Tuesday, December 24, 2013

UFC in Charm City?

The Internet, as it is wont to do, was slightly abuzz recently when news stories started leaking out that the Ultimate Fighting Championship was planning to have its April 2014 PPV in Baltimore, presumably at First Mariner Arena. One of the planned participants in that PPV, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, played an indirect (and I'm sure oblivious) role in that when his brother spilled the beans on Twitter.

Unfortunately, it seems like someone forgot to tell the UFC. Media outlet after media outlet after media outlet said nothing official had been agreed upon, and that any discussions were preliminary at best.

Could the UFC come to Baltimore? Absolutely. It's already visited its neighbor city to the south, Washington, D.C. In October 2011 the UFC held a card with a main event of Dominick Cruz vs. Demetrious Johnson. I was at the event with two of my friends and if it wasn't a sellout, it was damn near close. Plus, First Mariner Arena is home twice a year to Shogun Fights, an event that is routinely sold out.

So if the UFC comes to Baltimore, it would be a huge boon for the city and for the state of Maryland. The media exposure that comes with having a UFC PPV in your state can only help the burgeoning MMA scene here in Maryland.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Playing catch up

In an effort to catch up on things and clean out the ol' inbox, enjoy some brief tidbits about what's been going on this fall in Maryland MMA:

- Sijara Eubanks from Team Lloyd Irvin made her amateur debut on Oct. 12 at a Conflict MMA "Halloween Havoc" event in Georgia.

- Jon Delbrugge from Crazy 88 BJJ won the main event at Xtreme Fight Event on Oct. 19 in Philadelphia, Pa. He has also signed on to compete at Cage Fury Fighting Championship in February in Atlantic City, N.J.

- James Williams and Eddie Doud from Top Flight MMA in Aberdeen competed at Stellar Fights 19 earlier this month. Doud emerged victorious in his debut.

- Crazy 88 BJJ also welcomed 2012 judo Olympian Nick Delpopolo for a 10-day workshop earlier this month.

- Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg will have several of its fighters compete at Revolution Fight Series 6 on Dec. 14 in Winchester, Va., according to Evolve's latest e-newsletter.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fight Day

There always seems to be a special buzz in the air when it's the day of a UFC PPV. You know you usually have a great card of fights to look forward to that night, and social media is always abuzz with everyone in the mixed martial arts world chiming in with their thoughts.

I think that same feeling is also replicated on the local MMA scene, particularly when it's time for Shogun Fights, as it is today. This is the ninth edition of Shogun at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, and looking over the fight card, it is chock full of local favorites including Dan Root, Binky Jones and Dave Daniecki, who all come from Team Ground Control in Baltimore.

Although I unfortunately will not be there today, I know others who will be and can count on them to provide excellent analysis of tonight's fight card. However, I will make it a point to attend the next Shogun Fights, which will be its 10th installment and I'm sure will take place early next year. With it being the 10th edition, I'm also sure something extra special will be in the works. But if you're in the Charm City area today and don't have anything to do, mosey your way over to First Mariner Arena and check out some excellent fights featuring young, talented and hungry up-and-coming fighters.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back in the mix

Have you ever come close to something, only to have it taken away? As I'm writing this, I'm watching the premiere episode of UFC Primetime, which is covering the upcoming heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. So perhaps it's apropos that this show is playing in the background right now.

Steven Eilola, a fighter in Top Flight MMA, recently leaped back into title contention with the Stellar Fights promotion following his recent victory in Delaware. Eilola achieved his victory in one of the most brutal ways possible, by separating his opponent's shoulder on a takedown and forcing a forfeit, according to the article.

Redemption is one of the life's most underrated emotions. The ability to bring ourselves back after we experience hardship. If we fall down, we can pick ourselves again. We can right a wrong. We can make up for a loss. Redemption is a supreme motivator used by athletes across the sports landscape, from mixed martial arts to football to tennis to boxing.

If you're a fighter who experiences a loss, you're going to be angry. You're going to be upset. But you know what the great thing about it is? Redemption.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fighting to make ends meet

Since I decided to take the entire month of August off (which was not entirely by design), I'm going to start September by addressing a topic that recently dominated the mixed martial arts landscape: fighter pay.

This is something that affects not only fighters in the UFC, where this issue first started, but also on the local circuit and in the amateur ranks. Roya Darvishian, a female fighter from Maryland, spent more than $500 of her own money to travel to a fight in Illinois in July, only to have it scrapped at the last minute and she ended up losing out on making any money at all.

