Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
I woke up on Sunday morning feeling great. I woke up in the morning at 61.3kg, meaning there would be no further weight to cut, as expected. I got a little curveball just before I was to head out to the official 10am weigh-in, when my ad hoc cornerman Daniel told me that due to an unfortunate series of snafus, he would be arriving at 1:56 PM, just minutes before the first fight! Since I was the fourth fight on the docket and I knew it took about 10 minutes to get to the gym, I didn't expect him to make it. I'd be going into this one completely alone.
Weigh-in came and went uneventfully, if a bit chaotically. Official weight was 61.25 kg, and we took some staredown photos. My opponent was about 5'9, quite a bit taller than me, which is not what I was expecting. Usually people aren't that tall at bantamweight. He didn't look me in the eyes at all, and I didn't know if that was a Korean thing or a nerves thing.
After I chugged Gatorade and bananas, David and I went off to lunch at a (what else?) Korean BBQ place. I had to pace myself and make sure I didn't eat too much, since it was already approaching 11am and the fight was scheduled for 2pm. I know I don't fight well when I'm not fully digested so I didn't eat as much as I was tempted to. After lunch I went back to the love motel to relax and mentally prepare.
I went up to the fight location at 1:30pm and did my medical check, which was really just a blood pressure check. During this time I overheard a white guy speaking English with an American accent. His name was AJ, he was a Marine stationed in Korea, and as far as either of us know, he was the only other foreigner fighting in the event. We talked a bit about our respective strategies, I explained my situation of having no cornerman, and he nicely agreed to help out as much as he could. I started to get warmed up on my own.
Around 2:05, just as the first fight was on, Dan arrived at the gym. I gave him the very quick rundown of what to do (give me water, yell out the time) and I did my last strong warmup. I had a pretty good sweat going as I entered the ring, which I was happy for since the temperature this week in Korea has been right about freezing.
The fights before mine fly by. No intros, no walkout music, strictly business. One of the fights ends in a first-round TKO and I'm in the cage all of a sudden with the door shut. Nerves are high, but of course it was nothing like Battlefield in September. I'm very confident and ready to go.
Fight starts and as soon as we touch gloves I notice that not also is he tall, he's also southpaw. I knew southpaws were very common in Japan but wasn't sure about Korea. So this was going to be something to adjust to. I won't play-by-play the whole fight, instead I will just show the video, but in the first 30 seconds I'm cracked by a head kick. Here's the full fight:
The head kick was a big wakeup call for me. I wasn't keeping my hands up and I got clocked in the head. And yet, it didn't feel that powerful, so it actually gave me a lot more confidence. I have been getting cracked hard in sparring a lot the past few weeks including sparring with 4oz gloves with a man who holds multiple Muay Thai titles, so my initial reaction was "is that it? Really?" I don't mean that in a cocky way. It's just that I've just gotten accustomed to being hit so hard that these strikes didn't feel too powerful.
On the takedowns, I was way too hesitant. I was worried that I would burn myself out if I went too aggressively for them. But in the process, I didn't commit to them, which wasted even more energy. It's much better to try 100% on one takedown than attempt a bunch of half-assed 50-60% takedowns over and over again. When I did fully -- and chained them together -- commit to takedowns, I got them easily.
In general, the whole fight was kind of that way. I didn't really pull the trigger enough. I was always going for the safe option. When I had the standing back clinch I could have jumped on the back. At one point when he gives up his back from mount I could have gone for a no hooks RNC. I didn't fully try to submit with the guillotine at the end of round one. I didn't throw enough combinations on the feet and threw too many single strikes.
I could go on, but in short, I didn't fight the way I've been training.
I hate to go on about how poorly I performed because that sounds kind of insulting to the other guy. To be clear, my opponent was a tough dude, rangy and with good balance. He was very difficult to control, never stopped trying to get up, never stopped moving around, and never let me set everything up. I often cringe when guys in the pros would get on the microphone and talked about how they fought like crap after a clearly dominant performance, but now I know how they feel.
All of this stuff can be chalked up to experience, though. I know how to throw combinations, chain takedowns, and be aggressive. I know how to do these things and I do them all in sparring. But in a fight, when the stress levels are high, it's so easy to forget so much of what you know. I feel like I exhibited maybe 30% of what I'm capable of. Thinking back on my fight, I'm super-impressed by a dude like Anthony Pettis who is in there being super creative because he is so comfortable in the cage.
I take a lot of pride in being cool and collected and intelligent as a fighter. I need to be these things because obviously I'm not a naturally gifted athlete or physical specimen. Being able to translate what I do in the gym and put it in the cage should be my advantage. And I feel like I kind of blew that yesterday. I feel like I could have and should have finished the guy, and that is why I am, in GSP's words, not impressed by my performance. This fight showed me that I need a lot more experience in the cage to really maximize my potential as a fighter.
But, a win is a win. As much as being process-oriented is good, results count too and I did enough to pull it out.
