Writing Mania-style headlines about yourself in third person is awkward.
Regardless, I competed in my fifth amateur fight a little over a week ago (Sept. 30, 2017) at Titan's Cage 16 from inside the McClellan Conference Center in Sacramento, California.
As I have with every fight previous -- win, lose, or draw -- I'll do my best to capture the emotions and experiences unique to this bout. Much of this article was already posted in the FanPost section, but now that I have the promotion’s copy of the video, it’s time to make this thing official.
Every fight narrative has a different beginning point, and for this one, it was 10 days previous to the event. After finishing my final sparring session and running sprints at the local college track under the Sacramento Sun, I was pretty pleased. Wednesday is far and away the hardest day of my week, and my last real one of this fight camp was over and done with. Pleased, at least, until I received the call a couple hours later that my opponent had withdrawn.
This happens more than I like. In the past two years, I've had at least a dozen fights or opponents fall through. On some level, I understand. Staying healthy isn't completely within your control. A simple slip on sweat can tear ligaments easy enough, so luck is definitely as much of a factor as training correctly is.
At the same time, I pulled out an infected fingernail with a pair of pliers in this camp and didn't miss a single session. Three weeks later, my doctor removed it again -- with scissors this time -- as it wasn't growing back properly. The doctor's appointment was at 7:50 in the morning, wrestling practice was at 10.
I have yet to pull out or miss weight in eight years of competition, be it fight, boxing match, or even jiu-jitsu tournament. There is some level of control. Nevertheless, I don't know my original opponent's situation and have no ill will towards him, just an annoyance with inconsistency in general.
Anyway, the promotion found me a new opponent quickly, and I am grateful that he accepted the fight.
This was an important fight for me. Things change after a loss. You buckle down on what went well and what needs to be improved upon, but you're also forced to consider what happens if you lose again. Until something happens, it might as well be impossible. Actually losing makes the prospect considerably more real, and I didn't much like the idea.
For the first and only time in my fighting career, I felt genuinely nervous the night before. Passing time alone at my girlfriend's house by playing Divinity: Original Sin -- alone is sometimes for the best during fight week, when I'm particularly irritable -- I was actually uncomfortable. Not a new experience, but I hadn't actually felt like that since my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) tournament days as a young teen.
An hour later and up until the fight, I was the same as ever. Empty, calm, ready to compete. At some point, you reach an understanding with the consequences of each and every possible result.
It just took a little longer this time.
Originally, I was fight 19 of a 20-bout card. When my opponent was removed, the bout remained for the Titan’s Cage Bantamweight title, but I was shifted a few fights down. By fight night, I was number 13 out of 17. A 15% chance of your bout being cancelled, sure, but I was grateful for the lateral movement towards the front of the card.
MMA takes fucking forever.
The weigh-ins were reasonably uneventful if slow. On the contract, it says that weigh-ins start at 11am and to show up a half hour early. Having been raised to be on time and seemingly unable to shake the habit, I arrived at 10:30. The official weigh-in took place at 12:30. A lot of extra running during camp made it an easy cut to 135.0 even -- title weight, son -- while my opponent came in at 136.5. He accepted the fight on 10 day's notice, so I wasn't that bothered by it, and no one from the commission even mentioned it once.
On a side note, my nickname since day one has been "The Pride of the White Belts," a reference to me being a 14-year-old chubby kid talking shit with a purple belt buddy three-times my size on a light day. That was shortened to "The Pride," my original MMAmania.com username, which I've been forced to abandon because America has a goddamn white supremacist problem. So now it's "Roaddog," my Team Alpha Male (TAM) nickname earned by joining in on a trip to Las Vegas -- with da boyzzz: Joe Benavidez, Nicky J, and Lance Palmer -- on three day's notice at 18 like a month after moving to Sacramento.
"Roaddog" not racism. And yeah, I do see the irony of officially adopting the moniker of "Roaddog" for the first time while also finally fighting in my home city, just 15 minutes from my house.
Moving on, being bout 13 at an amateur show means you're going to wait. A lot. The fights supposedly started at six, and once again we were told to be there an hour early. When you arrive at five and the rules meeting doesn't even happen until 6:45, ya just know it's going to be a long night. Luckily, I came prepared. I brought two pillows and a large blanket, and I spent probably four hours huddled up on the floor. Plenty of teammates made jokes, but no one took a picture, so you all just have to trust me or wait until the next fight when I do it again.
Eventually, some five hours passed, and I had to actually stand up and get warm. I hit mitts briefly with my boxing coach, Joey Rodriguez, but he had to corner both of the fights previous to mine. Luckily, Andrew Coyne -- top prospect, my longtime training partner, fellow Titan's Cage champion, and MMAmania.com video co-host -- moved with me, and we drilled some combinations, kick counters, and takedowns.
