Cubicle to the cage Blog #11 Episode 110
With my fight only two months away, I was eager to get as much experience as I possibly could. I almost never missed class anymore. I took sparing matches and one-on-one classes with anyone who would give me thirty minutes of their time. I even got to spar a little with boxing coach Tyson Cave. He stuck mostly to defence and let me work my hands for a few exhausting rounds as he was preparing for an upcoming title fight. I even found a purple belt who was willing to grapple with me for an hour on New Year’s eve. Time seemed to be slipping by faster than I would have thought possible, and I was frantic to be as physically and mentally prepared as possible. So, when Peter said he wanted for Steve Goodfellow and I to do a Muay Thai exhibition match at the upcoming Extreme Cage Combat card, I jumped at the opportunity.
We would be doing class C Muay Thai, so we would be wearing shin pads and head gear and would not be using elbows or knees to the head. Under these rules, Peter felt we were safe to compete without too much chance of either of us getting hurt and not being able to fight MMA in eight weeks. As an added safeguard, Peter instructed us to ‘keep it friendly’. We weren’t out to finish each other or hurt each other. We were just going to get in the cage and demonstrate a little of what we’d learned over the past year. After getting the ‘take it easy’ lecture from Peter a few times, Steve and I actually got together and worked out how we would spar. We toyed around with a few intensity levels and eventually agreed we would throw at about 50 percent and we’d let the other guy finish his combinations before countering so each of us could ‘show our stuff’. Well, after we touched gloves in the middle of the cage on fight night, our gentleman’s agreement lasted about one second. I’m not sure who threw the first punch, but the moment it landed we both tried our best to kill each other. Twice, Steve rocked me quit badly and had to back off to let me recover. Considering we were wearing 16 ounce gloves and headgear, will give you some sense of exactly how hard he was throwing his punches. It was no secret that I don’t possess a ton of punching power, but I did manage to snap his head back with a couple of straight right hands and I nullified his attack by catching him with a short hook a few times. My one stellar moment was when I timed a spinning back kick just as he was about to throw a right hand. To add insult to injury I placed the kick perfectly on a rib he had fractured a few months earlier. I knew I’d hit him hard when I heard the huge groan as my heel sunk into his mid section. But, if you’ve been watching the series to this point, you know Steve Goodfellow is one tough son of a bitch and that wasn’t about to stop him. I backed off for a second and he gave me a slow nod and a wry smile to acknowledge the hit, and we went back to the very business-like task of trying to smash each other.
Robin Black summed it up perfectly in episode 9. When you find yourself locked in a steel cage, sweat running and blood dripping, as another man stalks you with malice in his eyes, you feel pretty damn alive. Even though I was doing a relatively tame sparing match with a guy I now considered one of my closest and most trusted friends, I finally had a small idea of how a real MMA fight was going to feel. I liked it!
Both Steve and I approached every aspect of our sparing match as if it were a real professional MMA fight. This experience was a perfect dry run for what we hoped we’d be doing for real in eight short weeks. The memory of Morteza’s miscue a few months before was vivid in our minds. In part, Morteza lost that fight because he was not mentally prepared. He had not taken the time to rehearse his fight and familiarize himself with the chaos you wade into when you step into a cage to fight a professional MMA fight in front of a live audience. Steve and I now had the perfect dress rehearsal. The lights, the people, the music, the sound of the cage door slamming, the adrenaline pumping through your veins, these are all distractions that can sink a first time fighter even before they hear the opening bell. Both long time professionals, albeit in a totally different field, Steve and I would approach this task as we with the same objective study and attention to detail we would a project in our cube world. We drank it up, gathering data on everything from maintaining our routine on fight day, attending all the commission meetings, getting our hands wrapped, warming up in the locker room, talking strategy with our corner men, tuning out the crowd as we walked to the cage, touching gloves, feeling that almost surreal moment of mingled dread and exhilaration as you engage with your opponent for the first time. I can not imagine ever taking a pro MMA fight without first having an experience like this to acclimate you to the experience of stepping into a cage to fight.
