Cubicle to the cage Blog #1
My name is Boyd Sharpe. I’m 40 years old and I have no combat sports experience or training. In 12 months I want to step into the cage and fight my first professional mixed martial arts fight. And even better, I’m going to take 30 other cubicle workers, most with no previous fight training, along for the ride. The program is called Cubicle to the Cage. And it started like this…
The first time I ever saw mixed martial arts was probably in 1995. I was visiting my cousin Jason and he had an overused, poor quality VHS tape of something called the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I don’t remember the exact details, but do remember enough to know I did not like what I was seeing. It seemed excessively violent and brutish. I kept cringing and looking away as I expected for someone to break a limb or lose and eye or worse. The other guys in the room were loving it, but I only pretended to watch as I focused on rereading the label on my beer bottle. Two minutes after it was over, I couldn’t have told you who fought or who won or if anyone actually did die or not. But I did remember that a skinny guy, wearing what looked like a Karate outfit, seemed nearly invincible as he made everyone else, no matter their size or skill, quit by twisting their arms, or choking them. As I say, my buddies were hooting and shouting and apparently taking great glee in the carnage. I failed to see the appeal.
Fast forward 10 years. I was out walking my dog when I met my neighbour. We probably chatted about the weather or some other innocuous thing, but, as I walked away he said, “You watching the fights tonight?”
“Boxing?” I replied? “Naa, I haven’t watched much boxing since Tyson was in his prime.”
“No man, not boxing. TUF…. you know? UFC? It’s the finals of the reality show. You should check it out.”
My mind quickly flooded with faded memories of fat men slobber-knocking around a cage and a skinny guy in pajamas choking everyone until their eyes popped out.
“Umm, yeah, I’ll give it a look,” I muttered with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. In actual fact, just thinking about it activated my gag reflex.
Later that evening, despite my best intentions to avoid watching any horrific and gratuitous maimings, I channel-surfed my way onto the first round of the now iconic Bonner vs. Griffin tilt. For the first few moments, I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching. These two extremely fit, well trained, and obviously completely insane individuals were feverishly trying to punch, kick, elbow, knee, wrestle, twist and strangle the other into submission… or unconsciousness. But, the thing that struck me the most? They appeared to be having the time of their lives. I mean, sure the fans were enjoying themselves, but they weren’t in a cage having the living hell beat out of them. What struck me about Stephan Bonner and Forest Griffin was they seemed to be having more fun than anyone else in the room. And when it was over, they congratulated each other and embraced like long lost kin. This epic war of heart, skill, grit and determination was nothing short of awe inspiring. It was a far cry from the awkward and brutish spectacle I’d seen on a crappy VHS tape 10 years earlier. I was hooked.
I spent the next few years consuming every form of MMA content I could get my hands on. DVDs, downloaded videos, borrowed VHS tapes, websites, blogs, podcasts, books , magazines and more pay-per-views than I care to admit (to my wife anyway.) I was completely obsessed. While my focus was certainly on the UFC, I discovered Shooto, Vale Tudo, Pancrase, K1 and PRIDE (Oh, PRIDE. We hardly knew ye!) By the time 2010 rolled around, I felt I had become an MMA super-fan.
And that’s when I came up with the concept for the Cubicle to the Cage program.
Like every armchair quarterback, I have on countless occasions found myself shouting at my TV in a vain effort to pass along some sage advice to my sporting heroes. In earlier years I would have been shouting, “Lafleur is open! … PASS THE PUCK!” to my beloved Habs (That’s the Montreal Canadians to you non-hockey folks). But recently, it’s been a lot of, “Don’t put your hand on the mat. He’s going for an armbar. Posture up! Posture up! Get out of there!!! Knees! Knees!” Caught up in the heat of this vicarious battle royale I often find myself leaping off the couch and contorting myself into position as I will my fighter to escape defeat. It does not go un-noted that I can clearly remember my grandfather doing the same thing when watching Maple Leaf Wrestling back in the seventies. My grandmother, with the help of my mother and her sisters, would routinely sabotage the rabbit ears (if you don’t know what those are, look it up on Wikipedia) before show time in an effort to keep him from working himself into a rage-induced embolism. With 400 channels of digital cable and a wireless Internet connection to contend with, my wife has no such luxury.
