Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Training anytime, anywhere

One of the more convenient aspects of mixed martial arts is its flexibility when it comes to training. Unlike other sports like football or hockey, where teams usually always practice in just one place, MMA fighters can choose to either stay in one gym and train or they can travel to different gyms in order to soak up as much knowledge and training as they can before a fight.

This was true for former World Extreme Cagefighting competitors and now UFC competitors Leonard Garcia, "Cowboy" Donald Cerrone and Mike Brown. While the trio were in Baltimore last night for the third Shogun Fights event, they also had the opportunity to train at Ground Control Baltimore, which is run by John Rallo, who is also the head promoter for Shogun Fights.

While training in familiar surroundings is always welcome, another convenient aspect of MMA is that even if you're training in a different gym, you can still work on a lot of the same aspects of your game. MMA gyms are universal in that they all provide fighters to work on their multiple skills, including striking, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

Garcia, Cerrone and Brown all appear to get in some valuable training while in town for Shogun Fights, which shows that even if they're traveling for fun or for promotional purposes, they can still partake in business if need be.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting an early start

Ever since I started becoming a fan of mixed martial arts and have expressed an interest in training in the sport, I have lamented that I didn't take a more active role growing up in partaking in sports like karate or wrestling. Doing so probably would have better prepared me and made a transition to MMA easier, and I specifically remember coming home from school with sign-up sheets for karate classes that I could never get my parents to sign.

If I had been able to get an early start, it could have been possible for me to learn from a legend in a sport like Brazilian jiu-jitsu like kids who partake in classes at Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs. The kids were recently visited by Dustin Denes, a BJJ black belt who has competed worldwide.

A video accompanies the post about Denes' visit and it appears that at least initially, he stuck to the basics when teaching the kids. It's probably better that way. Though it's nice for the kids to get an early start in BJJ and learn from someone as respected as Denes, it's safe to say they shouldn't be learning any rear-naked chokes or armbars just yet.

As an aside, I went to a MMA event in Manassas, Virginia over the weekend. I enjoyed my time at the event, despite the fact it started an hour late and I had to sit through 17 fights in one night, which caused my eyes to glass over about halfway through. A recap of my experience can be found here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

So, you wanna be a fighter?

More often than not, when someone who aspires for greater things sees that very thing they want to do on TV or read it in a book or read about it on the internet, they think to themselves "I can do that". It's human nature to think something that we see or read sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

But when it comes to mixed martial arts, as with many things, it really is not any easier than it actually is. In some cases, it's much harder. Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg has applied that philosophy by recently holding fighter try-outs.

Having participated in some form of MMA training at Evolve myself, I can safely say that if you think you can waltz in there and think you can be the next Georges St. Pierre in no time flat, you are SORELY mistaken. Fortunately, I think most who follow MMA and have an interest in doing it know that it takes an overwhelmingly tremendous amount of dedication, mental toughness and hard work.

I've been in touch with Evolve's promotions person, Melissa Snider, and she e-mailed to me that about 20 guys came out for the try-outs, a number that was soon whittled down to 15. Honestly, I'm surprised the number is even that high. I would have thought the number would never go higher than maybe half that.

Evolve only holds try-outs once a year, Melissa tells me, in preparation of events like these. Luckily aspiring fighters receive top-notch training so they don't go into a tournament with an over-inflated sense of their own abilities.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Learning from youth

Often times when a school or gym brings in a guest instructor, it is someone much older than the students and/or the regular instructors who has a wealth of experience and has probably forgotten more things about what they are going to teach than the students and/or regular instructors could ever hope to know.

However, in the case of Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs, a school known for producing mixed martial artists who compete at the amateur and national level, they brought in a guest instructor who would probably me among the younger students.

The school recently hosted a Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar by J.T. "Spiderman" Torres, a world-renowned BJJ competitor who is all of 19 years old. But despite his age, a YouTube video is posted on the above link with Torres giving another seminar at another gym where he seems to demonstrate the expertise and savvy that would probably rival some of the foremost minds in the art of BJJ.

Torres has apparently made his name against some of the other young stars in MMA in various BJJ contests. Here's a video of Torres submitting UFC welterweight Dustin Hazelett in less than a minute.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Catching up with the Bad Boy

The Shogun Fights 3 event this month saw some very special guests, including WEC and soon-to-be UFC fighters Leonard "Bad Boy" Garcia, "Cowboy" Donald Cerrone and Mike Brown. Garcia took a few minutes at the event to speak with Baltimore Sun MMA blogger Kevin Richardson for the paper's MMA blog, MMA Stomping Grounds.

Kevin asks Garcia about several different things, including his thoughts on fellow Mexican-American Cain Velasquez defeating Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight Title and Garcia's much-celebrated fight earlier this year with "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung.

I have had the pleasure to spend some time with Kevin at the last two Shogun Fights and enjoy reading his blog. He does an excellent job covering MMA and breaking it down for the local audience. It was also exciting to see some UFC guys donate their time to MMA in Maryland.

Garcia, Cerrone and Brown appear to be friends with Shogun Fights founder John Rallo, which can only stand to benefit Maryland MMA. Hopefully the trio can get in the ear of UFC President Dana White and tell him of the burgeoning MMA market in Maryland and how a UFC event in our state is long overdue.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Third time is the Charm (City), Part II

I had the privilege of attending the third Shogun Fights event over the weekend in Baltimore. I also had the pleasure of writing a recap of the event for U.S. Combat Sports, which can be found here.

So rather than just write basically another recap here, I will just share some brief thoughts about my experience at the event and hand out some honors:

- The crowd size appeared to be the same as previous Shogun Fights events. John Rallo, the event's promoter, e-mailed me and said attendance was around 5,000, as it had been for previous events. I'm sure John would like to get that number up and I could definitely see First Mariner Arena being filled to capacity with MMA fans. I think the arena is the perfect blend of being small enough to offer a sense of intimacy not found in bigger arenas but still having enough seats to offer a big-fight atmosphere.

- The fighters from Ground Control Baltimore definitely put on a much improved showing from the last Shogun Fights event. Whereas it seemed that their fighters couldn't buy a victory at Shogun Fights II, only one of the gym's fighters lost at Saturday's event. Russell Shiflett lost a three-round war with Germiyale Adkins, who engaged in a similar battle with Dave Daniecki at Shogun Fights II. Binky Jones' fight against Nick Belser was also ruled a no-contest after Binky appeared to catch Belser in the eye with his foot and the doctors determined Belser couldn't continue. The fans were extremely vocal that the fight should have continued and booed the decision ruthlessly. I sympathize with their feeling but it's always safety first in MMA. I don't blame the doctors one bit. They're trained medical professionals.

- Speaking of Daniecki, he was very impressive in his fight at Shogun Fights 3. He dominated Elder Ramos and demonstrated great ground and pound for an unanimous victory. Daniecki is one guy who seems to have the skills that could translate to a bigger stage like the UFC. The guy is just relentless.

- Another super heavyweight fight served as the main event at this show, with Ryan McGowan defeating Bob Favors. Favors weighed in at 350 pounds, which makes me wonder if he's a true mixed martial artist or a glorified brawler. I don't doubt McGowan's MMA credentials, as he trains with Team Ground Control also. Although McGowan weighs near 300 pounds, he reminds me a lot of Brock Lesnar in terms of size, even though he still appears to have a ways to go before he can match Lesnar in skill.

And now, some awards:

- Fight of The Night: Shifflett vs. Adkins. Although the crowd was disappointed that Adkins was awarded the fight, it shouldn't have changed the fact that those two guys left it all in the ring. It doesn't appear those guys are capable of putting on a boring fight.

- Knockout of The Night: McGowan landed a devastating knee that ended his fight against the much bigger Favors. McGowan won his MMA debut at Shogun Fights II in similar fashion and McGowan appears to display great power in both his hands and knees.

- Submission of the Night: Dan Root choking out his opponent Tony Galeano in Round 1 with an arm triangle. Submission victories were en vogue at Shogun Fights 3 but Root's submission particularly stood out, mostly due to the fact that he was absolutely tenacious prior to locking in the move, not letting Galeano off the mat after Root survived an early shot that knocked him to the ground.

The next Shogun Fights event is scheduled for April 30, 2011 at First Mariner Arena. On top of seeing a bigger crowd for the fourth one, I look forward to seeing a blend of familiar faces and new talent eager to make a name for themselves. There has been an undeniable buzz circulating throughout the arena at the two events I have been to and I feel it is a matter of when, not if, MMA in Maryland is ready to take the next step and gain more national attention.

Who knows? Maybe the increasing popularity of Shogun Fights will finally lead the UFC to bring one of its shows to Maryland. We can only hope.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The man with the plan

I think it's no secret among the mixed martial arts community here in Maryland that when you talk about the sport within this state, one name immediately comes to mind: John Rallo.