Unless you achieve the kind of success that fighters like Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones have, where they can parlay their success as competitors into lucrative sponsorship, marketing and endorsement deals, being a MMA fighter, whether locally, regionally or nationally, is a huge sacrifice since the paychecks aren't steady. How much you get paid depends on how much you fight, and even then how much you're compensated will vary.

Luckily for Darvishian, she received another opportunity as she took a fight in Atlantic City last month. Unfortunately, not every fighter is as lucky.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hands-on teaching

Many instructors at mixed martial arts gyms are currently or were once-upon-a-time professional fighters, and that type of experience is invaluable when training a future competitor for a MMA career. It also doesn't hurt when a school brings in a professional fighter from the outside to lend a new perspective.

That's exactly what Crazy 88 BJJ in Elkridge did when it was paid a visit from Kru Jose Villarisco, a former fighter who is an expert in Muay Thai kickboxing. Villarisco last competed in 2009 but according to the news release above, Crazy 88 BJJ head instructor Julius Park said each visit by Villarisco has led to a noticeable bump in skill by his fighters.

One of the biggest enemies of MMA fighters is complacency. It's very easy to start going through the motions if you're working with the same people over and over and over again and really not trying to learn anything new. Bringing in a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes, some outside opinions is a great way to change things up and keep your skills sharp.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Taking his opponents to school

The mixed martial artists at the very top of the ladder, your Georges St. Pierres, Anderson Silvas and Cain Velazquezes, make a pretty comfortable living for themselves. Unfortunately, many fighters have to keep day jobs in order to receive a steady income, as payment from fighting is generally not very high.

A good example of this is Maik Ferrante, a Harford County resident who prevailed at a Maryland Cage Combat event on June 15. Ferrante won a unanimous decision and fights while attending community college and working at a restaurant in Baltimore.

However, many mixed martial artists forgo working and train full-time, even if the paychecks from fighting are meager. It speaks to the passion and inspiration MMA can create among fighters. Those who compete in MMA almost always fall in love with the sport and want to commit their lives to it. It also speaks to the commitment the sport demands. If you want to be the best, you have to put in the time, or more accurately, almost ALL your time.

Ferrante plans to go to school while continue training, but I'm sure he's still leaving open the possibility of making MMA his life. He looks to be off to a good start.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

If you're going to dream, dream big

Having mixed martial arts becoming more and more popular means more and more athletes who begin as boxers or wrestlers want to become MMA fighters. Sometimes, they know they want to get into MMA while they're still in high school. That's the case with Mansur Abdul-Malik, a 15-year-old wrestler in Laurel, Md. who's being homeschooled by his parents.

Abdul-Malik qualified for the 2013 Maryland National Team, according to the article, and is quoted as saying he wants to win an Olympic gold medal for wrestling and become a champion in the Ultimate Fighting Champion. Other Olympic wrestlers have found great success in the UFC, including Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier. So if Abdul-Malik realizes his dreams, he will be in great company.

The article also states that Abdul-Malik trains with Team Ground Control in Columbia. Team Ground Control is the backbone of the annual Shogun Fights card in Baltimore, so training with MMA fighters who compete on some of the biggest local stages is a good way for an aspiring fighter to learn the tricks of the trade.

Competing in MMA isn't a full-time gig and the risk of failure is fairly high, as it is when trying to pursue a career in any professional sport. But if you're as talented as Abdul-Malik appears to be and you keep your eyes on the prize, the sky is the limit.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Getting to know 'The Hulk'

I've been meaning to write this up for a while. One of the more notable Maryland fighters currently competing in mixed martial arts is Mike "The Hulk" Easton, a bantamweight who fights with Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs. I saw him compete in person in 2011 when he defeated Bryan Bloodworth by TKO on the same card that saw a good friend of his, UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, defeat Demetrious Johnson.

Easton recently sat down for an interview with WTOP, and here are some of the more interesting facts (I think so anyway) about one of the UFC's exciting young, local fighters:

- Fans nicknamed him "The Hulk" after watching him use ground-and-pound with hammer fists on his opponent.

- He started out doing jiu-jitsu and competing in amateur kickboxing before switching to MMA full-time in 2003.

- He'd like to be a MMA ref once his fighting days are over. And coach. And commentator.

- If he wasn't a fighter, he would be a massage therapist.