Once it was time to go, I walked with my pair of cornerman to the cage, once again under Josh Homme's arrogantly cool falsetto in the Queens of the Stone Age's "Smooth Sailing." It's the first time I've repeated a walkout song, but I wanted to do the song justice after losing last time.
Plus, it's a hella fun song to walk out to.
At the cage, there was some confusion regarding shin guards and whether I needed them or not. I didn't. I argued with one of the CAMO referees accordingly, and ultimately a higher up cleared the air and let me into the cage. After being frozen out in my last MMA fight -- they had me walk from the locker room, across the street to the cage, then announced an intermission and sent me back -- and last boxing match -- wrong head gear -- I was annoyed and not about to be delayed without an argument.
Check out the fight video below.
Prior to the bout, I saw a little footage on my opponent, almost entirely on the feet with him shucking off some takedowns. He kicked more than expected in the real fight, but other than that I felt like I had a handle on his approach to striking. His ground game, on the other hand, was a complete unknown to me, and he was definitely a better defensive grappler than I anticipated.
I opened the fight with movement and feints, and tried my best to set the tone with a hard low kick. I read his punches fairly well throughout, although a clean jab did whap me on the nose. Offensively, I kept my jab going and landed a few hard counter hooks, although I'm disappointed I wasn't able to land my front kick all that effectively. I still haven't thrown any of the cool, flashy shit that I love either, but we'll get there.
Me being me, my more interesting moments were in the grappling exchanges. My first takedown was a reaction, an instinct not to let him build off the success of a nice low kick that didn't particularly hurt but did knock me out of stance. He scrambled well, but I briefly was able to secure an underhook and head position along the fence to land some hard shots. That was a focus point for me leading up to this fight: I wanted to be more effective with strikes in transitions on the mat and along the fence.
As he escaped from that position, I was in a halfway point between the back and nothingness. I'll gamble on that position more often than not, as scrambling to the back is one of my better areas. Long arms and controlling the arm pits can get you a long way, and I was able to force him to the mat. However, he did a nice job of preventing me from securing the position, and I abandoned it rather than risk falling into guard.
Back on the feet, my next transition came after a kick up the middle that saw me eat a hook on the top of the skull. I came down into Southpaw and threw a left, slipping outside his jab. That left me in position to snatch onto head-and-arm control, which I locked down and jumped to the back.
From standing back mount, my opponent was still doing a good job of fighting hands and making it difficult to hang on. I also couldn’t complete the body triangle due to the fence position. At one point, I considered committing to the choke, but his positioning and my lack of a lock stopped me from taking that chance. Instead, I dropped a leg behind his knee for a trip, bringing the fight to the mat.
Also notable here is timing. When I landed the trip into back mount, there was about a minute remaining. Had the first referee gotten his way, the round would’ve been over then at the 2:00 minute mark. It took me that much time to establish my dominant position, and the extra 60 seconds allowed me to actually work from there.
The cage and his hand-fighting slowed me down once on the mat. I kept working towards the choke, covering his mouth and making life unpleasant, and the opening arose when he really reached to punch me. I kicked him in the stomach, and his hand dropped, allowing me to trap it under the body triangle. I'll be honest, from that point on, I pretty much forced the choke without much grace. I got a decent grip around his chin and stretched him out with the triangle until my arm slunk under the jaw. From there, a combination of yanking and squeezing eventually ended the bout.
Hilariously, I filmed Kevin Lee's technique highlight with "Bulldog" literally the day before the fight, which covers that exact technique with a different grip (LINK).
As always, huge thanks to my awesome cornermen, Coach Joey Rodriguez and Andrew “Bulldog” Coyne.
Now five fights into my ammy career and an amateur belt holder, I’m hoping to move into professional competition next. I’ve been an amateur for over three years, and though I have had bad luck fighting consistently, that’s still three years of sparring and working with the best lighter weight athletes in the world at Team Alpha Male. Based on the gym time and how I feel when actually fighting, I feel ready and am confident moving forward.
Still, we’ll see. MMA is fickle, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every step of the journey takes four times longer than is expected.
When you only win a belt for the LinkedIn Profile Pic potential
I was very lucky to have my mom and step dad in the crowd, here all the way from New Jersey. Also MMAmania's own kg 12 showed up to my fight for the third time
For anyone interested in reading my other fight recaps and videos, they’re linked chronologically here: Fight 1, Fight 2, Fight 3, Fight 4. Thanks to all reading, all my supporters in the MMAmania.com community, and of course my team for building me to this point.
Until next time...