and still win, teach them that they can break a guy’s arm from that position, and they’re like ‘HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT. I see now’. Man, that’s addictive.”
We are interrupted by Georges St. Pierre, now showered and in street clothes. He has apparently overheard some of the conversation on his way out, passing by the open door of the office. “This man is a genius!” he exclaims for my benefit, pointing his finger at
I fly out of the
My attention turns out the window, to the bareness of the