- His last fight with Brad Pickett on a UFC on Fuel TV card in Sweden is his favorite fight. Easton took a split decision loss but received Fight of the Night honors.

- His dream fight is against current UFC interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao.

- In his free time he likes spending time with his son by watching TV or playing video games, or in his words, "normal man things."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Some old, some new

I know I'm pretty tardy to the party, but Shogun Fights was held a couple weeks ago in Baltimore. If you want to know the results of the card, simply click that link. The card featured a mix of Shogun regulars like Dan Root and Dave Daniecki from Ground Control Baltimore as well as newcomers who were eager to make a name of themselves in the regional MMA scene.

But this particular Shogun Fights received a great deal of publicity for its first ever bout featuring female fighters. Rosanna Garcia from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg lost a unanimous decision to Gabby Halloway, a fighter from Virginia. Unfortunately, Garcia revealed on her blog and her Twitter account that she tore her ACL during the fight and is out for the next six months to a year. But reading through her blog, Garcia makes it clear that this unfortunate turn of events will not deter her from her goal of being a professional fighter, so all the best luck to her going forward.

Many local media outlets provided coverage for this month's Shogun Fights, including CBS Baltimore, The Baltimore Sun, The Examiner and the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

While I'm not sure what the attendance figures were for the April 13 card, given the increased publicity Shogun Fights is receiving it's a safe bet healthy crowds will continue to check out the twice-yearly event for a long time to come.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A woman's touch

Late last month I wrote about Roya Darvishian, a female mixed martial arts fighter from Maryland who had recently won at an event in Pennsylvania. The victory has started to boost her profile in MMA, as she was featured in another article discussing her victory.

She mentions in the article that she's planning to compete in other competitions in boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Since fights are not always readily available, many fighters enter competitions like that in order to keep their skills sharp. A wise venture to be sure.

Darvishian is not the only female Maryland fighter who's choosing not to rest on her laurels. Rosanna Garcia, a fighter with Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg,shared her thoughts in a blog entry about her teammates competing on a recent card in Virginia, according to Evolve's latest e-newsletter.

Garcia gives a detailed account of each of her teammate's fights in her blog, displaying some great writing skills to boost, which is something I can definitely appreciate. It speaks to the camaraderie that MMA can foster that one teammate takes such a deep interest in her teammates' endeavors.

Garcia herself will have her own, large stage in a few weeks, as she competes in the first female MMA bout ever at Shogun Fights in Baltimore. As women's MMA continues to grow on the national stage, so too is it growing on the local and regional stage.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Branching out

The continued growth of mixed martial arts in Maryland can only mean good things. With this growth, new gyms can pop up all the time and existing gyms can branch out to new locations in order to take advantage of the sport's popularity. Ground Control Baltimore, one of Maryland's preeminent MMA gyms and a major player in the annual Shogun Fights event in Baltimore, recently opened a new facility in Bel Air, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Multiple fighters from Ground Control routinely appear at Shogun Fights, including fan favorites like Dave Daniecki and Dan Root. Seeing a major gym like Ground Control expand to Bel Air (the gym already has locations in Baltimore, Columbia and Owings Mills) can give both upstart gyms and established ones hope that they took can expand their footprint in Maryland and expand the sport of MMA's reach.

Also, with the majority of Maryland MMA gyms concentrated in the D.C.-Baltimore area, it's always good to see gyms pop up in other parts of the state in order to make it more convenient for fans throughout Maryland to try out the sport they love, regardless of where they live.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

This one's for the girls

The world of mixed martial arts is buzzing about the first UFC women's fight tonight at UFC 157, when Ronda Rousey fights Liz Carmouche for the newly minted UFC women's bantamweight title. While Ronda and Liz are deservedly getting a ton of attention for being the first two women to fight inside the Octagon, women MMA fighters have been competing for years nationwide prior to Rousey and Carmouche finally having the chance to do so on the world's biggest stage.

For instance, there's women like Roya Darvishian, a fighter out of Maryland who competed and won earlier this month on a card in Pennsylvania. Darvishian clinched a split decision victory that was almost a submission, as she is quoted as saying in the above article that she was attempting an armbar as the fight came to an end.

