Show Business: Liddell vs Evans

 I could tell Rashad was feeling good because he started grooving to Liddell’s music when it began playing. The story in the run-up to their match had been that a rededicated Liddell had foresworn his famous partying ways for the fight and was intent on knocking Rashad out.  While Chuck made his way to the Octagon I watched Rashad from press row.  He was loose and exuded the sort of confidence that speed and quick reflexes give an athlete.

Weeks before the fight I’d sent Rashad’s trainer, Greg Jackson, a text telling him, “Liddell’s reflexes are shot. Feint the takedown and follow with the left hook and Rashad will knock him out à la Randleman vs. Crocop.” I was referring to a fight in Japan when a wrestler, Kevin Randleman, knocked out the dreaded striker, Mirko Crocop in Pride FC. It might have been presumptuous to send the man credited with being the most successful and brilliant fight trainer in the world a  “keys to victory” text but Greg and I had become friends and I did think it was, in fact, a good strategy. Plus, such was Liddell’s mystique that no one was giving Rashad a chance in the fight and I always root for the underdog.

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Show Business: Dana

Brock Lesnar entered the press conference with a Budweiser in hand and theatrically took a swig, causing a few chuckles from the press before smiling and sheepishly taking his seat.  In order to piggyback Lesnar’s notoriety from professional wrestling, the UFC had maneuvered Brock into a title shot after he’d only competed in the sport for two years. It’s hard to imagine someone becoming a “World Champion” so quickly in any other sport.

The 6’5’’ 300-pound former professional wrestler became the go-to star for the UFC soon after his debut even though it was a loss. In Lesnar’s first fight in the UFC Frank Mir had defeated him quickly but not easily. It had been only Lesnar’s third fight ever. Many people doubted the wisdom of someone so inexperienced fighting a top submission fighter like Mir so soon and the outcome was as expected.  Lesnar charged like a bull in the opening seconds and nearly overwhelmed Mir but since Lesnar didn’t know how to defend his legs and, after surviving the blitzkrieg, Mir caught him in a heel hook submission 50 seconds in to the fight.

Afterward he and Mir coached on The Ultimate Fighter and their rivalry and dislike for one another grew.  In their rematch Lesnar didn’t make the same mistake twice.  He kept Mir pinned beneath him and used his gigantic hands, massive and heavy as millstones, to decimate Mir until the ref stopped the match. Lesnar’s time in the WWE versed him in the arts of “getting heat,” or working up a crowd so after the fight he disparaged Mir, flipped the increasingly hostile crowd his middle finger and, most unforgivably, flouted a UFC sponsor, Budweiser, by saying he was going home to celebrate his victory by having a Miller Beer and “laying on top of his wife.”

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Show Business: Kimbo

Kimbo Slice was being mauled on the ground by James “the Colossus” Thompson in the second round of the main event at the EliteXC.  Elite XC had one-upped the UFC by signing a contract for the first broadcast of an MMA fight on network television.  The broadcast was going out live from Newark, New Jersey on CBS and was a rare instance when the UFC had to take a backseat to a competitor.  Kimbo and his mainstream appeal were a big reason for the television deal. The main event was meant to be his coming out party.

Kimbo became famous while acting as a bodyguard for an Internet pornography mogul in Miami.  He would fight in bare-knuckle boxing matches versus all-comers and the videos of these fights posted on the Internet became a huge viral sensation.  Once he started fighting in MMA the press took notice. He was even on the cover of ESPN Magazine with a tagline “The Face of MMA,” which I always thought was an outrage.

Gary Shaw, the man who made a fortune pitting a faded Mike Tyson against a series of bums after he got out of prison, signed Kimbo to a lucrative contract with his MMA promotional company.  Shaw knew well the money Middle America will pay to see a scary-looking black guy knock people out.  So with little appreciation for the sport of MMA Shaw had cynically based his company around the effort to make Kimbo a poor man’s version of Tyson. The conventional sports press bought into the street monster act but I never did. Supposedly Kimbo had wanted to be a boxer when he was young.  I knew that any heavyweight who was as athletic as Kimbo, who hit as hard and managed to hold his hands up, could make money in boxing if he had the diligence and heart to train hard and live clean. So I figured Kimbo didn’t have any heart, which is why he ended up in the sordid line of work he was in when discovered on the Internet.

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