Saturday, December 13, 2014

An interesting gamble

It seems relatively few mixed martial arts fighters from Maryland have made their way to the bigger stages of the UFC, Bellator or World Series of Fighting. The only ones that come to mind recently are Jacob Kirwan, who fought in Bellator, and Jimmy Hettes, who fought in the UFC. You can also add Robert Sullivan to that list.

Sullivan, who was victorious at Shogun Fights last month, can also boast experience on the bigger stages. Sullivan competed on the Bellator 108 card on Nov. 15, 2013, scoring a unanimous decision victory over Sergio Da Silva. How would Sullivan describe his experience? I'll let him tell you.

"My manager had some former ties with Bellator," Sullivan told me during a recent Facebook chat. "The opportunity came for a fight on the card and he asked me if I wanted it. Obviously I said yes."

Although Bellator offered Sullivan an opportunity to compete on a bigger stage, he was still partly responsible for helping to bring a crowd to the event at the now-defunct Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

"I still had to sell tickets, so I organized a bus to get everyone up there," Sullivan said. "I think I sold 75 tickets total."

And although it seemed to be a step up for Sullivan from his previous fight experiences, "honestly, it was just another fight," he said. "I didn't change any in my camp. All I focused on were the things I needed to focus on regarding my opponent."

In addition to helping sell tickets to the event, he also had to take part in what all fighters on the big stage are required to do: Promotion.

"The week of was a little stressful," Sullivan said. "You have to go to more fighter meetings and do lots of paper work and promotional shit. It wasn't that big of a deal though."

As is the case with any televised athletic event, the pace is dictated by commercial breaks and promotional ads. Which affected Sullivan as he got ready to walk to the cage.

"I'll say it was the most annoying warm-up I've ever had for a fight," he said. "We were the first fight, so I was fighting in front of only our fans. But we couldn't come out with our shirts on."

Sullivan also wasn't allowed to put his shirt back after his face was treated with petroleum jelly right before the fight. "Then because of commercials starting the card for the online stream, we were in the cage for another five minutes waiting. I think both my opponent and I had to warm back up," he said.

Sullivan also fought on a CES MMA card in Rhode Island, which was broadcast on cable network AXS TV. Despite some of the headaches he faced in Bellator, Sullivan would be more than willing to do it again.

"I'd love to fight for Bellator again, but I just want to fight period," he said. "I don't care where, but I do enjoy to travel."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Shogun Also Rises

Saturday, Nov. 15, was a huge day in mixed martial arts. UFC had a pay-per-view featuring a main event for the interim heavyweight title. Bellator continued its rise with a free card on Spike TV with a main event of two UFC legends - Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar. And World Series of Fighting continued to distinguish itself with a free card on TV featuring two title fights of its own.

But it wasn't just a huge day nationally for MMA. Locally, Shogun Fights held its 11th installment in front of yet another enthusiastic and lively crowd at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Md. Only two of the 12 fights on the card went to the judges, and what follows is a recap of the night's events:

David Pope vs. Ahmet "The Turk" Kayretli (Bantamweight - 135 lbs.)

I had the pleasure of taking in Shogun Fights once again with Mike Gilman, a talented writer for Assault MMA Radio. Gilman sometimes trains in MMA and told me he once sparred with Pope, and Gilman confirmed my belief that Pope had the look of someone to be reckoned with. Coupled with memories of Kayretli's previous Shogun Fights appearance, a better opening bout could not have been made.

Pope and Kayretli delivered, following up a feeling-out process with exciting action. Kayretli threw kicks early and often, including a spinning back kick that found its target. Another kick attempt resulted in a powerful takedown by Pope that brought the crowd to its feet as the first round ended.

Kayretli let his hands go in Round 2, and a powerful overhand right immediately dropped Pope and led the referee to give Kayretli a knockout victory. Pope protested the decision, but it was clear that he fell like a ton of bricks when Kayretli landed his blow, with a smack of the head on the canvas for good measure.

Winner: Kayretli by second round KO

Mike Young vs. Ratioender Melo (Featherweight - 145 lbs.)

Neither guy wasted time exchanging strikes, but it also wasn't long until Melo asserted himself by landing numerous punches and kicks before connecting with a flying knee that almost ended the fight before Young was saved by the horn.

In the second round, Melo picked up where he left off and ended up severely hobbling Young by checking one of his leg kicks. Young ended up not being able to put any more weight on his leg and the referee was forced to stop the bout.

Winner: Melo by second round ref stoppage

"The" Rob Watley vs. Spencer "Bam Bam" Strube (Lightweight - 155 lbs.)

Watley almost ended the night early, dropping Strube with a right hand in Round 1 that almost resulted in a TKO finish, then an attempt at a rear-naked choke by Watley. He continued his dominance in the second round before fending off a miraculous rear-naked choke attempt by Strube. He almost attempted an armbar in Round 3 before Watley finally went for the finish with vicious ground and pound and a TKO victory.