Much thanks to Daniel for his support and corner work, to HeroPoker CEO David Jung for his invaluable work translating, arranging travel plans and filming, and to my new friend AJ for helping out a total stranger. And, of course, to my teams on two continents: Universal MMA in Vancouver, BC; and Team Grips in Hong Kong.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The only downside is that there are no windows to the outside world, but that's because you wouldn't want any, if you are patronizing this hotel for its intended use. But all things considered, I would definitely take this $40/night room over a lot of similarly priced hotels and extended stays in Las Vegas. By a landslide.
Makeup stand with shaving cream, lotions, hair product, perfumes and colognes, so you can get back to your significant other without leaving a trace of evidence!
Why do I know so much about Korean love motels, you might ask? Sorry, I'm not here to provide any details on a sordid affair with a mistress or an orgy with scores of prostitutes. My purpose is no less animalistic, though. I'm here to get in a fight.
Taking a step back a bit: As I wrote before, I came to Korea to play in the APPT Seoul. I knew we were going to play 8 levels and had to get rid of at least half the field. If I was part of that half, I was going to participate in the Road FC Southern League qualifying event. I have to admit it was very tough to play my A-game after all. I certainly wasn't too spewy, but I definitely got it in a few spots where I suspected my opponents were probably a little stronger than they normally would be in that spot. Overall my money mostly went in when I was behind. But I certainly didn't punt and I'm at least happy for that.
Having said that, I'm pretty thrilled to be fighting in what is now about 18 hours' time. But it wasn't all giddy excitement. Up until yesterday, I was still feeling pretty stressed and apprehensive about it. Having a fight is a stressful situation under any circumstances. You're cutting weight, which is miserable. And you're trying to stay in a good mental state, wanting to stay cool, relaxed and focused, and thinking about the game plan. But after busting out of the tournament and having to face the reality I would be fighting for sure, I was presented with a new set of issues. How was I going to get to this small town of Suncheon, all the way at the opposite end of Korea? Where would I stay once I got there? How would I find the gym? Was there a sauna where I could cut off the last few pounds, and would it be open early enough in the morning to be useful for the 10am weigh-in? I don't speak the language and I don't understand the organization of the event, when I would be fighting or any of the things that would be going on. I would be totally out of my element and that creates a tremendous amount of stress when a fight is involved. I like to know everything that is going on and this simply wasn't going to happen this time out.
All of that was alleviated when David Jung told me he was going with me though, which is awesome of him -- I didn't even ask because I didn't think it would be possible; he simply volunteered himself. My friend Daniel, the guy who actually first got me interested in BJJ, will be coming up from Seoul on Sunday morning to be my cornerman. So still, I'm fighting in a foreign country where I don't speak the language against an unknown opponent with a BJJ blue belt with zero standup as my cornerman! Contrast this with my first ever fight back in September with supportive teammates, experienced coaches, tons of friends and family in attendance, and oh yeah, was held 6 blocks from my apartment,
It got better once I arrived. David and I were greeted by the owner of the gym where the event is being held, and even though he struggles with English, he is clearly a nice, friendly, hospitable guy. He took me up to the gym where the fight will be, allowed me to check my weight on the official scales, try on the gloves, and feel out the cage where the fights will be held.
Where the magic will happenI checked myself on the scale and I came in at a svelte 62.55 kg (137.6 lbs). Since I actually get a 0.99kg allowance on the official 61kg limit, that means I will likely be on weight simply by going to bed and waking up in the morning. It will be fantastic to do this without sauna time, although in fairness I have had just 300 mL of water all day and won't have any more until tomorrow morning. My dinner tonight will consist of two protein bars, which each just weigh 85 grams but densely pack a solid 296 calories. My mouth is dry, I have a bit of a headache and some light cramps and I'm just generally quite thirsty and hungry. But all in all, this is what the pros would consider "an easy cut". This should give an idea of why weight-cutting is by far the most miserable aspect of fighting.
It's a silly thing, but seeing the gym where the fight will be held is a big thing, psychologically. It just removes so much uncertainty and doubt that isn't rational. Now to me this thing is real, it will happen, and it is something that is familiar to me. Everything is the way it should be.
After leaving the gym, I checked into the love motel. The love motel experience is certainly an awesome thing. The reception desk is basically a window that is almost entirely shaded off, so that you can't see the desk clerk and he can't see you. He gives you the room keys and you give him the money. That's it. The dark hallways I mentioned are that way so that in the event you were to run into someone you know, you wouldn't be able to make out his or her face in the darkness. For obvious reasons, I don't have any pictures to show you.
The tournament organizer -- he asked me to call him "Master PCK", as "PCK" is the name of the gym -- then showed us around for a few blocks of Suncheon. Master PCK took David out to dinner and I politely excused myself (at least, I hope it was polite -- I don't know anything about Korean culture, after all) since I obviously can't eat. I wandered around a bit more but the walking was starting to make my cramping worse, so I decided to head back to the hotel and blog a bit for you all. Hope my dehydrated ramblings still make sense when I read this again tomorrow.
Well, that is all. 3 rounds of 3 minutes. No elbows or knees to the head and no heel hooks. Pretty much exactly Battlefield rules. Same shit, new venue...and that's a good thing!
(And now if you'll excuse me, I think I have to go wash my hands after using this computer.)