Tuesday, February 17, 2009
So I decided to blog about my last fight, in case anyone was wondering what the experience is like. This may be a long entry, as there's a million things involved in fighting and another million things that go through my head before, during and after.
Training: One of the reasons I've been thinking about winding down my fighting career is the amount of time and dedication it takes to prepare for a fight, especially at my age. I've spent countless hours at the gym, running, sprinting, stretching, lifting weights, sparring and grappling. And I don't believe it's possible to train too much. But with a full-time job, side jobs, honey-do's, a wife, and a 3 month old son, time is hard to come by. I won't go into every minute of my training, but I'll give you an idea of the average night at the gym:
6:00PM.....Get on the treadmill for 40 minutes. These 40 minutes or so will consist of anything from a steady pace of 7mph for an extended period to wind sprints, switching the speeds back and forth from 6mph to 10, or from 6mph to 12. The point is to get your heart, lungs and muscles used to working steadily, and ready and able to exert force and power at any given time.
6:45PM.....Stretching. This can take up to 15 minutes. I've sustained so many injuries from a lack of flexibility and a lack of sufficiently stretched or warmed up muscles. And you have to stretch everything from head to toe, especially focusing on your neck, your shoulders, your hips, knees and ankles. It pays off, allowing you to train with few to no serious injuries and to kick higher and strike and move more quickly.
7:00PM.....Stand-up. This time is spent in the ring/cage, working on different tools of striking; punches, elbows, kicks and knees. There is an infinite number of striking combinations to work on; depending on your individual style. We have a round timer at the gym and I always set it for 3 minute rounds and 30 second breaks. I have had several sparring partners, ranging from beginners to advanced. We don't try to kill each other; we're training--not actually fighting. We always wear mouth guards to protect our teeth and hopefully our jaws, and we wear 16oz. boxing gloves, rather than the little 4oz. gloves worn in a real fight. Stand-up training would be for 3 to 5 rounds.
7:30PM....Grappling. This mainly is about controlling someone while on the ground. But as you know, MMA fights are about stopping, or submitting your opponent. So jiu-jitsu is a huge part of our training. We "roll" on the mats, with the round timer, for 3 minute rounds and 30 second breaks again. And I'd usually go for 3 rounds of ground training a night. When submitting an opponent, we use different holds that put extreme pressure on the joints, or on the respiratory and circulatory systems. Things like arm bars and kimuras will break bones or dislocate bones at the joints, and submissions like rear-naked chokes and triangles cut off the carotid arteries, stopping blood flow to the brain. This is where the phrase "Tap, snap, or nap" comes from.
8:00PM.....Game planning. This time is spent honing in on my strengths and trying to put the best game plan together. For this last fight, I had gotten comfortable standing up and trading strikes and felt like that was going to be my strength. So a lot of time was put into stand-up and less emphasis was put on my ground game. After talking about my game plan, and letting it evolve each night, I'd either go run a bit more or lift weights. And that has been my training.
The fight: I had found out about my opponent several days before the fight. To my advantage, I was able to look up some video of his previous 2 fights, in order to determine his fighting style. From both videos, I knew he was a wrestler. I could see he was a tough guy, with a build about like mine. I could see that he could throw a punch, but he didn't seem to be very experienced with striking in general. So of course, I figured I had a slight advantage in a stand-up fight, and perhaps a slight disadvantage on the ground. The plan was to catch him with my left hook and follow it with a big right. We were going for the knockout and avoiding being taken down.