John is the creator of the first MMA organization in Maryland, Shogun Fights. John's organization has already held two events at First Mariner Arena here in Baltimore with the third one scheduled for this Saturday. John is becoming an increasingly present figure in the world of MMA in Maryland and was recently profiled in Baltimore Magazine.

I read the article and it was really interesting to learn about John's background. While I have spoken to him myself, I haven't really had the chance to get to know the man behind the tattoos, the intimidating presence (to me anyway, others may feel different) and the intensity and the passion he has for the sport of MMA. Before I go any further I should point out that John is a supremely nice guy.

I think it's awesome that he once worked as a security specialist for Motley Crue (one of the former 80s hair bands I'm not-as-ashamed to say I enjoy listening to) and that he has a background in business. I'm sure most people who see John just think he's a tattooed brawler, but the article really does a good job proving the notion that "appearances can be deceiving". John is an intelligent, well-spoken, passionate individual who just happens to have a burning passion for a sport some misguidedly believe is barbaric and disturbingly violent.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You talk the talk, can you walk the walk?

Luckily when it comes to mixed martial arts, owners of the many gyms in Maryland all have at least some experience in the sport or one of its similar versions, if they aren't actually masters themselves. It obviously adds a whole new level of legitimacy to a gym if it's purveyor is experienced in the discipline he/she teaches, unlike other ventures that I grew up watching (*coughprowrestlingcough*). When it comes to pro wrestling, some owners of training academies wouldn't know a bodyslam from body lotion.

Lloyd Irvin, owner of Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, has taken to the internets to prove he is the real deal. Though most within the MMA field already know Lloyd to be one of the sport's major players, he routinely posts links like this one on sites like YouTube showing what he has to offer through his gym.

In this particular clip, Lloyd shares one of his early MMA fights. After an introduction that's more rated R than PG-13, we watch Lloyd quickly take his opponent to the mat and lock in a rear-naked choke for a very quick victory, followed by some coverage of the aftermath of his rapidly vanquished foe.

It is a terrible cliche to use the expression "if you want to talk the talk, you better walk the walk", but in MMA, sometimes all you need is a good cliche. If you're running your own gym but you haven't actually had any experience in the sport you're teaching, it should become apparent rather quickly that you are, as they say in Spanish, "el fraud".

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bagpipes, kilts and ..... kickboxing?

Typically in those cheesy action movies from the 1980s that starred such luminaries as Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme, a competitor traveled to some faraway land somewhere in Asia whose aesthetics and environment were greatly exaggerated by Hollywood. There they engaged in a "deadly" tournament with fighters from around the world in arts such as kung-fu or kickboxing.

Well, there's no JCVD to be found here and there are no elaborate temples. In fact, one of Evolve Academy's students is traveling to the exotic land of Scotland to compete in the 2010 World Kickboxing and Karate Association World Championships, according to an e-newsletter the Gaithersburg gym sent out last week. Hopefully that last link works better for you than it did me. All I can get is Scotland's flag and the association's logo.

It's safe to say that Scotland would not be the first locale most people would think of when they think of a kickboxing and karate tournament. But despite the stereotypes Tinseltown and others would want us to believe, martial arts is not limited to just the Far East. I also watched Braveheart for the millionth time last night and if Scotland is anything like what Mel Gibson portrayed on the big screen, I don't doubt the toughness of the country or its capability to host a martial arts tournament.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The first rule of Fight Club is......

You don't talk about Fight Club (original, I know). But in the case of Frederick Fight Club, talking about it gets you your own story in a local magazine.

The gym was featured in the latest issue of Find It Frederick, an "alternative" publication in Frederick that highlights local events, hot spots, organizations, etc. One of the magazine's writers took a free Brazilian jiu-jitsu class at Frederick Fight Club and chronicled her experience. A copy of the article can be found here.

The writer first portrays hesitation/trepidation about trying the art for herself, which I can definitely identify with. I myself was somewhat hesitant to start practicing mixed martial arts when I took a couple classes, mainly because like the writer, I saw other people who already well-advanced in the art and showed themselves to be at the very least competent and at best experts. There was definitely an intimidation factor.

But as the writer tried the class for herself, with help from the chief instructor, she seemed to find herself enjoying learning the art of BJJ and promotes the practice as a hell of a workout, going as far as to say she couldn't hold a spoon correctly for a while.

She also mentions that she was taught that practicing something like BJJ is more mental and physical and I think that's the most important point of all. I have heard the expression "90 percent of life is just showing up" and I think that can applied to something like learning BJJ or MMA. As long as you show up and you are the type of person who welcomes and absorbs teaching well and you approach it with an open mind, learning something new and perhaps intimidating can actually become quite rewarding.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The stars come out

I previously wrote that the third Shogun Fights event is taking place next month in Baltimore. While the card for the event looks promising already, The organization recently announced some special guests for the event, who include some of the more recognizable names in MMA.

Former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Serra is expected to be in attendance, as are WEC competitors Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Mike Brown. Serra recently came off a tough loss to Chris Lytle at UFC 119 while Cerrone avenged his previous loss to Jamie Varner by defeating him at "WEC: Aldo vs. Gamburyan" last month.

Shogun Fights is also expected to host Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who is known as the "king" of stolen bases since he holds the career record in that category.

The last Shogun Fights had its fair share of celebrities in attendance as well, including members of the Baltimore Ravens and Kris "Savage" McCray, who was a finalist during the last season of "The Ultimate Fighter".

Perhaps I'll talk to Rickey while I'm covering the event and ask him if he thinks Binky Jones could steal nearly as many bases as he did. I would most like to talk to Matt Serra, as I have watched several of his fights since I started following MMA and have become a big fan of the guy. He just seems like a regular, everyday guy who does this because he loves it and really seems like one of the more personable guys in MMA.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Grapple in the Big Apple

Another month, another nationwide tournament for a Maryland gym to compete in. This time Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg is seeing which of its students will compete in the 2010 Pan Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championship this weekend in New York City, according to Evolve's latest e-newsletter.

Evolve has competed in similar events in the past, always as part of Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs, of which Evolve is an affiliate member school. There appears to be eight divisions, according to the competition's website, with each division containing multiple weight classes for people from ages 16 to ages 46 and up.

I have only seen videos on YouTube and other places of grappling tournaments, but it is definitely a far cry from the regular mixed martial arts event. Whereas MMA incorporates many different styles, tournaments such as the No-Gi Championship only seems to focus exclusively on jiu-jitsu and its sister forms.

Personally, I think if they attached a catchy title like "The Grapple in the Big Apple", they could attract even more people. But then I would have to demand compensation and attribution for thinking of that title first.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Third time is the Charm (City)

In the movie business, if a film franchise becomes incredibly profitable it is usually rewarded with a sequel and even sometimes a trilogy. "Star Wars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" immediately come to mind. I am not a Star Wars fan by any stretch (and have never actually seen any of the Star Wars movies, much to the astonishment of my friends and co-workers). While we will probably never see George Lucas or Gore Verbinski at the helm of a film about mixed martial arts, a trilogy of the MMA kind is finding its way to Maryland in November.

Shogun Fights, Maryland's premier MMA organization headed by John Rallo of Ground Control Baltimore is having its third event November 13 at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore. A card for the event can be found here and features several fighters who have competed at the first two Shogun Fights events.

Just scanning over the card I am looking forward to seeing if local MMA fighter Binky Jones can even up his record as well as seeing Ryan McGowan for his sheer size alone. I'm also looking forward to seeing Dave Daniecki and Gemiyale Adkins compete in their respective bouts, since those two put on a war against each other at the second Shogun Fights event.

I went to the second event and wrote about it and will be doing the same for this event as well. I may even be fortunate enough to cover the event for Mid-Atlantic Combat Sports, a MMA website that covers predominantly the mid-Atlantic region. My friend Erin Morgan wrote about Shogun Fights II for the same website earlier this year.

The second Shogun Fights event drew around 5,000 people to First Mariner Arena but since then I'm confident that awareness of Maryland MMA has increased respectable, so I expect a larger turnout for the third event.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A return of sorts

I had previously written about MMA fighter Wilson Reis visiting Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg to hold seminars for both students and instructors. Well according to a recent e-newsletter from the gym, Reis is making his triumphant return to the gym later next to offer another seminar for instructors and private lessons for students. I heard positive things regarding Reis' last visit so I have no doubt this next trip will be nothing but beneficial for the gym and its students.

Hopefully two of Evolve's students, Jason Morris and Frank Wingate, can bring back some lessons of their own to share after each competed at the Elite Fighting Challenge in Virginia Beach, Va. over the weekend, according to Evolve's latest e-newsletter. Unfortunately both guys came up short but I had the good fortune of having Jason as one of my instructors during one of the "Primal Skills" classes I took at Evolve and I have zero doubt that his loss was not due to proper training and preparation. Jason is diligent and committed to the craft of MMA and I have the utmost confidence his next fight will have a much better outcome.