Like my couch-riding brethren, I have oftentimes fallen victim to the hubris that comes so easily to those of us on the outside of the sporting world looking in.
“How did he not see that punch coming? Why is he so tired? Did he even train for this fight? He can’t even maintain guard. God! This guy is a chump.”
And this train always ends in the same place.
“Hell, I could do better than that. If I was in there, I could beat that guy.”
But, rather than putting my money where my mouth guard is, I simply finish my beer, turn off the TV and retire to the comfort of my bed. I soothe myself with visions of myself, arms raised in victory, playing over and over in my head (in slow-motion of course). I fall asleep with my pride and my delusions firmly intact. But that was all about the change.
A while back back, during one of these delusions of grandeur, the shrill and sober voice of reason cut through my self-aggrandizing daydream.
“What the hell are you thinking!? These guys are professional athletes with years of intense training. Not to mention they are half your age. If you stepped into the cage with one of these kids you wouldn’t last thirty seconds.”
I have to admit, I was a little hurt. I mean, I’ve gotten used to my wife talking to me like that, but I’ve come to expect a little more tact from my own subconscious.
“Oh yeah,” I rebutted, “I’m only 40, thank you very much. Randy Couteur is…”
“You are NOT Randy Couteur.”
“OK… fine… you got me there… but 40 is not over the hill… is it? I mean, if there was an MMA gym around here… and I had the time to train… and if I did some running… and lifted some weights … I could do as well as these guys…. Couldn’t I?”
“Ummmmm… yeah…. Sure…. Would you like another beer there, Don Quixote?”
Well, maybe I had a point there. Maybe my best years were behind me. Maybe at 40 it was time to quit lying to myself and accept my lot in life as a daydreaming-never-been.
I went to bed that night feeling every bit of my 40 years.
But, as it so often does, the morning shed new light on the situation. After a good breakfast, a short bike ride to work and two cups of extra strong French Roast, I started to feel new life welling up in my old bones. And then it happened… I saw a headline on Yahoo Sports that read, “37-year-old Lance Armstrong to enter the Tour De France in pursuit of his 7th yellow jersey.” I know what you are thinking. In my defence, at that time, I had no idea he was, shall we say, chemically enhanced.
TRT, steroids, and blood doping aside, here was a man, my age (well… nearly), returning to the pinnacle of his sport to challenge the best (and youngest) riders in the world in one of the most grueling races on two wheels.
I’ve never had a desire to climb a mountain, but I certainly understand the allure that draws so many men and women to the challenge. I can’t explain exactly how I knew it, but as sure as I could feel my heart pounding in my chest that morning (although that might have been the caffine), I knew that the climb into the mixed martial arts cage would be my Everest. About to turn 40 years old, it was now or never.
My first step on this journey? Find an MMA trainer willing to invest a year of training in a 40 year old project manager with no fight experience. And THAT is when I met Peter Martell and was introduced to the fine young savages at Team TITANS MMA (now TITANS Fitness Academy).
This is at which you you can join us on our journey. Premiering 10 PM EST on September 12th 2013 on radX Channel, Cubicle to the Cage is a 12 episode documentary series that chronicles a year in the lives of a group of daring, dedicated and, many would say, delusional mixed martial arts fans, who want to pull themselves out of their boring office lives to live, eat, train and fight like up-and-coming professional fighters. In the end, if they have what it takes, a select few will be given the opportunity to step into the cage and declare they truly have gone from the Cubicle to the Cage.
To add radX to your cable or satellite package, contact your local provider. http://www.radx.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=4
Click here to watch the opening sequence from the show: http://vimeo.com/60750984
To learn more, visit us at www.cubicletothecage.com or http://radx.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=515:cubicle-to-the-cage&catid=6:catc