Jerome (Kid) Wilson’s Fight
Having trained with the cubes for the first half of the program, we all knew Jerome had what it took to get into the cage. At 49 years of age, he was as tough as they come. A successful entrepreneur, Jerome spent much of his time managing his business, Wilson’s Titanium, but, he had spent much of the past 40 years dabbling in combat sport training of one kind or another. His nephew is UFC fighter, Roger (The Hulk) Hollet and his brother-in-law, Roger’s father, was Canadian boxing champion Ralph Hollett. When Peter offered Jerome a fight, word spread like wildfire. It felt like half the people in attendance that night were there to watch Jerome make his professional debut. The fact that he would be fighting on his 49th birthday added an extra sweet celebratory note to the event. Also, he would be fighting Matt Heim, the guy who had brutally knocked out Morteza a few months back. So, as they entered the cage that night, we were cheering for our teammate, we were cheering for the 49 year old underdog, and we were cheering for one of our own to exact revenge on a fighter who had beaten and embarrassed our friend and training partner.
With his granite chin and near 4 decades of boxing experience, nobody felt Jerome was in much danger of being knocked out. But both guys were know as big punchers and we assumed Matt would be throwing bombs at Jerome much as he did with Morteza. But, as happens so very often in the fight game, the unexpected occurred. Having spent weeks listening to everyone talk about Jerome’s strong chin and killer right hand, Matt came out gun shy and almost immediately shot in for a takedown. Jerome easily stuffed the shot and was able to lock on a guillotine. Using a little ‘old man strength’ as he would call it, he managed to toss Matt against the cage and mount him without losing the guillotine. To Peter’s immense delight, Jerome had apparently picked up just enough Jiu Jitsu over the past year. The next day, the play-by-play read, “Jerome (Kid) Wilson, submits Matt Heim by guillotine at 51 seconds of the first round.”
To cap off an absolutely awesome evening, Peter confirmed that despite the fact that Robin Black had been forced to pull out of our fight due to medical issues, I had a new opponent. I could hardly believe my luck. Finding an opponent for any of his fighter was proving extremely difficult, so I felt completely blessed that I had a new opponent so quickly. I would be fighting Andrew Quigley, a local kid I’d sparred with once a few months back. I’m not sure how long he had been training, but he was far, far better than I was on the feet. We had only done some light Muay Thai sparing, but even in that very short session I could tell that I was absolutely no match for him in a stand up fight. I would need a very solid game plan if I hoped to have any chance of beating this guy.
The on-again-off-again world of fight promoting.
While I spent much of the next 8 weeks trying to focus exclusively on my upcoming fight, it was inevitably that I be pulled into the fight promoting world as well. I had absolutely no idea how much is involved with putting together a professional MMA event. The weeks leading up to the Cubicle to the Cage finale were some of the most hectic and frustrating of my life:
I lost my opponent and got a new one.
Rick failed his medicals and was refused a license.
Steve lost his opponent… three times.
8 other fights fell through and Peter had to repeatedly shuffle fighters and match them against new opponents.
Although she had an opponent and a license, Nickie got cold feet and said she didn’t want to fight.
With the entire Cubicle to the Cage television series hinging on a big finale with at least one cube fighting, the stress was incredible. But, eventually things started to come together. A potential opponent for Rick, Josh Walker, agreed to fight Steve Goodfellow when it appeared Rick would not be passed medically to fight. Then, at the last moment, an orthopedic specialist agreed to look at Ricks tests. He ultimately agreed that Rick could fight. With a license but no opponent, Rick was devastated. But, because he is that kind of guy, he agreed to train out the week and possibly even cut weight with us as a sign of support. And then, with 48 hours to fight time, Peter lost yet another 145 fighter. This left the experienced and talented Ryan Conner without an opponent. Pete asked Rick if he would consider taking a fight against a much more experienced fighter. You can guess his answer. His fight was on… but, he had an even bigger battle ahead of him before he had any chance of stepping into the cage. With the weigh-ins less than 24 hours away, Rick was nearly fifteen pounds overweight. The moment he got the call, he rushed to meet us at the gym, determined to do whatever it took to make the weight and get his fight. But, having skipped the test weight cut months before, he had absolutely no idea what he was in for. As the last of the fighters left the gym that night, we had one, almost impossible task ahead of us. Peter, Steve, Nickie and I would have to walk Rick through a 15 pound weight cut in just over 16 hours. Oh boy, this was going to get ugly!