I also read in Evolve's latest e-newsletter that Master Mike Moses was anonymously nominated to the Black Belt Hall of Fame. Had I known that nominations for that were open I would have gladly attached my name to a nomination for Master Mike. I have interacted with Master Mike on multiple occasions and also had the extreme good fortune to have him as an instructor during one of the "Primal Skills" classes I took. I cannot say enough good things about Master Mike but will just say for now that the nomination is very well-deserved.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Getting in on the act

Someone once asked me, "How many times can you sit on a treadmill?"

While treadmills are typically used for running, not sitting, I understood his point in the context of the conversation we were having. As people become more health conscious and express a greater desire to get in shape, the monotonous prospect of jogging in place on a treadmill day after day does not exactly inspire some people to get off the couch.

I have written at length about the incorporation of mixed martial arts into fitness at places like Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg. But now other Maryland MMA gyms seem to be capitalizing on the growing desire of the public to find new ways to get in shape while also combining with MMA, which is becoming more and more popular and part of the mainstream itself as days go by.

Shaddock MMA in Eldersburg has their "Caveman Workout," which according to their website starts at 6 a.m. (not the most desirable start time in my opinion, unless you're a true fitness freak) and boasts several exercises found in the MMA regimen, including flipping giant tires used on tractor trailers and hitting them with sledgehammers. I have done the latter myself and let me tell you, it is defintely good exercise.

Method MMA in Forest Hill is also offering its own MMA fitness class for the fall season. According to a recent e-newsletter by the gym, the class "will consist of many different conditioning methods that will be useful for grappling competition, MMA competition or weight loss."

The class will also cost only $10 per session, which is quite the bargain.

Other gyms offering actual MMA training, but those are typically reserved for individuals who specifically want to become fighters and compete on the amateur and professional circuit. While I have no doubt MMA training is a fantastic workout, if you would rather just get in shape instead of learning how to pummel someone, it would behoove you to make sure any classes you sign up to take are specifically centered on fitness rather than possible bonebreaking.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Explanation

No, I'm not ripping off sports columnist Jason Whitlock's dramatic exit from the Kansas City Star. I'm instead going to try and explain why I decided to give up on something I had been looking forward to for so long and spent an ample amount of time talking up.

For the longest time I wanted to take part in the "Primal Skills" mixed martial arts fitness class at Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg. I finally had the chance last month and like I wrote about in previous blog posts, it was the best workout experience of my life. It was intense. It was hard. It was fast. It was refreshing and exciting. It was everything I expected it to be.

So why did I decide to stop? It wasn't because I didn't think I could handle it. Truth be told, I was a little overwhelmed after the first session but the instructors and other guys in the class were incredibly encouraging and supportive. They recognized it was my first time doing something that intense and one guy even made a point to give me credit for sticking through it and telling me that most guys in my position would have quit before it was over.

I guess that's what bothers me the most. I feel like I let those guys down. I decided to stop going because simply, I couldn't afford it. Over the past few months my bills have gone up as my expenses increase beyond what I thought they would be. Unfortunately I inherited my father's tendency to try and be stringent with money and decided to cut back on any unnecessary luxuries. I know most people would not consider fitness a luxury but I'm still keeping my regular gym membership, which doesn't cost as much as the Primal Skills class.

I'm hopeful I can return to Evolve and Primal Skills before long. I'm trying to put myself in a position to improve my financial standing and hopefully find a better-paying job so I can reduce my debt and be able pursue opportunities like Primal Skills. It was everything I imagined it would be and the sooner I can get back to it, the better.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Training to overcome bullying

Unfortunately bullying has become pervasive in society. And as an added obstacle, it has evolved from simple threats to hand over your lunch money to using text messages and Facebook to engage in "cyberbullying", which makes bullying in general much more difficult to defeat.

But Top Flight MMA in Aberdeen is doing its part to help educate young people to overcome bullying. The gym has sent out several e-newsletters recently promoting its "Bully Buster Seminar", which they say will help kids "deal with and conquer peer pressure and bullies!"

But they're also not teaching kids how to put a bully in a rear-naked choke or how to knock them out with a quick punch to the jaw. Top Flight goes out of its way to emphasize in the e-newsletter that the program teaches kids to "effectively avoid trouble, diffuse a situation without fighting, and how to protect themselves when faced with eminent [sic] danger."

That last part sounds familiar, since when I talked to Master Mike Moses from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, he talked about a similar program he runs where kids learn to diffuse situations. While I am a firm believer in being justified in defending one's self when faced with a physical threat, I also agree with always trying to resolve the situation peacefully first. Mixed martial arts is all about discipline and even if kids aren't learning actual MMA, they should still be learning the same values. Top Flight also makes it fun by telling kids they will teach them a "Jedi Mind Trick", though I feel like most young people know little about Star Wars, much to the chagrin of some.

But if the kids want to be the next Randy Couture or Brock Lesnar when they're older, Top Flight can accommodate that too.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bringing the belt back home

He's not quite the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy", but unlike Tito Ortiz, Ravon Dixon can call himself a titleholder.

The "Charm City Bad Boy" won the 155-pound title from Jason Harmon at the Onslaught Fights show earlier this month in Virginia. It's nice to see Harmon display enough class and sportsmanship to pose for a photo with the man who took his title, but I can't get over that shiner Harmon is sporting. Ouch.

In unrelated news, my experience in the Primal Skills mixed martial arts class at Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg continues. I did a lot of the same drills in my second class as my first one but there were also some new drills introduced, and I had the privilege of Master Mike Moses, the gym's owner, conduct my class.

Unfortunately my coordination is still not where I want it to be; though a better statement might be that I have no coordination to speak of. I'm struggling when shooting in for a takedown attempt, as my brain and the rest of my body just don't seem to be on the same page when it comes to that.

I am keeping in mind that this is only my second real time even attempting any MMA exercises, whereas the other people in the class have probably been doing it for much longer. Fortunately the other students and instructors and Master Mike have been nothing but encouraging so far, which definitely helps. But I'm slowly getting more confident in my strikes, knees and leg kicks, so I guess it's important to focus on the things I do well while continuing to improve on other things.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Taking the plunge

Stop me if you've heard this before: I'm going to take a mixed martial arts fitness class.

I know I've talked about that at length for the last few months. But today, I finally put my money where my mouth is and did it. Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg has a class, Primal Skills, which owner Mike Moses described as "fitness with an attitude" in a feature article I wrote about MMA in Maryland as part of my full-time job.

I have long been interested in taking the class but each time I had decided I was finally going to do it, something came up that forced me to take a step back and reassess (timing, cost, etc.). But I finally decided that it was time to put up or shut up and that if I was truly passionate about doing this and fully committed to getting in better shape, this was going to be a great help in accomplishing that.

I can say without hesitation that I have never had a more intense workout in my life. For one hour me and three other guys rotated in during a variety of MMA-inspired drills, including combinations of punches, kicks and knees. I swung a sledgehammer into a giant truck tire, swung a medicine ball tied to a rope back and forth and worked my body in ways I hadn't done before.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the workout. I was drenched in sweat when it was over and one guy in the class who realized it was my first day told me that a lot of people in my position would have quit before it was over and gave me credit for seeing it through to the end, which really made me feel good.

I'm hopeful I can take advantage of the class on all three days that it is offered. This was definitely the workout I envisioned in a sport that I'm still learning my way around but so far enjoy on a pretty big scale.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bash at the Beach

No, I'm not going to regale you with tales of the old WCW pay-per-views of yore, including the 1996 Bash at Beach where Hulk Hogan "went heel" and aligned himself with the nWo, disillusioning and devastating an entire generation of Hulkamaniacs in the process.

I'm talking about the Cage Time 3 event in Ocean City at the end of July. I attended the first Cage Time event in April near Baltimore. I enjoyed the event and actually covered it for the same website as the link above, with help from the very lovely and talented Erin Morgan.

According to the review above some Cage Time veterans competed at this event, including Steven Baker. I like the writer's, Gavin Maleson, line of "Rashad Evans Impersonation award" to describe one of the other competitors at the event. Reading that line made me realize that I haven't seen any local MMA fighter as of yet who reminds me, physically or stylistically, of any particular UFC fighter. But then again I have only been to two MMA events in Maryland.

Maleson also mentions some drawbacks he experienced at the event, namely a malfunctioning PA system and less than adequate seating in some areas. Cage Time still apppears to be a MMA brand finding its way, not yet on the level as the biggest MMA brand in Maryland right now, Shogun Fights.

Nevertheless, it's good to see MMA brands in Maryland continue to grow. While Cage Time just held its third event, Shogun Fights 3 will be at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore in November.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A close call

I came across this story last week and it has already made the rounds into news outlets nationally and beyond, including the Vancouver Sun.

