August 7, 2009

Last night I went to a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight with The Southeastern Fight League. Mixed martial Arts are a variety of different martial arts such as MMA grappling, JKA Shotokan Karate-Do, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai Kickboxing. This style of fighting has gained popularity with well known Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). MMA is intense fighting. The fights are held in an octagonal competition mat with a chain link cage. I’ve watched some UFC matches on television, last night was the first time I watched matches live. A friend of mine, Steve Baxley owns the venue, Southeastern Fight Center and started the Wolfpack MMA Dothan.

The line up for the night was for five fights. It was held in a new building on the outskirts of town. The building did not have air condition and it was hot. The air was thick with humidity and anticipation. Before the fights the fighters were warming up behind a black curtain. Through a break in the curtain I could see the fighters prepare. They prepare by punching pads and show their true personalities that pump up the testosterone and mental attitude to get into the cage. These fights have just a handful of rules:

Commission approved gloves

Weight classes

Time limits and rounds

Mandatory drug testing

No head butting or kicking to the downed opponent

No knees to the head of a downed opponent

No downward point of the elbow strikes

No strikes to the spine or the back of the head

No groin or throat strikes

State Athletic Commission approval in such major states as New Jersey, Nevada, Florida & Louisiana.

I had a front row seat right in line for blood and sweat splatter. I picked the spot because it was in line with a fan, (did I mention that it was HOT??) The building was crowded. Upon entry you could choose admission for sitting or standing. I chose sitting. I wasn’t sure how long these matches lasted and if the heat got to be too much I certainly wanted a seat. There were special effects lighting and a DJ/ announcer playing heavy metal music. The Southeastern Fight League fights draw a large crowd locally. The fights can have an attendance of close to 300 people. That’s the reason for the new building. The owner used to have the fights at his dojo but there was not enough room.

One of the trainers promoting his fighters, told me who to watch to win. Wayne the Insane and Rash guard. I met Wayne the Insane waiting in line for the unisex restroom. He was a scrappy kid and was calm and collected for someone with a name like “Wayne the Insane.” I asked him if he was nervous. He said he didn’t get nervous. I believed him.

The event started out with a presentation of the fighting style taught by the MMA Wolfpack. I have little knowledge of how these fights are won. Intense wrestling with kneeing and punches to the face and torso, arm twisting, and slamming into the chain link. At first thought I wondered if the way to win was the same as wrestling, where the opponent had to be held down by both shoulders for a count. I was wrong. There are two ways to win – a tap out, where the loser knows he’s met his match under a great deal of pain without any way to get out from his opponent. The second way to win is a knock out.

After the presentation the first round was announced. Kickboxing. The fighters were underage, under 18 yrs. Old, so they were padded up. Fighters 18 yrs. Old and under must have parental consent and pads to enter the ring. Anyone over the age of 18 is considered an adult and can get into the ring and get beat all they want without padding. The two fighters fought hard and I could tell that one of the fighters almost got knocked out. After a punch in the head I saw him wobble, lean down and put his hands on his knees while he counted his stars. Once he got done counting about 30 stars he seemed to shake them out of his view and get back into the fight. Sadly he didn’t recover and lost the match.

The second match was between two heavy weights one weighed in at 189 lbs. the second weighed in at 220 lbs. I wasn’t sure that weight made any difference with winning. The lighter of the two won the fight.

Wayne the Insane won the third match. (I was distracted with conversation and missed watching his fight, it seemed to happen really fast)

The forth match was with a Georgia boy who had traveled to the last three fight nights held by the Southeastern Fight League and didn’t have anyone to fight in his weight division. This guy looked like a fighter. He was all tattooed. His chest had an impressive star tattoos spread from one shoulder to the other. This was his first fight with the Southeastern Fight League. I like to root for the underdog so I thought his opponent would give him a good fight and might even take him. I was wrong, my choice had an explosive attack to start, but Georgia boy won.

The main event of the night fighters- Rash guard (Wolfpack team) 6’2” 155 lbs. and his opponent, B. 5’9 155 lbs. I did pay attention to this fight. I was lucky enough to be at one of the corners where I could over hear the trainer speak to his fighter. The noise was loud, but the trainer and the fighter stayed in tune with each other. The trainer watched from outside the chain link and clearly told Rash guard the moves to make, “Relax, lean towards him,” and “Lets see some knees.” At which Rash guard would hear and do what the trainer told him. At the end of the first round Rash guard was struggling. During the second round he still followed the trainer’s instruction and won the match. I was impressed with the trainer and the teamwork between him and the fighter.

The Wolfpack won all their matches and that speaks well about the training and preparation for the matches. They train male and females. After the fights a friend of mine stopped by to say hello and told me his daughter is training to fight with the Wolfpack. I could see the pride in the father thinking of his daughter fighting these fights. The fighters seemed young to me but they enter the ring with fighting track records and know what to do when they are in the ring, unleash their speed, power, and flexibility!

Going to this live Southeastern Fight League match was new to me. For a thrilling night I would recommend it to anyone to watch it live. I would go again. I would like to see more of the pre-fight behind the curtain. That is where the fighter’s real personalities shine. When they get in the ring they are focused, and do what they are there to do.

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