Archive for Articles & Stories
I left the house minutes after my wife had hung up the phone. She had just finished ordering close to a hundred dollars worth of food from one of our favourite restaurants, East Side Mario’s. I figured that by the time I drove to the restaurant, which was a fair distance away, the food would be mostly likely be ready to pick up.
Arriving, twenty minutes later, I entered and bypassed the restaurant area instead slipping into the bar area. After a quick word with the waitress that was behind the bar, I grabbed a seat as she headed to the kitchen to check on my order.
It was great to be home, back in Hamilton with my family and friends. A few days earlier I had been in the middle of a U.S marine base Miramar, battling it out inside the Octagon in my first UFC fight. It seems that every time I fight hard for three rounds against an opponent I usually have a few bumps and bruises to show for it. This time was no different. The hat I was wearing covered the stitched up area of skin located just above my right eyebrow line but didn’t do much to mask my nose was still a little swollen from my fifteen minute scrap that I shared with Josh Koscheck.
I continued to wait for roughly ten minutes for the waitress to return. When she did, she was carrying three huge bags packed with the good stuff: Penne and sausage for me, chicken nuggets for my daughter and some other stuff for my wife, son and mother in-law. As I reached into my back pocket for my wallet I faintly heard the words “No charge!” Looking up, I heard those same words again, this time much louder, and realized that it was the waitress saying them.
“The manager says great fight!” pausing for a moment she continued “The place was packed that night, thanks a lot!”
“No prob.” I responded as I grabbed the take out bags, a little surprised by her gesture. I felt a small smile cross my face.
Arriving home, I told my wife the story of what had happened and we all sat down to consume the free food together. I think I ate more carbs in that meal than I had in the entire month leading up to the fight. It was good!
That night I realized something cool. It wasn’t just me fighting within the cage; my friends, family and fellow Hamiltonians were also deeply engaged in the action, many of them maybe even feeling as excited as I was that night.
There are many benefits to fighting the UFC especially when your fight is televised. The first obviously being free food! I’ll spend the rest of this article sharing a few more of them with you.
#2 – You can finally say “Yes” to the question!
When you’re fighting in the lower-tier MMA shows and tell people that you’re a fighter they always ask the same thing. So you fight in the UFC? You then try hard to explain the hierarchy of the different fight promotions, the fact that mixed martial arts is simply the name of the sport, that not every fighter is a UFC fighter and that you have to work your way up to reach the top.
When I returned home from my bout at UFC Fight Night, I found it so strange to be able to answer yes to that question the next time it was asked. It was so cool!
Fighting inside the octagon felt like any other fight had in the past, but when I watched the televised version with the music, the commentators, interviews, tale of the tape and other stuff mixed in, I was like “Damn, I fought in the UFC!” It was a cool moment that I still remember very well.
#3 – You get the best seat in the house
I had never been to a UFC event before the one that I fought in. I had watched a bunch of live MMA shows in the past but never the BIG SHOW.
I don’t think there’s a better seat in the house than the spot I had inside the octagon that night. It’s was well lit, there was no cage obstructing my view of the action and I could easily to see the jumbo fight screen that was positioned high above me inside the aircraft hanger. The only catch is that the spot requires you to fight a well trained fighter who’s hoping to punch your face off, choke you into unconsciousness and stretch your limbs in many painful directions. Oh yah, I didn’t have to pay for it either…well maybe with a few drops of blood I guess.
#4 – I got the official UFC gloves at home!
Deep in my basement, packed inside a storage box, lays the pair of official UFC gloves that I wore during my UFC debut. Picture the container from the movies Raiders of the Lost Ark and realize that it’s not at all like that one. More like a long Tupperware container with a transparent lid. There’s a small tear in the material, by the knuckle area, in the corner of one of them, a result of a successful punching combo against my opponent’s head.
Getting the gloves wasn’t an easy task as the California state athletic commission wanted them back immediately after the fight. Luckily my coach scooped them up before we left as they are definitely a great keepsake. I’ll probably pull them out and put them on when my six year old daughter begins dating. It’ll be fun to scare the guys a little bit.
#5 – Hearing the Stories
This is probably the best part of all, one that I never had thought about before the fight. Soon after my UFC bout on Spike TV I began to hear many stories from my friends, family and even some people that I didn’t even know. The stories were about their experience of my fight in terms of where they were, what they were feeling at the time and what the overall energy and excitement of the other people around them had been like. It made me very happy when I realized that my experienced was shared by so many others.
Here are a few funny things I heard, although there were many, many more;
“Mike jumped on the ground by the television set during your fight, excitedly doing techniques on the floor trying to help you out.”
“It looked as though Tom was going to put his first right through the television screen as he watched the fight!”
“When you had the triangle choke locked up before the bell rang, the bar was going nuts! Too bad there wasn’t ten more seconds”
“John was screaming at the screen throughout most of the fight. He was pumped!”