Lloyd Irvin, founder of Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, suffered a way closer call than anyone would like to two years ago. Apparently he was asleep on his couch at home in October of 2008 when two men attempted to rob him. Luckily Irvin reportedly neutralized the weapon one of the two men was using before any serious damage or injury could occur.

This story is getting more play because according to the link, one of the suspects in that case is also a suspected serial killer. While I am definitely not making light of a potentially tragic situation, those two guys definitely picked the wrong house to try and rob.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ready for their close-up

It wasn't "SportsCenter", but it was close.

Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg was recently the subject of a feature on the local Comcast SportsNet network here in Maryland. One of their shows, Geico SportsNite, profiled the gym and its reporter, Michael Jenkins, participated in the gym's popular "Primal Skills" mixed martial arts fitness program, which is still a program I hope to begin taking part in as well. The recession does affect everyone y'know. Even us bloggers.

Anywho, the piece also featured Royce Gracie, one of the original practitioners of Gracie jiu-jitsu and widely considered the innovator of MMA and one of the first and most prominent competitors in the original UFC. In addition to Gracie there were also interviews with current and former UFC lightweight competitors Sean Sherk and Jens Pulver.

Jenkins also interviewed Evolve's owner Mike Moses and Master Mike shared some of his perspective on MMA, most notably the widely held belief that it is vastly superior to boxing. Moses mentioned the corruption that is allegedly widespread throughout boxing (which I agree with; it's no secret that Don King basically screwed Mike Tyson out of thousands, if not millions of dollars) and the fact that many times boxing fans truly don't get the fight they want (which is particularly true at the moment as it relates to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao).

All in all it was a very informative and entertaining segment. While this show is only broadcast regionally, Maryland is still a relatively new market for MMA and can serve as a good introduction for someone who is new to the sport.

The full segment on Evolve and MMA can be seen here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Training our very best

Even though members of our military receive the best training in the world, they can always use a little more from various sources.

Members of the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Security Forces Squadron recently learned some Gracie jiu-jitsu from Steve Adornato, an instructor who runs a jiu-jitsu academy in Reisterstown.

The soldiers look like they learned how to take a combatant to the ground and keep him there, which should come in handy against enemies who probably are not well-versed in hand to hand and ground-based combat.

The art of teaching MMA to soldiers seems to be gaining traction. In fact, members of the U.S. Marines trained with this past season's cast of "The Ultimate Fighter".

Plus, if someone can get Osama bin Laden in a triangle choke, then he will finally know what happens when you fuck with America.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A star instructor

Star pupils are often highlighted and recognized, and rightly so. When a student goes above and beyond to accomplish something, you want to recognize that and give them positive reinforcement and continued motivation to excel.

Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg is taking a slightly different approach however. While there is no doubt the gym is home to some stellar students, it never hurts to bring in some "star power" to push them even more.

That is exactly what Evolve is doing by bringing in Wilson Reis to not only hold a seminar for their students but also their instructors, according to the gym's weekly e-newsletter.

Reis has compiled a 10-2 record in his mixed martial arts career and has competed in several organizations, including EliteXC before MMA journeyman Seth Petruzelli's 17-second knockout of Kimbo Slice ultimately led to the organization's collapse. I guess that's the risk you run when you put all your eggs into the basket of a guy whose claim to fame was basically engaging in Bumfights in backyards.

Regardless, Reis is a real notch in Evolve's belt in terms of the instruction it provides its students. Reis has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which makes him about as qualified as anyone to help Evolve's instructors and fighters pick up a few things.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mad men (and possibly women)

As this video appears to show, Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs can probably consider itself "top dog" in Maryland mixed martial arts.

I know I have written about Team Lloyd Irvin at length since I started this blog and with good reason. The team has several affiliates, including the Evolve Academy and others. The team is oftend mentioned during UFC broadcasts, as several competitors that have competed in the UFC once started out as students at Team Lloyd Irvin.

But one of the things that truly seems to set them apart is the enthusiasm and passion the students have. The above video does a great job showing this. Simple grappling matches between the students seem more akin to the environment seen at a college football game. The students are into it, chanting, clapping, cheering on their fellow students.

If a Mount Rushmore of Maryland MMA was to be built, it's safe to assume Team Lloyd Irvin would play George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

With a little help from their friends

I may have used this title before, but it seems appropriate for this post and creating headlines has never been my strong suit.

Be that as it may, Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs continues to take advantage of its connections within the world of mixed martial arts and bring people in from the world over to give the academy's students the best experience possible.

Team Lloyd Irvin held a seminar this weekend featuring the Mendes brothers, who each appear to be multiple champions in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. According to the accompanying video, the brothers are only 20 years old, which makes their accomplishments even more astounding. When I was 20 years old I was struggling to stay in college while these guys were winning tournaments worldwide.

If you want to check out a video of the brothers training, you can find one here.

Team Lloyd Irvin also held a "ladies only" seminar recently with Kyra Gracie, a member of the legendary Gracie family whose other members like Royce and Renzo played a pivotal role in mixed martial arts as we know it in the United States.

I'm not surprised that Lloyd Irvin is able to bring in these prominent names to teach their students. Lloyd's team has helped train fighters in both the UFC and WEC and most recently members of Team Lloyd Irvin could be found in the corner of Kris "Savage" McCray, who lost to Court McGee in the finals of UFC's "The Ultimate Fighter" last weekend.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cage Time: The sequel

While I was in Ocean City last week for a much-needed vacation, I unfortunately left town the day before Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts had its second show there. I covered the first Cage Time MMA event in April with the very beautiful and talented Erin Morgan and although I left town right before Cage Time 2, this recap makes it sound like it was a solid show.

I recognize a couple fighters from that recap, specifically Tenyeh Dixon and Joey Kirwan. Joey's brother Jacob fought at the first Cage Time event and it sounds like he was scheduled to fight at this one too.

I suppose it's just as well that I missed this show. I got sick Friday evening after coming back from Ocean City so I probably wouldn't have felt up to covering the event. Hopefully my lingering illness will not prevent me from participating in my first MMA fitness class tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An "Evolve"-ing follow-up

In my previous post I mentioned Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg having some of its students travel to California to participate in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. Well the affiliate gym of Team Lloyd Irvin did indeed "find gold in them thar hills".

According to its latest e-newsletter, Evolve student Rachel Demara brought home a gold medal while student Kenneth Brown brought back a bronze. I can only hope that I will not be paired with one of them when I start taking classes there in a couple of weeks. I have no doubt a bronze medalist can snap me in half and I shudder to think what a gold medalist could do with somneone who doesn't have an athletic bone in his body.

Evolve is not stopping there though. Several of its fighters will compete in the The World Kickboxing Association's 2010 North American Combat Sports Championship in Hampton, Virginia.

This looks to be more than just your typical grappling tournament, by the looks of the poster.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

There's gold in them there hills

It isn't quite the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, but it's close.

11 students from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg are headed out "Californee way" to compete in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Long Beach, according to Evolve's recent e-newsletter.

The tournament looks to be divided over four days with numerous divisions included therein. There seems to be ample opportunity for Evolve to build on the bountiful success it has enjoyed so far in other tournaments. The school routinely sends out alerts to its students letting people know of accomplishment after accomplishment their fellow pupils have achieved.

MMA fighter Jacob Kirwan, who fights out of the Clinch Academy in Frederick, is looking for some competition of his own, according to his blog.

Kirwan won his last fight at Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts in April and looked to be part of the second Cage Time MMA event June 19 in Ocean City. However, he wrote that his scheduled opponent was forced to pull out and that if an opponent isn't found he may compete in a grappling tournament instead.

I personally would stick around and have a beach weekend in OC, but that's me.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You want my rant? Here's my rant

I'm going to divert the focus of this blog slightly for the purposes of this entry, given that pickings are slim at the moment.

Kevin Richardson, a MMA writer for The Baltimore Sun, recently gave his two cents on the plan to have former UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture fight former professional boxer James Toney at UFC 118 in August. Kevin thinks Toney would have been a better matchup for the recently released Kimbo Slice while Randy should be matched up against a young fighter like Jon "Bones" Jones, who is one of the most talked-about young fighers in MMA right now and has looked very impressive so far in his UFC career.

I met Kevin at the second Shogun Fights event in March. Kevin was a really cool guy to talk to and I have absolutely no doubt that he knows his stuff. However, I would probably respectfully disagree with him here. While a Kimbo/Toney matchup would have made more sense in that both guys were/are not true mixed martial artists (Kimbo is still learning his way in MMA), I don't think Jones is ready to face someone on the level of Couture.

I would like to see Jones face someone like Forrest Griffin or Tito Ortiz, fighters who are former champions and while they are not currently in the title picture, they could serve as a "gatekeeper" to gauge if Jones is truly ready to compete against the UFC's best.

