Great Masters: Cido and Levy

You had to be on your guard in Rio. In 2008 there were 4,631 murders in the city, (compared to the 523 murders in New York City that same year). Rio had one of the highest crime rates in the world, with affluent areas and dangerous neighborhoods butting up against each other. You could go from admiring a multi-million dollar beachfront high rise to getting jacked in 10 minutes if you didn’t know your way around.

Then there was the traffic, which, unless there was a big soccer game on television, was chaotic, fast, and unrelenting. Our driver Cido not only navigated Rio’s streets and safely got us where we needed to be over the week we were there, but offered to be our go-to guy for just about anything else as well.  If we needed anything, whether it was an interview that needed to be set up or a photo-shoot that required a location, Cido would take out his cell phone and ten minutes later it’d been taken care of.  Not only did he get things done, he was also a ladies magnet: if there was a good-looking woman within a hundred yards she’d find a reason to come strike up a conversation with him.

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A Small World: Outside Mosul, Iraq

The city of Mosul is in the northern part of Iraq on the banks of the Tigris River. A sprawling city of nearly two million inhabitants, it has existed here in one form or another for thousands of years. Mosul is built on the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh where the prophet Jonah was traveling when swallowed alive by a “great fish” in the famous story from the Bible. It’s said he is buried in the city, beneath a shrine located in the Nabi Yunus Mosque.

I was ruminating on the Biblical prophet’s peculiar mode of transportation as I traveled towards the city myself, in the belly of a different kind of giant beast. Thousands of feet above the Iraqi desert inside a C-130 military transport plane, I was traveling together with a large group: three fighters, two promoters, three judges, two referees, a corporate sponsor, a matchmaker, a sanctioning official, two ring girls, a documentary film crew, my intrepid staff photographer Paul Thatcher and about a dozen soldiers going on deployment. We were are all being ferried to forward operating base Marez on the outskirts of Mosul, which in a few days would be the site of a historic mixed martial arts event.

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The Fighting Meme: Sacremento California

In mixed martial arts, the smaller you are the better you need to be to get noticed. Urijah Faber is the reason why there is a Featherweight division in the United States.   Along with stars like Miguel Torres, he built the World Extreme Cage fighting’s brand to be second only to that of its parent company, the mighty UFC.   Blending speed, power, technique, and energy, when I visited his gym Urijah boasted a record of 22-2, with 18 wins by stoppage.   Eleven of the latter came in the very first round.

I watched him slowly drill takedowns with a class of twelve other fighters from his team: Team Alpha Male. They were doing “structured drilling,” in which they’d practice their maneuvers at 25 percent resistance. The purpose of this type of drilling was to allow the body to recognize its relative position and respond with the correct counter or technique without the athlete having to think about it.

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