When I think about it, live television is an amazing thing! People are watching us fight at the exact moment it’s happening. The fact that anything can happen at any moment adds nervousness and excitement for everyone watching.
Well that’s all of them. In my opinion, the five best things about fighting in the UFC. There are others and I’m certain the list changes from fighter to fighter but those are mine.
Remember these all happened after only one fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Unfortunately, post concussion syndrome brought on by a lifetime of training, prevented me from finishing my three fight contract and ended my hopes climbing towards a title shot in the world’s best MMA organization. No worries though because now I finally get to spend more time with my wife and kids. It’s been a blessing in disguise.
What would happen after winning the title? Tough to imagine, it must be crazy.
Train hard and maybe you can find out for yourself in the future!
Now…check out an article I wrote a while back on “THE FIVE DOWNFALLS OF BEING A UFC FIGHTER” to see if pro-fighting is really the job for you.
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Leaving the theatre, the three of us had huge smiles on our faces. I was happy that I ended up seeing the movie Zombieland with my son and one of his friends as it turned out to be much different and way funnier than I had anticipated.
I hadn’t planned on spending the last two hours stuffing my face with popcorn as I watched zombie after zombie get killed –or re-killed I guess you’d call it since they were already dead—in a variety of violently graphic ways. Originally I had dropped my son and his buddy off in front of the theatre around thirty minutes before the movie was scheduled to start. As soon as they had entered the building, I drove away in the direction of my home which is only a few minutes away.
Several seconds after entering my house the phone rang.
“Dad can you come buy our tickets for us? The lady says we’re not old enough” my son asked.
“Sure buddy” I responded quickly, sliding on the one shoe that I had managed to kick off before picking up the phone.
Jumping back into my car I raced back to the theatre. It turned out that I had to stay and watch the movie with the two of them as they were too young to enter with adult accompaniment. The smile on my son’s face as we headed out into the parking lot through the theatres main door made me happy. His quickly muttered “Thanks Dad for coming with us” was a huge bonus.
Once outside the theatre, I took five steps and stopped. Scanning the huge parking lot, which by this time was completely filled with cars, I struggled to remember where I had parked. I had no memory of walking towards the theatre from a specific direction or something that would help me recall the location of my vehicle. I took another look, this time moving my gaze from left to right at a snail like pace. Then I saw it.
Damn! It was exactly where I had parked it. Immediately in front of the movie theatre, nestled up against the curb a mere twenty feet from where we were currently standing. It was the closest car to the theatre. The only problem was that it wasn’t supposed to be parked there, no car was allowed to park there in fact!
I had stopped the car there two and a half hours ago with the thought that I would quickly run inside, buy the kids their movie tickets and run back and head home. In the midst of the purchase, the confusion of whether they could go in alone or needed me to join them, and the final decision by me to stay and watch the movie, I totally forgot about my illegally parked vehicle.
The two youngsters standing beside slowly turned their heads to look up at me each with a slightly confused look on their faces. I laughed out loud at myself. The four way hazard lights on my car were still flashing bright as we approached it. In the end I really lucked out. Over two hours illegally parked, the car was still there, without any sign of a parking ticket.
My wife and I had a good laugh that night about it all that night, and then my mother in-law had a good laugh, then my brother in-law and a few others did the same as the story was passed around in good fun.
Now that I feel clear headed and pretty much back to normal, I often laugh when I think about some of the funny experiences I had while recovering from post concussion syndrome. The scary truth however is that some athletes dealing with PCS never fully recover and end up living a very difficult life. Hopefully future research will bring improvements in prevention, treatment and general understanding of one of the worst injuries a person can sustain.
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I get asked a lot by people what does it take to make it to the UFC? That’s a tough question.
Throughout my career I never thought solely about the end goal of competing at the highest level of mixed martial arts competition. Instead I looked to improve my skills a daily basis; To get stronger in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, become a more dangerous striker, grow more talented in wrestling. My drive was to become the greatest fighter I could be knowing that if I continued to improve with each passing day, good things would come of it.
Along my journey I realized a few things that may help you along your own MMA path. Here they are:
1) Be humble – Realize you have a lot to learn and search it out
2) Don’t take your losses too seriously – Getting tapped in training, losing a tournament match or not coming out a winner during an MMA fight are all unavoidable occurrences on your way to becoming a great fighter.
3) Train with skilled partners – Try to wrestle with those that can wrestle, box with those that can box and so on…
4) Find a knowledgeable strength and conditioning coach and get yourself in the best shape possible. Your training sessions will be more productive and you’ll make greater gains with less effort.
5) Read books. Books about Martial arts technique, strategies and training; autobiographies about mixed martial artists and other athletes who have achieved the type of success you are looking to achieve; and books that focus on positive thinking, meditation and mental preparation for sports competition.