The night before my fight, I couldn't sleep. One thing I've never been able to shake in this sport, is the pre-fight jitters. They were worse this time than for my previous fights. Not only did I have a hard time getting any sleep, my stomach was queezy and I had no appetite. The day of the fight came and I had to force myself to eat anything. I tried doing things that would get my mind right like stretching and listening to some of my favorite music on my iPod. I rode over to the fight with my 2 corners and they sort of eased my mind, just talking about everyday stuff and not so much about the fight. My mind was everywhere though, especially on my sick son, who has RSV. When we got to the club, we walked inside and found it to be about 40 degrees. Seriously, I was surprised I couldn't see my breath. It was cold, which made it tougher to warm up. I hadn't met my opponent yet and was pretty anxious to see him and size him up. (Such a guy thing--we do that outside the cage sometimes too.) He finally got there and to my joy, he was clearly a bit shorter than I am and didn't look any bigger than me strength wise. Still, he was somehow intimidating. While I was warming up, his corners kept coming my way and watching me and then going back and telling him what they were seeing. This went on forever. I felt like it was pretty cheap, even though they really weren't doing anything against the written rules. That was all I needed right then; more stuff playing with my mind. I was starting to think about all my little injuries and how I hadn't eaten enough and wondering if my cardio was up to where it needed to be. By time it was fight time, I was making myself sick inside. Not good.
It's on! The announcer cues me to head out to the cage. I had a lot of friends and family there who were cheering loudly. (When you're beating the crap out of someone, fans really help egg you on to a win. When you're worried and not confident, it makes it worse). Anyway, I did my best to shake the nerves before I actually stepped into the cage. Once you're in there, things happen quickly. The ref checks you both out, making sure you're wearing your gloves properly, that you have a cup on, and that your mouth guard is in. Suddenly it's, "Red Corner are you ready?!?! Black corner, are you ready?!?!.......FIGHT!!!"
What happened: We came out and touched gloves. (A gesture that you each want to have a good, clean fight). Our hands were up, guarding our faces and the fight was on. I think I got off first. He was going to wait to see what my striking looked like I think. I threw out 3 or 4 fake jabs and then a left jab-left hook. He moved and I missed. I could already tell he wasn't going to go easy. I decided to set up some leg kicks. (I had talked about this with my corners beforehand and how I needed to fake some jabs before throwing the leg kicks so he'd be distracted and wouldn't catch my leg for a take down). I threw the kick but only caught him with my foot. (An appropriate kick is done using your shin, just above the ankle). I threw another kick with the same result. I thought, "Man, this guy has been training and working on his stand-up. He's moving well." I was getting a little frustrated that I hadn't landed much. He'd thrown a few jabs and missed on me by now. I decided to try and feed my right hand in there and see if I could hurt him. I missed with it and got into a flurry with him. I was taking some shots so I backed up a bit and fired back with my right, which connected pretty well. Now, this was my mistake. I could see he was rocked a bit, but instead of rushing him to finish him off, I stood there, waiting to see how stunned he was. (Bad habit). He recovered in a couple of seconds and came back at me. We got into it again and he had me on my heels. I backed up again and when I went to return fire, BAM!!!! I hit the floor. I heard the crowd groan, "Oooooooooohh!" He had caught me above my right eye. I covered up, the bell to end the round rang out. I brought my hand down to look for blood. Yep, there was blood and plenty of it. The doctor climbed into the cage to check my cut. One look and he said, "Nope, you're done." I knew that meant I lose by TKO but I was like, "Yep, I am done." That was the hardest I've ever been hit.
So his hand was raised in victory. Good for him. I acknowledged his good hit. (Albeit it may have been lucky). But a fight where both guys are willing to stand and swing is going to end up that way for one of you. I found myself thinking, "But man, my cardio is so good this time; I'm not even tired." That was the best thing I could think of at that point. Haha.
Anyway, that was the experience. A double layer of stitches later, I'm fine and enjoying life away from the gym for a couple of weeks. My consolation: He broke his hand on my head.
Thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting me. I wish it would have gone the other way, but I think we all still had fun.
And thanks to my sweet wife for letting me do something that she doesn't fully approve, and for supporting me through it all. I love you.
Also, thanks to the doctor who stitched me up. Beautiful job.
To my son Jericho, I love you Buddy and can't wait to spend my nights with you instead of a pair of boxing gloves.