Darvishian next competes on a card in Virginia next month and fights in the strawweight division, a 115-pound weight class for women fighters, according to the article. While it remains to be seen if UFC expands its women's weight classes beyond just bantamweight, there is no shortage of talented and exciting female fighters from various weight classes, including Darvishian, who would love to follow in Rousey's and Carmouche's footsteps.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

That time of year

Springtime usually means one thing in the Maryland mixed martial arts scene, and that is Shogun Fights is getting ready for one of its twice-a-year cards.

Looking at the fight card, which will probably grow and be changed leading up to the event on April 13 in Baltimore, we see some of the usual suspects that have been staples at previous Shogun Fights events, including plenty of fighters from Ground Control Baltimore such as Dave Daniecki and Dan Root.

Speaking of Daniecki, right now he is slated to face Joey Kirwan from the Clinch Academy in Frederick. I think this is an early candidate for Fight of the Night, as Daniecki has always put on entertaining fights at previous Shogun Fights event and Kirwan is a veteran of regional cards like Shogun Fights and bigger events like Bellator MMA.

First Mariner Arena is always rocking with an enthusiastic crowd when Shogun Fights come to town, and I expect this go-around to be no different.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A mixed bag

For a specific mixed martial arts gym or fight team, there are fewer things more satisfying than a clean sweep by several of its fighters on the same card. When fighters from the same team all win during the same event, it gives both the fighters and the team a tremendous boost of confidence and some bragging rights, which is never a bad thing.

Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg has a well-known stable of fighters who routinely compete at local and regional events, and often when having multiple fighters on the same card, the gym finds itself with aces across the board.

A group of its fighters competed at the Revolution Fights event Jan. 19 in Winchester, Va., according to Evolve's recent e-newsletter. Evolve's night started out on a high note with its fighter Samy Elrahimy securing a dominant unanimous decision victory. Unfortunately, two of his colleagues could not share in his good fortune as Dameron Kirby and Rosanna Garcia came up short in two contests that were under some controversy, for different reasons.

Kirby lost a decision that the fans in attendance clearly thought he won, according to Evolve's e-newsletter. Garcia chose to compete against an opponent 15 pounds heavier than her, for which she should be highly, highly commended, after her original opponent could not make the show. Nothing is ever a sure thing for MMA and for Kirby and Garcia, they had to deal with that unfortunate fact. Hopefully Kirby gets a chance to avenge his controversial loss and Garcia's next fight will be on a more even playing field.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

(No Subject)

I'm watching Strikeforce's last card on Showtime and tweeting about the event when I saw this link posted by MMA Fight! Magazine:

http://mmafightmag.com/report-two-men-arrested-for-alleged-rape-of-fellow-lloyd-irvin-student-on-new-years-eve/

According to the story, two students from Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs allegedly sexually assaulted one of their teammates on New Year's Eve. The gym issued a statement expressing support for the victim and emphasizing that the alleged incident had nothing to do with the gym or anyone who works there, according to the article.

While we have due process in this country and according to our legal system, all accused parties are innocent until proven guilty, this is an incredibly tragic event and I can't even begin to imagine what the victim is going through right now. With some of the events going on in the world related to violence against women, specifically the events in India and Steubenville, Ohio, it's sad, infuriating, worrying, tragic, problematic, terrible and just wrong that incidents like this still happen in today's society. I share my deepest sympathies and thoughts to the victim.

Taking the long road

It's a new year and finally, I'm back to posting on here. I'm hopeful that in 2013 I can give this much more attention than I did towards the end of 2012. That said, let's get back to business.

One of the challenges of being a full-time mixed martial artist is simply that if you don't fight, you don't get paid. There are no hourly wages or annual salaries in MMA, and unless your name is Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva, you can't afford to pick and choose your fights. For the vast majority of fighters, their income is directly tied to how often they fight.

That was the case for Roya Darvishian, a fighter with Bowie MMA. She offered to step in and replace a fighter who pulled out of a card in Michigan, including being willing to drive from Maryland to Michigan (which is not a trip down the road, obviously) for the fight.

Unfortunately, her opponent declined the fight, which means Darvishian has to wait another month to fight in Pennsylvania. Fighters pulling out of fights is unfortunately a common refrain in MMA, whether it be because of injury, not having enough time to train or other circumstances.

Such is the great paradox of MMA. If you want to be a full-time fighter and excel in the sport, you have to devote 100 percent of your time, energy, effort and attention the sport. MMA becomes your job. Unfortunately, unlike other jobs, there's no bi-weekly paycheck coming. If you devote all of your time and attention to it, you're still at the mercy of others for whether or not those efforts are compensated.