6) Compete as often as you can in a variety of martial arts and combat disciplines such as boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
7) Train in group classes, participate in seminars, take private lessons, watch instructional videos and videos of fights. And when you’re not training, visualize your training; reviewing in your mind what you have worked on lately and the things you plan to focus on in the future.
8 ) Keep a log of your training activities. Set a schedule as to what practice sessions you will attend for any given week and stick to it. Don’t allow yourself to miss class by making some random excuse.
9) When you go on vacation or are in the midst of travelling try to find places to train wherever you are go. It’s a lot of fun and very beneficial to roll, spar, practice and share ideas with new people so make sure you do it whenever you get the chance.
10) Believe in yourself. Know deep down inside that you will become a great fighter and achieve all of your dreams.
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Sometime during 2007…
It ended up taking nearly a quarter of an hour to get the damn thing from my car to the spot that I was standing at now, at the back end of the customer service line at Walmart. I had done the best I could to fold up the gigantic square of thick vinyl which acted as the lining to the steel frame swimming pool my wife purchased sometime yesterday. Looking at the huge mass of blue material as it now hung wildly off of the dolly, partially impeding the thick flow of customers that were heading towards the exit doors, I realized that I had not done a very good job.
My two kids and I were all so excited when my wife had brought home the pool yesterday. The weather had been scorching over the last few days and my six year old daughter was getting angrier by the day, as she would commonly hear her eleven year old brother having a blast while he and his friends swam in the neighbours below ground pool. Telling her that she was too young to swim with only the boys did anything but calm her down. Getting our own swimming pool was the only solution.
The entire pool, made up of the blue vinyl liner, many attachable plastic pieces that formed a frame, and a connectable salt-water pump, had been set up in a matter of hours. I had read that the water filling process would take a long time. Throwing in our garden hose, I realized that the word long was an understatement, as the pool began to fill at a ridiculously slow rate. The kids and I jumped around in the inch or two of water that had be inserted into the pool before it was time for them to go to sleep. I’m sure we all slept well that night as we anticipated some super fun times in our pool the next day.
The next morning, I had woken up first and had quickly inspected the pool. Noticing that it had not filled as much as I had thought it would, I decided to take a closer look. A long search ended in me finding a slice in the liner that was allowing water to leak out of the pool onto the concrete base below. After two hours of disassembling, folding, packing and carrying, I ended up in this line at Walmart with my monstrous pool liner behind me. I was a little embarrassed as I stood there but was comforted by the thought that I would soon have a brand new liner packed nicely inside an easy to carry box.
My wife had told me that she had spoken to John, a manager at the store, and that he would take care of me when I arrived. Reaching the front of the customer service line, I told the young lady behind the counter something along those lines.
“Hold on for a moment please” she said, her eyes processing the image of the large blue liner that rose up behind me as if it were a tidal wave about to crash down upon all of us. A puzzled look crossed her face as she turned to enter one of the offices behind her. A feeling of worry set in as I imagined them not being able to exchange it for some reason.
Five minutes passed when a large man appeared from the office and introduced himself to me as the manager. His name was not John. It must have been a different manager that my wife had spoken to, I thought to myself. I proceeded to tell him about her conversation with the manager named John that she’d had over the phone earlier that day. Using an almost identical motion and with a similar facial expression, to that of the young customer service girl I spoke with initially, he excused himself, turning to retreat to his office.
Another ten minutes passed as the line-up behind me, and behind my mountain of blue vinyl, grew substantially. What’s the problem? I thought to myself as I began to feel a little uncomfortable about monopolizing the entire customer service area. The office door finally opened and out came the manager not named John. The puzzled look on his face had morphed to a mixture of confusion and a little frustration.
Stepping up to the counter he said, “We don’t have a manager here named John”.
“He’s not here today?” I asked him but before he could give an answer I continued, “My wife said she spoke with him and he said we could exchange our liner for a new one.” I replied, immediately noticing the voices of the customers waiting behind me getting louder as I finished the sentence. They didn’t sound very happy.
“We don’t have a manager named John.” he stated. My face took on a near mirror image of his, slightly different but I’m certain we both appeared equally confused.
“Can I see your receipt?” he asked. I shuffled throughout the pockets of my jacket. Pulling out a long piece of paper, the receipt he was looking for, I handed it over to his outreached hand. A split second later he looked up at me.
“This is not from our store Sir.” A massive amount of blood rushed to my face as the Walmart manager’s words set in. As soon as the receipt was returned to my hands, I scanned it quickly to confirm his statement. Zellers! My mind screamed at me. Zellers! You idiot! It repeated over and over again, seemingly mocking me, as I grabbed, turned and aggressively pushed my pool liner out of the store’s exit. In my mad rush to flee the store, the embarrassment and the line of customers whose time I had wasted, I nearly lost control of the dolly. After working my way back to my van, and repacking the liner inside the vehicle, I was seated in the front seat, deep in thought as I tried to remember what my wife had told me.
