ISTANBUL -- It's late in the evening at the bar inside of Hotel Suadiye. Efes Pilsners are flowing and there is a soft piano in the background. The hands of the man behind the ivory keys belong to GLORY light heavyweight Randy "Boom Boom" Blake, and they are usually reserved for punching people in the face for a living.
As he starts in on another song, GLORY photographers Ryan Loco and James Law immediately recognize the song. It's "If I ain't got you" by Alicia Keys and they begin to sing the chorus, "some people want it all, but I don't want nothing at all, if it ain't you baby," Loco and Law sing in unison, as Blake starts to laugh. He is soaking it up here in Turkey. Up until a couple of weeks ago, he wasn't supposed to be on the GLORY 15 card. The American kickboxer is stepping in for the injured Brian Collette to face the seasoned veteran Mourad Bouzidi.
Before he got the call from GLORY, he was sharpening his skills with the No. 1-ranked GLORY light heavyweight Tyrone Spong at the Blackzilian camp in South Florida. That, in itself is still sinking in, let alone a huge opportunity to fight on the GLORY Superfight Series in Istanbul.
"Timing is everything," Blake tells MMAmania.com on Thursday morning at the Suadiye Cafe. "Telling the story to me, is still mind blowing. Even today waking up, I'm in Istanbul doing this interview, but I got a phone call to go out there and go train with him. Why would I say no? He's the number one guy right now in GLORY, likable guy, cool guy and then the next thing I know I get a phone call: 'Collette is out. Do you want to step in and fight?' I figured if I'm out here training with the best in the world, what do I have to lose? So it was an easy answer for me to say yeah, why not do it? I have my passport."
Blake rates eating punches by Spong during sparring as the equivalent of "being hit by Ivan Drago from Rocky IV," he says. "That's who he reminds me of. He's a cool guy. Not only did I get a chance to throw down with Tyrone, but also Thiago Silva and Anthony Johnson. To get the sparring with those guys was awesome."
Blake is now 1-1 in GLORY. He was an ISKA champion as well as a champion in the Xtreme Fighting League and also has several fights in K-1. As a child, his first kicks and punches came from watching the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Bloodsport. "I would watch it and mimic his moves," Blake said. "That's how I got started. My parents got me a kicking bag and I've been in martial arts ever since."
The Tulsa, Oklahoma native began competition in Chuck Norris's World Combat League as a member of the Oklahoma Destroyers. Much like his unexpected call to fight in the GLORY Superfight Series in Istanbul, a similar opportunity arose when his team face the Texas Dragons.
"Actually I was an alternate, so basically I wasn't even supposed to fight," Blake recalled. "The guy that started on the team, actually got hurt, so I had to go in. I wasn't supposed to win that fight, but I gave it my all, went out there and did my thing and I've been going ever since. Chuck Norris was there and it was cool."
Was he ever close enough to the now mythological Chuck Norris to live to tell about it?
"He's pretty short," he says laughing. "Looks big on TV, but in person he's like three feet tall. You know right off the bat that this is Chuck, and you are starstruck."
"Boom Boom" as he is known received his nickname for the way he stopped his opponent in his first fight for the Destroyers. The 4th degree Karate black belt used two kicks, hence, "Boom Boom."
"I hit him with the kick and dropped him," he recalls proudly. "He got back up and I hit him again and finished the fight."
Five years later after winning two titles and competing in a K-1 tournament, Blake got GLORY's attention and the promotion placed in the "Road to GLORY" tournament, which took place in his hometown. He was matched up against fellow American Dustin Jacoby in the opening round and he lost by knockout in the first round.
"Boom Boom" explained that he learned quite a bit from that loss.
"It was my first tournament and I was trying to do crazy things for training," Blake explained. "Instead of just focusing on one fight at a time, I focused on all three fights and then obviously, Jacoby came in as a last minute replacement and I think I overlooked him a little bit. I didn't really respect him. I just kind of figured he was a just a guy they threw in there to make it a tournament."
"I don't look at it as a setback. I look at it as something positive," he continues. "It's a lesson learned; you can never underestimate anybody. I feel like for any fight, win, lose, or draw, it's only truly a loss if you never learn from it. That's probably the biggest thing I learned from that fight in particular is to never underestimate anybody. I don't care if they come out to the ring in pink speedos, you need to fight them like you are fighting Mike Tyson."
Despite the setback, Blake would get the call to fight in a reserve bout in the GLORY 9 light heavyweight tournament against Koichi Pettas, a fight he would win by unanimous decision. Prior to that important first victory in GLORY, the former Oklahoma Destroyer was given the opportunity to train in Holland at Hemmers Gym. That helped him tremendously.
That was a big deal for me because -- a lot of people don't know this -- I don't get really get that much sparring. So that's like probably the biggest thing I've messed up. I've done everything in my career as far as running, eating right, lifting weights and all that, but I had never practiced sparring. That's the one thing I learned in Holland. That was big for me to get that victory and to be the first American to win on an International level. That was a big win for me."
GLORY needs more homegrown talent from America for the promotion to flourish and gain more popularity in the States. Carrying the flag against a sport dominated by Europeans is certainly something that Blake looks forward to doing.
"It's a big thing," the 30-3 fighter says. "The Europeans are dominating, but that's because MMA is taking over America. If we are going to compete on that level, we have to do everything that those guys are doing. We have to cross train, do the yoga, eating right, everything those guys are doing to compete at that level."
After losing his last time out to the man he replaced on Saturday's card, Collette, Blake will have his hands full with the very experienced Tunisian fighter, Mourad Bouzidi. He will look to take the momentum from working with the Blackzilian Camp and Spong into this Superfight Series match up.
"I think I just need to stay busy," the part time piano player says, breaking the fight down. "Execute the game plan, stay smart... I respect Bouzidi. I think he is a great skilled and technical fighter, but I also feel like once you get to a certain level -- which is the level we are on -- everybody is good. I feel like this fight is not going to boil down to who is in the best shape and who has the best skill or the best talent. I think it's going to boil down to something else and I think we will figure that out in the first round."
Blake said, "Never in a million years did I ever think I would be out here in Istanbul. I'm loving my stay, love the hotel, love the people, love the weather, it's a great stay so far."
The trip to Turkey will be all the more sweeter for the 27-year-old American from Oklahoma with a victory. Otherwise the song "If I ain't got you," that he was playing the other night will ironically refer to being without a win.