In more local MMA news, Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs recently posted a promotional video to coincide with their upcoming compeition in California. Lloyd Irvin is a well-known name in MMA, with multiple fighters who train with them competing at local, regional and national events. The video captures what I feel is part of the true essence of MMA and its several disciplines; respect, camaraderie and commitment.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking the plunge

I'm diverting from my usual format of highlighting something from a Maryland gym or tackling a similar subject and instead sharing a personal decision.

For a while I have talked about taking a mixed martial arts fitness class at a local gym. Well I have finally put my money where my mouth is and starting June 22 I will enroll in the "Primal Skills" MMA fitness class at the Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg.

I previously took a tryout class at this gym last summer, by virtue of winning a drawing for a free membership. I took the class and while I was a little overwhelmed (mostly because my utter lack of coordination and flexibility was on display; seriously, I am about as flexible as plywood), I did enjoy it but did not follow up on it because at that time, I was still getting adjusted to my job and felt that I could not devote the time and commitment something as disciplined as MMA requires.

But now I feel like I am in a better place and ready to commit to this. Plus I am wanting to find new ways to get in shape, since I have been going to a regular gym for about a year and while it has paid dividends, I would be lying if I said it hasn't started to feel a little monotonous.

As my education in MMA continues, I am looking forward to some hands-on experience.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Getting a head start

When I was in elementary school a week wouldn't go by where our teacher would hand out flyers on karate classes that we could take home and have our parents sign us up for. I often brought them home and asked my parents to sign me up but they never did and to this day, I don't know why.

But I wish they had, because I feel like I could have become this kid, a 10-year-old from Frederick who has already won a pair of events at a national grappling tournament and appears to be well on his way to being a mixed martial artist.

He already has a first-degree black belt in tae kwon do and hap ki do, so needless to say he could probably kick my ass even though I'm 15 years older than him.

One of the gyms mentioned in the article as where he trains at is Frederick Fight Club, a local gym I have noticed during my time here in the area.

Even though my parents didn't sign me up for karate classes as a kid, I suppose I could have joined the wrestling team in high school as a segway to MMA, since fighters like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson were wrestlers before they were mixed martial artists.

I also suppose I could enroll in karate classes now as an adult, but I'm not sure I could handle being a novice at 25 while kids around Joshua Paige's (the kid mentioned in the article above) age are already excelling and receiving a black belt or higher.

Though since I am still planning to take a MMA fitness class soon, I suppose I should get used to the notion that I will probably be around younger competitors who are already more advanced than me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A 'star' instructor

Before I discuss this, I want to fully disclose that I write for The Gazette. However, I am a business reporter and have no interaction whatsoever with any of the sports writers, though I know them to be great guys and even better workers. I was also not aware of this taking place prior to the article's publication, so I am in no way trying to endorse my full-time employer or bring it free publicity.

That said, The Gazette newspaper ran an article yesterday about UFC lightweight Kenny "KenFlo" Florian holding a Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar at the Yamasaki Academy in Rockville. The academy was founded by Mario Yamasaki, who is a referee for both the UFC and for other mixed martial events, including Shogun Fights in Baltimore.

If Yamasaki wanted to bring in someone to help him teach his students, he would have had a tough time finding a better assistant. Florian was dominant in his last two fights, defeating competitors Takanori Gomi and Clay Guida each by submission. And though he lost his UFC Lightweight Title fight last year against BJ Penn, he held his own against Penn at a time when Penn was considered almost unbeatable.

Florian will fight again at UFC 118 in August against Gray Maynard in what is considered to be a No. 1 Contender fight for the Lightweight Title. If Yamasaki is the referee for that bout maybe they can reminisce about the time Florian stopped by Yamasaki's gym to provide some star-caliber instruction.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A broad scope

Last month I highlighted an article written about an Annapolis resident who was trying her hand at mixed martial arts. Whether or not the two women I'm about to shine the spotlight on next read this article or not is unknown, but the Carroll County Times in Westminster recently wrote about two Maryland women who are trying their hand at MMA as well.

The two are training at Shaddock MMA in Eldersburg and one of the women featured in the article in particular, Nancy Cook, mentions how she got started in MMA and her path sounds similar to my own. In the article she says she "immediately fell in love" with MMA after watching a UFC event, which is basically how I became a big fan of MMA.

The other woman in the article, Bernice Parson, says in the piece she figured MMA training would be a good way to get in shape, which is also something I have given a lot of thought to. I am seriously thinking about taking a MMA class at a local gym in an effort to get in better shape. I have been going to a regular gym for about a year and while I have seen some results, I feel like there is more I can do to challenge myself to get in better shape.

But to me, this article once again speaks to the broad impact MMA has and will continue to have. Whether it becomes a love affair or just something to whip yourself into shape, MMA's scope continues to grow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keeping it going

In my previous post I highlighted some recent accomplishments by Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs and Evolve Academy of Gaithersburg. This post will be no different, as both schools continue to showcase the success of their students on a national level.

A pair of Team Lloyd Irvin students recently brought home gold medals from the 2010 Brazilian Nationals, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament in Brazil "that is considered the 'Toughest BJJ Tournament in the World'," according to Team Lloyd Irvin's weekly e-newsletter.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more or less the foundation on which mixed martial arts was built, so if you can bring home a gold medal from a world-renowed tournanment like that, both students would have a bright future in MMA if that is the path they choose to follow.

Evolve (which is an affiliate school of Team Lloyd Irvin) also brought home medals from a tournament recently. The school sent 8 competitors to NAGA, a grappling tournament in Charlotte, N.C., according to Evolve's weekly e-newsletter. Evolve also brought home 14 medals from the event, which is a very impressive number.

Speaking from personal experience, I'm not surprised that Evolve seems to enjoy success at these various tournaments. Based on the time I have spent around the school, it really seems to be one of the hidden jewels of MMA scene in Maryland. When you walk in their gym you definitely get the feel that it is a competitor's gym, even though they go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable regardless of skill level.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs and one of its affiliate academies, Evolve Academy of Gaithersburg, sought to make their mark in the world's most famous city. Both schools competed in the New York International Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship last week.

Both schools performed very well at the event. In its weekly e-newsletter, Evolve Academy student Rachel Demara said the school brought home seven medals and its students finished in the top three of their respective divisions. Demara even finished first in her division, she says, which is yet another sign that mixed martial arts and its many forms knows no gender boundaries.

A video recap of the event on Team Lloyd Irvin's website does a good job chronicling the schools' experience in New York, which I'm sure was a thrill for the students and instructors alike. Their enthusiasm and what I'm sure was a little bit of anxiousness is on display in the video as they have the opportunity to showcase their skills against some of the world's best.

As mixed martial arts continues to grow in Maryland, hopefully other camps in other states can see that not only is it a burgeoning market for events, but is also a fertile breeding ground for competitors.

Monday, May 3, 2010

With a little help from my friends

I covered a mixed martial arts in Pikesville last week. But rather than write a comprehensive review of the event, like I did with Shogun Fights II in Baltimore in March, I will just go ahead and provide a direct link to the review, which I wrote for another site, Mid-Atlantic Combat Sports. It can be found here.

I wrote the review with my friend Erin Morgan, a very intelligent and knowledgeable person when it comes to martial arts and who herself has studied the art for quite a long time.

In lieu of my own review, I will provide a few observations I gathered while attending the event, Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts:

- There was a good-sized crowd for the event. Obviously not as big as Shogun Fights, but then again Cage Time MMA took place in an armory and not an arena.

- There was a group of very cute girls there who were doing promotional work for some company called Istanblue Vodka and one of those girls was wearing a top that was painted on; it was not an actual piece of clothing. I just felt the need to point that out.

- Only the last two fights went beyond the first round. I'm not sure what that says about the fighters. Either most of them were very amped-up and just came out swinging and looking to finish early or some of the fighters had sloppy form or technique that ended up costing them the fight early.

- Either way, the enthusiasm of the fighters was very evident, especially during the fights between Jeremy Miller and Tom Desmond and Stephen Franklin and Matthew Dean. Miller finished Desmond early but those two guys just came out swinging. Dean came up short against Franklin but displayed tremendous heart.

A few fighters who competed at Shogun Fights II were also on the Cage Time MMA card, including Jacob Kirwan, Elijah Harshbarger, Joe Stripling and Brian Van Hoven. Kirwan, Harshbarger and Stripling all won their fights early while Van Hoven was in one of the fights that actually went beyond the first round. Van Hoven fought valiantly but lost by unanimous decision to Michael A. Santiago.

In addition to thanking Erin for her help in putting our review together, I also want to extend kudos to my boy Kramer for coming along to the event and to John Meyer for taking some awesome photos. John is a freelance photographer and more of his work can be found here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A closer look (sort of)

Friday's "Cage Time" mixed martial arts event in Pikesville will only be my second live MMA event. So while I would love to provide an in-depth preview of the card, I would probably do a disservice by attempting to do so.