Winner: Watley by fourth round TKO

Najim "The Afghan Rock" Wali vs. Gary Sheppard (Light Heavyweight - 205 lbs.)

Sheppard was a last-minute replacement opponent, and he looked like it as he was completely overwhelmed by Wali. He handled Sheppard like a rag doll and rained down punches from the top position for a first round victory.

Winner: Wali by first round TKO

Jay Haas vs. Stacy "The Human Highlight Reel" Anderson (Catchweight - 143 lbs.)

Haas weathered an early barrage by Anderson to take him to the mat and display excellent ground and pound and submission grappling. Haas eventually locked in a rear-naked choke for another quick victory.

Winner: Haas by first round submission

Tacuma "The Rock" Robinson vs. Greg Fischer (Flyweight - 125 lbs.)

Robinson and Fischer traded strikes early before Fischer takes down Robinson multiple during the course of the bout. Robinson managed to avoid Fischer's multiple attempts at a rear-naked choke, but Fischer's dominance on the ground was on display throughout the fight. Inexplicably, one judge scored the fight for Robinson. But it wasn't enough.

Winner: Fischer by split decision

Trevor Thompson vs. Tony Dabbondanza (Lightweight - 155 lbs.)

I was told by Gilman that Dabbondanza was also a fighter to keep my eye on, and he looked the part as he wasted little time putting Thompson on his back and unleashing strikes that forced Thompson to verbally tap.

Winner: Dabbondanza by first round TKO

Jonathan "Jonboy" Vinyard vs. Darnell "Strong Soul" Murphy (Bantamweight - 135 lbs.

A few stiff jabs and takedowns gave Vinyard the first round before Murphy came on strong in the second round with an onslaught of punches that crumpled Vinyard to the mat and gave Murphy a TKO victory.

Winner: Murphy by second round TKO

James (Binky) "Father Time" Jones vs. Neil Johnson (Catchweight - 150 lbs.)

Baltimore's favorite son Binky Jones competed in what was rumored to be his last fight. If it was, he wasted little time getting it over with by dropping Johnson with a right cross in the first round and earning a TKO. The rumor was he would retire after this edition of Shogun Fights, but after soliciting feedback from the crowd at Royal Farms Arena, Jones told a gleeful crowd that he's planning on competing again next year.

Winner: Jones by first round TKO

Tim "The Problem" Wade vs. "Wreck-It" Robert Sullivan (Catchweight - 140 lbs.)

The quick finishes continued, as Sullivan snatched a quick takedown of Wade and wasted no time locking in a rear-naked choke for the victory barely a minute into the first round.

Winner: Sullivan by first round submission

Francisco Isata vs. Jon Peters (Featherweight - 145 lbs.)

Peters by far had the most memorable entrance of the night, being accompanied to the cage by a Scottish bagpipe trio. Unfortunately, it would not propel him to victory in a closely contested bout. Isata's strikes knocked Peters to the mat in the first round, and despite a lackluster second round by both fighters and a third round that saw Peters almost pull off a rear-naked choke victory, Isata was viewed as the clear winner by all three judges.

Winner: Isata by unanimous decision

Micah "See Me" Terrill vs. Willie Floyd III (Welterweight - 170 lbs.)

Terrill prides himself on being a showman and giving the fans their money's worth, and he waited until the last possible second of the first round to do so. Terrill landed a devastation Superman punch as the first round wound down, and the resulting strikes gave Terrill a TKO victory with one second to spare.

Winner: Terrill by first round TKO

All in all, it was another quality showing by Shogun Fights. I've seen the event grow from a fight card that was still finding its way with sideshow main events and fights featuring competitors who seemed somewhat skittish about going for the finish, resulting in long events with multiple fights going to a judge's decision. The fighters who make up the cards now are hungry. They leave nothing to chance and go for the finish constantly, which results in a much higher quality of fights.

Now, some individual awards:

Fight of the Night: Pope/Kayretli. If these two fought again, it would be just as exciting and hard-hitting as it was tonight. Both of these guys have a bright future.

Knockout of the Night: Ahmet Kayretli. Pope protested the KO, but it was clear that Kayretli turned his lights out with that devastating overhand right.

Submission of the Night: Robert Sullivan. He barely fends off Jay Haas for quickest submission.

Best Entrance: Jon Peters. His Scottish bagpipe trio provided a nice respite from the constant barrage of rap music entrances that each had so much bass it caused my eardrums to vibrate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

'It's What Makes Me Happy'

One of the reasons why I love mixed martial arts is the psychological aspect. It definitely takes a certain mindset to willingly step into a cage with another human being, where the intent is to beat each other up. What drives fighters to do this? Are they working through some inner turmoil or channeling their anger? Do they really need money? Or is it simply a love of sport and competing?

For Robert Sullivan, it's definitely that last one.

