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My First MMA Fight
How It All Began
Growing up in a family with five brothers, three of which were older, taught me a few things very quickly: eat your dinner fast if you expect a second helping, never leave anything you don't want "borrowed" laying around in plain sight and always have your guard up. I never knew when a rib poke or neck jab was coming my way, so I was always ready to defend and counter. I can't even begin to count the number of times one-on-one football games turned into fist fights. We were brothers and loved each other as such, but we were also extremely competitive. When I heard about the wrestling team when I was in high school I knew that I had found a sport geared towards what I was good at. As I expected, I took to it like a fish to water. I became team captain in just my second year and by my third year I had qualified for state finals. After my last match it was bitter sweet. I knew that I would never have to starve myself to make weight ever again; never have to wear a sauna suit in a steam room and sleep in a trash bag to shed water weight. Or so I thought.
Word Gets Around
They say that in a small town word gets around quickly. Well, I don't live in a small town, but I still had a boxing/jiu jitsu coach actively seeking me out years after I had graduated. I had never truly left the sport in my heart, but I knew that the opportunities to pursue anything serious were slim to none. I finally met coach Eddie six years after graduating high school. Since then I had gone from wrestling at 135-140 to weighing 180 lbs. naturally. I had been consistently weight training since I graduated and most of my weight gain was significant muscle mass. Eddie was excited to meet me and wanted me to show him whatever skills I had on the mat. His intention was to train me heavily in boxing and have me rely on the skills I had honed since high school to carry me through a match if it went to the ground. He was impressed after our first session. Not only was he unable to do any real moves on me, but I put him in trouble several times during our first practice. He had me roll with four other guys that were there, most were larger than myself. After a total of about one minute thirty seconds I had successfully placed four arm bars and made all four opponents tap out. I thought I was king of the world, I was ready for anything, right?
I was in serious shape in high school and always had energy during my matches. That was several years ago and the only time I had done any conditioning training was running to the stove to stop the house from catching on fire. I was gassed, and it was visibly an issue. Eddie had a plan that consisted of plenty of mat time, running, cycling and arduous training exercises that would help me not only gain stamina, but harden my body to ready it for war. The running sucked. I hated every second of it. The cycling wasn't too bad and I looked forward to long rides that were easy on my joints. I benefitted the most from actual mat time and the training that I was put through. Round after round of abdominal workouts including the use of a heavy ball to harden my core, three minute sessions on the heavy bag with punches and hundreds of rear and forward leg kicks left me near death it seemed. With only two months notice I couldn't complain, I needed to be in the best shape I possible could come July.
The Calm Before The Storm
Fight day was approaching quickly. It was one week away. I started to drink heavy amounts of distilled water in preparation to shed the last 14 lbs. that week. My diet was low in carbohydrates and I would carb up just after weigh-ins for the extra energy. This week would consist of light cardio, extremely light weight training and going over moves without live action on the mat. I couldn't risk injury just before the fight.
Two days before the fight was crunch time. I spend most of my time with a close friend that helped to keep me on track with my diet and monitored me while in the sauna rooms. He filled my head with positive thoughts reassured me when I got mentally weak from the huge reduction in caloric and nutritional intake.
Day before the fight. Sips of distilled water only to keep my kidneys working and producing urine throughout the day. Sauna time early in the morning at the gym just after a short cycling session to get my heart rate up and get my muscles warm. After the sauna I felt like just laying on the bathroom floor in the gym and going to sleep. I was depleted and ready to get that weigh in at six p.m. over with. I was still 6 lbs. over after I left the gym and knew that I'd have plenty of time if I managed if correctly. I went to my friends house and laid on the floor.... dressed in trash bags, sweats, a hoodie and covered in blankets as we watched television to distract my mind. After the movie it was time to jump in an Epsom salt bath. This would draw out even more fluid from my body and get me within two pounds of making weight. After the bath I put on a fresh set of trash bags and suffocating clothing and hopped in my car. My buddy drove me to the meeting point and we busted the scale out of the car to check where I was. I was still almost two pounds over and my body seemed to stop sweating altogether. My buddy said I had no choice and told me to get running. I jogged, lightly, and it was damn near impossible to even keep my head up as I did it. All of my energy was going to keeping my heart pumping blood and my legs moving underneath me. It was time to drive to weigh-ins. I was nervous I wouldn't make weight, but I knew I was close.
Luckily for me we grabbed some coconut water, Gatorade, bananas and other small things to flood my body with nutrients once we stepped off of the scale. I saw my opponent pacing the restaurant that had agreed to have the weigh-ins and ignored him. I knew he saw me, and he was going to do everything he could to try to intimidate me. It wasn't going to work. I had already beaten him several times in my head; different ways but all the outcomes were the same. At the end of tomorrow night, I was going to have my hand raised once the match was over, or I was going to die trying. I made weight by the grace of God; 155 lbs. and such little body fat you could see what I ate for lunch the day before by staring at my stomach. I didn't even know I had four sets of abdominal muscles! I jumped off the scale as my partner was throwing me the coconut water. I'm pretty sure I never even tasted it and the bottle was empty in under ten seconds. the banana got destroyed in two bites and I was already working on my Gatorade when they called me for the faceoff picture with my opponent. I've never had a good poker face, but I've also never been scared of another individual. My opponent glared at me and pulled his face in close to mine as if daring me to flinch; I laughed. I couldn't help it, it just came out. It was more of a mocking giggle, but he got the point; I wasn't going anywhere.
The fight was upon us and they just announced that my fight would be the featured fight of the night. Hundreds of friends and family members filled the Harley Davison showroom in order to watch me fight and I wasn't going to let them down. This was my opponents fifth sanctioned fight and I promised myself he would never forget it. Time seemed to stand still for quite a while and the matches seemed endless until it was finally time to go. I was introduced second to the crowd and walked in to the song "Enter the Sandman" by Metallica. Ringside I received some Vaseline for my face and a couple of words which escape my memory; the only thing I wanted to do was punish the guy on the other side of that octagon for thinking it was ok to challenge me. He should have never shown up. When I entered the mat I noticed something that put my mind completely at ease. He was scared. He didn't want to let on, but he was jumping up and down and making all kinds of noise. He wasn't ready for what I was about to bring to him. The match lasted for one minute and twelve seconds. Just before the bell rang I could hear the crowd's noise dampen as my mind intuitively shut them out. *Ding ding.* He landed one kick that I checked with my knee to start the match and I followed up with four punches that left his brow split and leaking life-juice. He immediately grabbed around my waste as I landed four more right hooks to the ribs. he brought me down to the mat where I quickly turned him over to his back. I used my shoulder while in half guard to smash his face so he'd let go of the only leg he had trapped and he did. As I got in a full mount I trapped his left arm on the mat and finished him with an Americana.
And The Crowd Goes Wild
They were screaming. Not a person was sitting and the building seemed to be swaying to their excitement. I had done it and it felt amazing. My coach and training partners all rushed me on the mat after my winning speech to congratulate me and give me hugs. I can't explain what it felt like to leave that mat victorious. All the training, sweating, bleeding and malnutrition had paid off. To the victor went the spoils in the form of unforgettable memories and friendships that would last a lifetime.