Fortunately a few of the fighters competing at Friday's event were a part of the first MMA event in Maryland I went to, Shogun Fights II, so I will provide my own analysis of their fight at "Cage Time" using what I learned from seeing them for the first time.

Brian VanHoven vs. Mike A. Santiago

In my previous post I mentioned that VanHoven, a lightweight, was in a three-round war at Shogun Fights II with Cole Pressley, whom VanHoven defeated by unanimous decision. VanHoven brings a 5-0 professional record into his fight with Santiago and used a healthy mix of strikes and takedowns to secure victory at Shogun Fights II. Hopefully Santiago is aware of that, as he will seemingly need to prepare for both a stand-up game and ground game from VanHoven.

I just realized that Joe Stripling, who competed at heavyweight at Shogun Fights II will also be fighting on Friday against Adrian Belcarris. Stripling (2-3) lost an unanimous decision to Johnny Curtis at Shogun Fights II despite giving it his all, including several submission attempts. I'm sure Stripling will be eager to redeem himself from his tough loss.

Elijah Harshbarger vs. Kevin King

Harshbarger also come out on the short end of the stick at Shogun Fights II and also lost an unanimous decision in a welterweight bout against Chris Conner. While Harshbarger had awesome entrance music with "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake (which I sincerely hope I hear again on Friday), his defense against Conner's ground game at Shogun Fights was not so awesome. He seemed to be at a loss to defend against the ground game and should have worked on that in preparation of this fight.

Jacob Kirwan vs. Eric Cipriani

Unanimous decisions were a common theme at Shogun Fights, but unlike Harshbarger and Stripling, Kirwan was on the positive end of the decision in his featherweight fight against Steve DeAngelis. Kirwan's was mostly one-sided as he dominated the majority of the contest with punches, kicks and takedowns.

If you want to learn more about Shogun Fights II, check out my review of it here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rage in the cage

Another mixed martial arts event is on its way to Maryland this week and it features several fighters who competed at Shogun Fights II last month.

Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts will start at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Pikesville Armory on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville. I have been in touch with one of the people helping to put this event on and based on the information he has e-mailed to me, there are 12 fights scheduled for the event.

Among the fighters expected to be on the card include Brian VanHoven, Jacob Kirwan and Elijah Harshbarger. If you went to Shogun Fights II last month you would know that all three guys competed at the event. VanHoven and Kirwan were both victorious in their bouts while Harshbarger lost by unanimous decision. VanHoven's fight at Shogun Fights II was a three-round war, so hopefully he can continue his momentum on this card.

I will submit a full recap of the event just like I did for Shogun Fights II. I will also write a recap of Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts for Mid-Atlantic Combat Sports, so be on the lookout for that. I also write weekly recaps of "The Ultimate Fighter" for the site.

More information on Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts can be found at the Baltimore Boxing Club or at Valley Fight League Mixed Martial Arts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spreading the word

The mixed martial arts industry in Maryland continues to grow, to what I'm sure is the delight of many. I just came across two sites that look to help MMA in Maryland grow, 410 MMA and Charm City MMA.

410 MMA says its goal "is to collect data on Maryland MMA. 410MMA.com will be a resource tool for Maryland PRO & Amateur MMA fighters, gyms, events, sponsors, managers and clothing companies."

I can only hope they meet that goal, as I would like to see more sources continue to sprout up who can help promote the sport.

Charm City MMA is based in Baltimore (hence the name) and says it is a "sports management group specializing in athlete management, sponsorships, contract negotiations and public relations."

That's exactly what I think MMA in Maryland needs. Though guys like John Rallo from Shogun Fights and Ground Control Baltimore are working their ass off day in and day out to raise Maryland's profile in MMA, groups like Charm City MMA can only help in that effort.

Hopefully both groups can get involved in the next Shogun Fights event, which has not yet been announced.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taking on the Big Apple

Members of Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg will put their skills on display on one of the biggest stages in a little over a week when they compete in The New York International Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2010, which is recognized by the United States Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

The gym sent out an e-newsletter last week letting its members know about the tournament, which will take place at the City College of New York. Looking over the set up for the tournament it looks to be quite the event, with it being divided into seven divisions, including one for seniors though their definition of a "senior" is someone 46 or older (which is well below the standard age for retired "seniors" in the U.S.). But I guess you're never too old to kick ass.

Evolve registers as part of Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs, of which Evolve is an affiliate school, according to Melissa Snider, Evolve's program director and someone who has been oh-so-nice to me while I have worked to get this blog up and running.

The tournament also expects to host competitors from countries like Brazil, France, Portugal, Japan and Canada, so hopefully Evolve students get their chance to test their skills against some of the world's best up and coming competitors.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not just for the guys

While most people think of mixed martial arts as just a guy's sport and only think of overgrown brutes beating the crap out of each other, women do have a presence in the sport as well. Probably the most famous names in women's MMA are Gina Carano, who was as celebrated as much for her looks as her talent, and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, who defeated Carano last year for the Strikeforce Women's Featherweight Championship.

Current and former spouses of UFC fighters are involved in the sport as well, including Kim Couture (the former Mrs. Randy Couture) and Kerry Vera (the current Mrs. Brandon Vera).

An Annapolis resident, Cameron Jurkowsky, is trying to follow in their footsteps by training at Ivey League MMA in Severna Park, which is affiliated with Team Lloyd Irvin.

The Star Democrat newspaper in Easton recently ran an AP article on Jurkowsky and her journey into MMA, which can be found here.

The article says Jurkowsky played lacrosse at Penn State, so I'm sure she is no stranger to physicality.

Also, I have also begun contributing weekly reviews of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series to Mid-Atlantic Combat Sports, a website that covers MMA and the like. A link to the site can be found here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Portrait of a debut

Top Flight MMA of Aberdeen, a divison of Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs, recently had one of its fighters make his competing debut in a special event in New Jersey. Jesse Watson defeated his opponent not far into the fight with a choke. If you would like to see a video chronicling his debut, it can be found here.

Watson's opponent appeared to want to take the fight to the ground immediately, whereas Watson seemed content to exchange strikes until he seized an opportunity to display his own ground skills and finish off his opponent with a choke in a fight that I don't believe went past the first round.

Watson said in an e-newsletter sent out by Top Flight that he has been waiting for 3 years for his first fight, which speaks to the discipline and training required for sports like MMA. While the sport's popularity has surged, I'm hopeful that enough of its fans realize that success is definitely not immediate, if it ever happens at all, and even the opportunity to compete in your first actual fight is often months, if not years, in the making.

Speaking of aspiring grapplers, Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg recently had two of its students place second in their respective divisions at the Pan Am Championships out in California, according to an e-newsletter from the gym. It's great to see local gyms putting their students in a position to succeed on a national scale.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Go where everyone knows your name . . . to watch UFC

Once upon a time when pro wrestling ruled the world, it was common for many a sports bar to broadcast their pay-per-view events for people to come and watch. I was a frequent visitor to places like Buffalo Wild Wings and Hooters to watch wrestling PPVs when I was still a fan.

But since wrestling has since faded from the limelight and has been replaced in many eyes by mixed martial arts, watching the likes of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin has been replaced by watching all of your UFC favorites at the aforementioned establishments as well as places like The Greene Turtle, which recently decided to begin broadcast UFC PPVs.

But if you're not sure there is a place near you where you can watch UFC without having to shell out 45-50 bucks, UFC Bar has you covered. I'm not sure if that site is maintained or endorsed by the UFC, but I'm sure they won't object to letting people know how they can tune in for events.

A few Maryland gyms are also getting in on the act as well. Ground Control Baltimore is hosting a watch party for UFC 112 tomorrow at The Field House in Baltimore. Top Flight MMA in Aberdeen is also hosting a watch party at its location.

I myself have watched quite a few UFC events over the last year or so at The Greene Turtle restaurants in Germantown and Frederick. It definitely provides an atmosphere conducive to watching MMA.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Learning from a legend

The Gracie family is to mixed martial arts what the Manning family is to football; that is, royalty. So when you have a chance to learn from an established name in a sport like the Gracies in MMA, you would be a fool quite frankly not to take advantage of it.

Thankfully, Steve Adornato's Reisterstown Jiu-Jitsu instructor Steve Adornato decided to seize the opportunity to learn from the legendary MMA family and attended a seminar taught by Rickson Gracie.

Adornato mentions that during a discussion about the current state of MMA, Gracie "stated that he disagrees 100% with the notion that you need to train anything other than [sic] Gracie Jiu Jitsu to succeed in MMA. You simply need to know how to pull the match into the Jiu-Jitsu realm."

While the Gracies were the forefathers of the MMA we know and love today, the sport has evolved as they tend to do and the Gracies' influence has been discounted in some circles, or at least unintentionally neglected.

Fighters still learn jiu-jitsu as part of their training but there are so many styles incorporated into MMA that it is not the only method taught. However, I still think Gracie jiu-jitsu is an essential component of MMA, so I think Rickson can afford to take a deep breath and relax a little. I think the Gracies will always have their mark in the world MMA.