I could have sworn she said Walmart?
Man, this sucks!
Where the hell is Zellers?
Zellers turned out to be about twenty minutes away so I slammed the vehicle into drive and set out towards that new destination. An hour or so later, I was home, and we were all back in my backyard setting up our pool for the second time. Not one person knew anything about my embarrassing moment at Walmart and I’m sure it would have remained that way had I not acted on my intense urge to ask my wife what we had discussed about the pool prior to my item exchanging adventure.
It turns out that she had told me to return the pool liner to Zellers several times, and had even mentioned, the day before, that Walmart didn’t sell the type of pool we were looking for.
My excuse? This all happened during the time I was dealing with the initial symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome. Was it the fatigue I was feeling due to the PCS? Or the problems it was causing with my short term memory? Maybe the uncommon anxiety I felt about getting the pool up and running was the culprit? Or did I have difficulty concentrating well enough to read the receipt properly? I have no clue.
I’m glad and I’m sure all customer service employees around the Hamilton area are unknowingly glad that I’m feeling back to normal now and that the symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome are behind me. Please do something for me in return for my sharing of this embarrassing moment. Next time you punch someone really hard in training, please pass them on this vital tip…Double Check your receipts before heading out to make an exchange.
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The crowd cheered as the two of us circled one another in the ring. We both began to fire off our jabs to lead off a short feeling out period consisting of movement and footwork rather than a large amount of punches. The fact that it was a training session, one that many the fighters at Joslin’s were on hand tonight for, had resulted in many of the matches starting off in a similarly relaxed manner.
My opponent that day was a good friend of mine. It was supposed to be a training session, with no points being scored but the combination of a few loud cheers from the steadily growing crowd and a few nice shots landed by each of us, elevated our intensity immediately.
My body began to loosen after a minute or so into the first round. I felt great, light on my feet and excited to be there. Slipping a punch, I came back with a quick combination that hit its mark. My opponent fired back immediately forcing me back against the 3 ring ropes that were containing me, him and the referee. Feeling my back against the ropes I threw a combination of punches, none of which came close to landing. In the midst of my attack I took a hit, as a straight right hand drove right through my nose. It didn’t hit my face at all which meant my nose had absorbed every ounce of power the punch had behind it. Not a good thing, but I felt fine until the referee stopped the match a few moments later. Three or four people including the ref closed in to assess the damage, which I believed to be simply a bloody nose as I felt a few drops of blood drip down my chin.
Instantly I knew it had to be something else. Everyone was slowly tilting their heads side to side as they examined my face. I quickly jumped from the ring towards one of the many mirrors than lined the martial arts studio. It took me only a second to realize why they were looking at me so strangely.
Damn! I thought to myself. My thoughts carried on , My $&#^ing nose!
The thing was so far across my face I think I could have almost smelled my ear. I grabbed it immediately and tried desperately to push it back into place as if I could magically transform my newly acquired “wicked witch of the west” nose back to normal. The damn thing wouldn’t budge.
After a five hour wait in the emergency department at a nearby hospital the doctor told me what I had already known, that my nose was broken. It was a complete break.
What can be done about it? My mind blurted out, moments before he suggested that I book an appointment with a plastic surgeon to have it straightened mainly for breathing purposes.
I went home that night and early the next day I did just that. Four days later, I had it done. I woke up on an operating table, still feeling high off of the medication they had given me to put me under. It’s a little vain to say but I really hoped my nose was straight again; even more I was hoping to have my old nose back entirely. It had felt so uncomfortable, before I had it fixed, to walk around with what felt like was someone else’s nose on my face.
Once the swelling disappeared my nose was much better than what it had been a week earlier before the doctor straightened it –how he did so I’d love to know– but it was still different to me. I chalked it down as battle injury and got used to it as quick as I could.
The worst part of it all was that training was affected greatly as I obviously couldn’t spar for a long time. I couldn’t even do BJJ or wrestling because an accidental elbow or knee to the face would have shifted my nose back to Slothville –from the Goonies—which would have sucked! Eventually I found a cage, used by karate competitors that covered my face well enough that I could begin to grapple. The Gi combined with the bulky helmet ignited some laughs from my students but it worked. I had to also make sure no one attempted guillotine chokes on me for a while since it would have popped the helmet off quick, probably taking my nose along for the ride.
I’d say it was a good six to eight months, maybe more, when I stopped feeling worried that my nose would snap every time I’d take a hard shot in the face. The good news is that my nose thickened as it healed and now seems to be able to withstand harder shots than ever before.
Spar with headgear, wear proper 16 ounce gloves and protect yourself from getting uglier while training.
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20 more injury tales to come…