You can see a member of the Gracie family compete at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Renzo Gracie will take on former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Following the path

I get back into the swing of things on here by coming across the blog of Jacob Kirwan, a MMA fighter from Hagerstown who trains with the Clinch Academy in Frederick and Ferocity MMA in Owings Mills. Kirwan competed at the recent Shogun Fights II event in Baltimore where he defeated Steve DeAngelis by unanimous decision.

Jacob's blog definitely looks more impressive visually than mine. I should seek his advice on how to spruce my blog up. Jacob put in an impressive performance at Shogun Fights and hopefully he will be a part of future events.

Also keep an eye on Ravon Dixon, a fighter from Baltimore who was triumphant at a recent event in Virginia. Since Dixon is a Charm City native, hopefully he can join the growing market that is mixed martial arts in Maryland by virtue of participating in Shogun Fights.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Local fighter on national stage

Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs continues to make its presence known on the national mixed martial arts scene. First it helps train the new WEC Bantamweight Champion; now one of its fighters is competing on this season of UFC's "The Ultimate Fighter".

Kris "Savage" McCray is one of the middleweight contenders on the show looking for a contract with the UFC. McCray made his fighting debut on the show on the premiere episode, defeating Cleburn Walker and popping out his shoulder in the process. There were injuries aplenty duriing the show's premiere, that's for sure.

McCray was also in attendance at the second Shogun Fights event last weekend in Baltimore and got the crowd hyped up during the event and also let people know he was going to be on the show. Hopefully McCray can avoid having a smashed nose like one of his fellow competitors suffered on the premiere episode. The fighter's nose had one part going one direction and the other part going the opposite direction.

Also, I feel the need to clarify my remarks on Michael Phelps in my recap of Shogun Fights II. It was not my intention to insult Phelps, as I have nothing but the utmost respect for Phelps and what he has accomplished. It just appeared as if he didn't want to draw too much attention to himself at Shogun Fights, which given what he has dealt with in his non-competition time, I understand completely. And honestly, I'm glad he appeared to take the laid-back approach and I heard from Shogun Fights promoter John Rallo that he enjoyed himself tremendously. I hope Phelps will continue to be a presence at future Shogun Fights events, as his enthusiasm for MMA is obvious and having a local boy who has done well supporting his hometown is always a great thing to see.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hopping on the social media bandwagon

It is safe to say that social media has taken over the world. We have sacrificed our privacy for the sake of letting people know what we are doing at any moment and putting as much of ourselves out there as possible.

But sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. have their benefits as well. It allows those with aspirations to be successful in business or in arts such as music opportunities to let people know about their chosen field; opportunities that they may not have had otherwise.

And though nothing in life is ever free, social media does provide "free" advertising in a lot of respects. Case in point: YouTube. One of the most popular sites on the web may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you say "social media", but it has all the same advantages.

Top Flight MMA in Aberdeen and other gyms belonging to Team Lloyd Irvin greet visitors to their site with a video of UFC star Brandon Vera singing the praises of Team Lloyd Irvin. Top Flight MMA also has a YouTube video of people who go to the gym sharing their experience and how much they enjoy training at Top Flight.

Other MMA gyms in Maryland make use of YouTube and other social media outlets, including Shaddock MMA in Eldersburg and Method MMA in Forest Hill.

So while social media is responsible for talentless hacks who merely use it to get their 15 minutes of fame, it also helps those who don't have the budget for a massive advertising campaign to make their presence known.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

They came, they saw, they conquered

Shogun Fights held their second event last night at the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore. There was definitely excitement in the air and while I couldn't provide an exact number of attendees, I'd say it easily matched the more than 5,000 people who attended their first show last year.

There were 11 fights on the card and just about every bout was very well-contested. Here are my thoughts on each contest:

Fight 1 (Bantamweight): Rick Desper (3-3) def. Steven Baker (0-3) by submission

This fight ended quickly after Desper locked in an armbar submission and forced Baker to tap at 1:55 in Round 1. Baker appeared to be the aggressor early on as he landed some stiff shots and scored a couple takedowns. That's the thing about submissions; they can come out of anywhere at anytime. Though it was short it wasn't a bad fight to kick off the card.

Fight 2 (Lightweight): Brian Van Hoven (5-0) def. Cole Pressley (1-2) by unanimous decision

This would have been a better fight to start the show as it went the distance and both guys displayed excellent skills. Pressley appeared to win the first round from my viewpoint, as he spent most of the round winning the grappling war with Van Hoven and even spent some time playing piggyback.

The second round looked to belong to Van Hoven, as he scored a couple takedowns and landed some strikes. He also inadvertently dropped Pressley on his neck though Pressley did not appear affected. I'm always surprised that more neck injuries don't happen in MMA though.

Van Hoven continued his assault in the third round and won the unanimous decision. While Pressley seemed to want to grapple more, Van Hoven made good use of both his strikes and takedowns.

Fight 3 (Catchweight): Justin Hickey (3-1) def. Brett Thomas by TKO

Hickey was a last-minute replacement for Ryan Mackin, who did not compete for unknown reasons. This fight also did not surpass the first round and while the two tried a couple takedowns at first, Hickey ended the fight with some bombs that rocked Thomas, to borrow a phrase from Joe Rogan. Hickey scored the TKO at 4:21 in the first round.

Hickey said after the fight that he received a call about competing at Shogun Fights at 7:30 Friday morning and was able to drop 10 pounds in one day. I really want to know how someone can do that because that just sounds extraordinary. Did he just sit in a sauna all day?

Fight 4 (Heavyweight): Johnny Curtis (2-0) def. Joe Stripling (2-3) by unanimous decision

Curtis also replaced another fighter in this bout, Chris Sydnor. Stripling was aggressive throughout the fight, trying to land various submissions and landing some punches but Curtis landed more blows and takedowns. A very competitive bout where both guys left it all in the ring.

Curtis was mingling with the crowd after his fight and I saw him dabbing at his nose with a towel. I heard he broke his nose and definitely seemed woozy afterwards. Curtis is also 39 years old, which defies the general belief that MMA is only a young man's game.

Fight 5 (Bantamweight): Jason Hillicker (1-1) def. Bobby Huron (2-1) by submission

Another short bout that was stopped by the official after Hillicker locked in an armbar at 2:13 in the first round. Both guys attempted kicks and exchanged some strikes before Huron scored a takedown but unfortunately got caught in the submission.

After the fight Hillicker described the armbar as his "bread and butter" and said he wanted to "take that armbar home with me". The guy definitely seems to love his armbars.

Fight 6 (Welterweight): Chris Conner (4-2) def. Elijah Harshbarger (3-1) by unanimous decision

A fight that started off with some good displays of wrestling and grappling but by the time the third fight rolled around, it began to slow down and some fans began to voice their displeasure.

It was a fight that stuck to the ground for the most part and a fight that was mostly dominated by Conner. He mounted Harshbarger several times and Harshbarger just appeared to have no answer for Conner's ground game, though Harshbarger did try a few guillotine chokes.

I'm not sure if the boos heard during this fight were warranted, but the action definitely became plodding once or twice. I think the official could have been a little quicker to realize that and make the guys stand up and fight.

But I do need to point out that Harshbarger came to the ring to the tune of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again", which was pretty much the greatest thing ever. But there was no Tawny Kitaen, for which I was disappointed.

Fight 7 (Welterweight): Quinton McCottrell (4-5) def. Mike Paschall (1-1) by submission

Paschall got the first real loud reaction of the night, since he fights out of Ground Control Baltimore and its head trainer, John Rallo, is the brains behind the Shogun Fights operation.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm for Paschall ended rather abruptly as Quinton slapped on a choke for the submission victory at 2:21 in the first round. I watched a video interview Paschall did with The Baltimore Sun prior to the event and his enthusiasm for the fight really did come through. I did feel badly for the guy that his planned triumphant homecoming did not go as planned. Though he was at least victorious at the first Shogun Fights event.

Fight 8 (Featherweight): Jacob Kirwan (6-1) def. Steve DeAngelis by unanimous decision

This was another fight that did not appear to satisfy the crowd, as more boos descended on the ring and the official did stand both guys up on two occasions.

The fight seemed mostly one-sided as well, as Kirwan landed more takedowns and both kicks and punches during the fight. Though DeAngelis landed some good elbows towards the end of the fight as well.

Fight 9 (Middleweight): Germiyale Adkins def. Dave Daniecki (2-1) by split decision

This was probably the best fight of the night complete with a controversial decision. Daniecky appeared to win the first round afte scoring a takedown, attempting an armbar and grasping Adkins with a Muay Thai clinch. The second round seemed even to me as although Daniecki scored another takedown, Adkins did land a series of blows.

Both guys went all out in the third round. Daniecki landed a head kick while Adkins landed more punches. However, Daniecki ended the round with a takedown and had Adkins' back and the crowd seemed convinced Daniecki had won the fight and gave the bout a standing ovation.

However, their enthusiasm quickly turned to scorn as Adkins was announced the winner. I personally though Daniecki had the fight won as well. I thought his takedowns and wrestling were enough to overcome Adkins' strikes.

Adkins was presented a trophy for winning the fight by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who was in attendance. Though it appeared that Phelps really didn't want to be there or had just hit the bong again, as he had a green hat and hood pulled over his face and didn't seem to want to be recognized.

Adkins was a good sport when he spoke after the fight. He acknowledged the crowd's booing but said "I'm just trying to put on a show baby". I think he handled it very well and with a lot of class. But both Adkins and Daniecki should have been proud of putting on a tremendous fight.

Fight 10 (Featherweight): Jim Hettes (5-0) def. Binky Jones (8-9) by submission

Before the main event I would have said Binky (that's not his actual name, I'm pretty sure it's James) got the loudest reaction of the night. He was accompanied by who I'm guessing were his children as well his corner staff. One kid was carrying an American flag while another was carrying the Maryland flag. Binky was sporting the Baltimore tights complete with the color of the Orioles and was really the hometown hero. He even goes by the nickname the "Baltimore Submission Machine".

Which made the fight all that more disappointing for the crowd. Hettes got Binky into a rear-naked choke 28 seconds into the fight. To say the crowd was shocked would be a huge understatement.

Fight 11 (Super Heavyweight): Ryan McGowan (1-0) def. Deon West (1-2) by TKO

This was McGowan's first fight and I'd say his reaction surpassed Binky Jones'. McGowan even had his own cheering section. Both guys tipped the scales at over 300 pounds, which piqued my interest because I wanted to see how two such heavy guys would maneuver in a sport as disciplined and technical as MMA.

My curiousity wasn't really satisfied though, as McGowan floored West with punches and forced the official to stop the fight a minute and a half in the first round. However I heard later that West was dealing with some major personal issues, so he deserves kudos for going on with the fight anyway.

If I had to pick a "Fight of the Night", I would probably choose Daniecki/Adkins by a hair over Pressley/Van Hoven. Both were excellent fights but Daniecki and Adkins just gave it their all and held nothing back. Plus the energy by the crowd for that fight was off the charts.

If I had to pick the best individual performance, I think Justin Hickey deserves recognition for finishing his fight early after agreeing to compete in it 24 hours beforehand. That is not something that is easy to do in a sport like MMA, where fighters regularly train months in advance of a fight.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first live MMA experience. Shogun Fights had the enthusiasm and competition you find in the national organizations like UFC but it also had the local appeal and energy you can only find in localized events. Shogun Fights appears to be well on its way to being Maryland's top MMA promotion and I am very much looking forward to the next event.

Much thanks to John Rallo and First Mariner Arena for giving me the opportunity to cover the event as well as to Erin Morgan, a wonderful person who I met while waiting for the show to begin and who I was fortunate enough to spend the event hanging out with. She was fun to talk to and her assistance was greatly appreciated.

Also thanks to Kevin Richardson from The Baltimore Sun and John Meyer, who is going to be generous enough to share some photos he shot of the event with me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The time is almost here

Shogun Fights II is less than 24 hours away. The fight card can be seen here. I wish I had some greater knowledge of the competitors on tomorrow night's card, but the event allows me an opportunity to learn more about these local fighters and were they developed their skills.

But just a few initial observations from looking at the card:

- A very good mix of weight classes are represented. Everything from bantamweight to super heavyweight.

- It should be interesting to see how two 300+ pound fighters move around in the super heavyweight bout. But since both guys come out of legitimate MMA camps, it should be a competitive fight and less of a spectacle.

- Each bout has its own sponsor. While somewhat unusual, it speaks well that this event has been able to attract a large group of sponsors. Hopefully word is spreading quickly that MMA is on the rise in Maryland.

- Binky Jones appears to be the unofficial headliner for the event as his likeness is prominently featured on the Shogun Fights site. Looking at him, you wouldn't think he was a featherweight.

It seems likely this event will surpass the first Shogun Fights, which drew over 5,000 people. I'll be covering the event and will post a wrap-up with thoughts and analysis. I will also share some thoughts on my Twitter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shogun Fights rockin' with Tommy Lee

Tommy Lee, best known as the drummer from Motley Crue and for his record-breaking (at the time) sex tape with Pamela Anderson (I have seen clips from that video and while Pamela Anderson will always be one of the hottest women in the world, unfortunately I think other sex tapes have surpassed it in terms of quality. Though they should still be proud of what they created), has lent one of his songs from his Methods of Mayhem project to Shogun Fights for the organization to use in its opening video, according to their web site.

I can only assume the song will be included as part of Shogun's second fight card this Saturday at the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore. I heard some of the songs from Tommy's first Methods of Mayhem CD and while I prefer his work with the Crue, the songs were by no means awful. And any more mainstream attention Shogun Fights can receive, the better. Promoter John Rallo has been making the media rounds in advance of Saturday's event, including doing an interview on 98 Rock's morning show on Tuesday. I listened to the interview on my way to (what, you thought I did this for a living? Alas, as much as I wish it were true, I do have to pay the bills somehow) and it was a very good interview.

Tickets are still available for Shogun Fights II, which can be found through here. I have my spot reserved and will be bringing my friend with me, who is also a big fan of MMA. I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

News and Notes

Method MMA in Forest Hill appeared to have a good weekend at "The Brotherly Love" tournament last week. The school finished second overall in the tournament, which involved 34 other schools. I would point out the schools near the bottom of the list who only scored in the single digits while the overall winner scored 194 points, but I have no doubt that even the competitors who struggled could break me in half without breaking too much of a sweat.

A while ago I had written about Primal Fighting Systems competitor Steven Baker competing at the second Shogun Fights event on Saturday night. Apparently three of his contemporaries have made their foray into amateur MMA also. Three fighters, including what appear to be two brothers, competed in a MMA event at Delaware State University.

I find it ironic that if Jacob and Logan Estep are brothers, that they compete on a card presented by a company called Sibling Rivalry Promotions. The only thing that would have been more fitting is if they had fought each other.

Reminder: I will be attending Shogun Fights II in Baltimore this weekend and will provide my thoughts on the event as soon as possible following its conclusion. You can also follow MMA Maryland on Twitter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New rule(s)

To borrow a phrase from Bill Maher, new rule: If you want to hold a MMA event in Maryland, there a few things things you need to know first.

As a result of mixed martial arts fights having recently been sanctioned in Maryland, the Maryland State Athletic Commission has created criteria to hold amateur MMA events in the state.

The list appears pretty straightforward; I like that it starts off by clearly stating that there shall be no direct or indirect financial interest in a MMA fighter or the promotion of a fighter. I think certain other sports could stand to learn something from that *coughboxingcough*.

I like the requirement medical personnel and equipment must be present at all times and that the preparation of fighters must be supervised. The last thing we need is someone trying to sneak brass knuckles or loaded gloves into a fight.

This may be my favorite rule though:

"3.Documentation verifying liability insurance in the amount of $100,000 per incident in the aggregate amount of $500,000 or more; and medical insurance in the amount of $10,000 or more per contestant."

Nobody said it was going to be cheap. These requirements are in place in advance of the second Shogun Fights event this weekend in Baltimore. A solid infrastructure is in place for MMA in Maryland.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

GSP to protect this house?

My favorite UFC fighter and quite possibly the best mixed martial artist in the world, Georges St. Pierre, signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour. This is a great land for the Baltimore-based company, since GSP's notoriety with the UFC can make their product available to a whole new market.

Now I'm waiting for an Under Armour commercial with GSP standing in the middle of the Octagon shouting "We must protect this house!" in his noticeable French accent.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"All right, cool"

The Baltimore Sun's MMA blog recently spoke with Mike Paschall of Baltimore about his upcoming fight at Shogun Fights II and his fight at the first Shogun Fights event last year.

A little less than a minute into the video Paschall describes breaking his opponent's nose with an elbow during the first fight. Paschall probably had the greatest reaction I have ever heard from a MMA fighter upon injuring an opponent. You really have to watch the video for yourself.

Apparently Paschall's opponent did quite a bit of trash-talking leading up to the fight which may have precipitated the injury and therefore, Paschall's reaction. Based on my experiences watching MMA there is usually always trash talking before a fight but more often than not it tends to just be gamesmanship and the two guys trying to play mind games with each other. But every so often there is a genuine disdain for each other shared by the fighters. The feud between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir in the UFC immediately comes to mind.

Is Paschall also the long-lost twin brother of UFC superstar Chuck Liddell? He seems to think so and apparently people in the Baltimore area think so as well. If Paschall's punching power is anywhere near that of the Iceman, I look forward to seeing him fight next weekend.