"I fight because I enjoy it," Sullivan told me during a recent Facebook conversation. "I don't have some sob story of my struggle and how this is all I know. I'm a trained carpenter and tend to wear a lot of other hats. This is what makes me happy."

Sullivan is a fighter with Method MMA and Baltimore BJJ and will compete at Shogun Fights this weekend in Baltimore. Sullivan started fighting in 2011 after growing up wrestling, and waited until the age of 26 to start practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "My age was a big reason I went pro so early," Sullivan said.

Sullivan traveled to Holland after his first fight (a 12-second TKO victory) to train in kickboxing, which confirmed his belief to make fighting his full-time gig after taking gigs of a different sort.

"The years before fighting I played in a band, so I always came home from tour and did BJJ or just wrestled at different gyms," Sullivan said. "I never stepped that far away from it, but I had a few years where being in a band was my only focus. The band called it quits in 2010, so my focus has been all fighting ever since."

Sullivan is also an instructor and manager for Baltimore BJJ and coaches wrestling at a local high school. But he makes it clear that fighting is his passion, and he will do it until he can't physically do it anymore.

"My ultimate goal is to do this until my body decides I'm done," Sullivan said. "I love the grind of this lifestyle. I've never liked the idea of a typical 9 to 5, so after being in a band this seemed right up my alley."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

With apologies to Bruce Buffer.........

IT'S ... TIME!!!!!!!!! I'm surprised it's taken me this long to steal that from him.

But yes, it's that time again. The 11th installment of Shogun Fights is coming to Baltimore on Nov. 15. It's really hard to believe that there have been 11 fight cards. It still seems like yesterday I saw one of the very first ones, and genuinely wondered how long it would stick around. Not because I doubted the appetite for mixed martial arts from my fellow Marylanders, but because well, frankly, putting on shows are expensive and requires a ton of commitment from all sides. But since it's endured for 11 installments, I think those questions have been answered.

Now then, looking at the fight card for this latest edition, we yet again some familiar faces. Binky Jones. Micah Terrill, Rob Sullivan, Myron Baker. And some of the usual suspects of MMA gyms are also well represented. Evolve Academy. Conquest BJJ. Clinch Academy. And of course, Ground Control Baltimore.

Also when looking at the card, there's only one fight contested at the light heavyweight level (205 lbs.). Besides that, every fight ranges from flyweight (125 lbs.) to one fight at welterweight (170 lbs.). Could Shogun Fights be marketing itself as a developer of talent in the lighter weight classes, much like how World Extreme Cagefighting carved its niche prior to being bought by UFC?

During the first few Shogun Fights, the main event was always a super heavyweight fight, featuring fighters who routinely weighed 300 pounds or more. I personally find such fights to be a sideshow. But I guess it helped set Shogun Fights in the early stages.

I'm hoping to get some comments from one of the competitors competing on this card, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you haven't had the chance to experience Shogun Fights in person, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Answering the call, Part II

In my previous blog post I chronicled Brent Walter, a fighter with Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg as he prepared to make his mixed martial arts debut on a card in Manassas, Va. Walter emerged victorious in his debut, and he took the time to share his experience with me. Rather than paraphrase what he shared, I'll let Walter share his story himself. This was taken verbatim from a recent Facebook conversation, with some minor edits on my part for clarity:

On his weight cut:

"I was lucky enough to not need to cut weight by sweating, which zaps energy. I was able to get down to five pounds away by dieting, then just restricted my food and water intake for 24 hours. I came in at 167 pounds and I needed to be 170."

Fight Day:

"It was an ominous calm before the storm. You know that in mere hours you're about to go to war with another individual just like you, but you must project an aura of confidence and composure.

My teammates and I arrived at the venue at 2 p.m. and did not compete until around 10 to 11 p.m. The wait and how you deal with it is just as important as the fight itself.

When you walk out to the cage, I feel like you have to flip a switch. Whatever developed in our brains to make us civilized human beings must shut off and a primal sense takes over. The zone is unreal and once the ref drops his hand, the surge of energy from you and your opponent is like jumping into a ocean wave. You either stand up against it or get knocked over.

I knew my opponent was a decent wrestler, so I expected him to look for takedowns. But he also decided to keep the distance close and personal. Much of the match was either in the clinch on the feet working for positions and takedowns, and controlling dominant positions on the mat.

In the first round, about 30 seconds in, he shot a takedown against me with my back to the cage and my eyebrow came down on the crown of his skull and busted it open. While in the clinch I noticed a gush of blood come by my eye, and it was at that point I realized I was cut and could either let it slow me down or push me harder. I chose the latter.

I circled away from the cage, shot a takedown and went to secure a backpack grip. He was able to turn in and I secured a half-guard position with my knee against his chest to keep distance from the strikes coming down. I was then able to put my feet on his hips and get back to my feet. He came in for another barrage and I was able to duck under a hook and secure a takedown. I then transitioned to a full mount and was able to land a few elbows of my own. He turned to give me his back, and I ended that round on his back.

My corner did an excellent job of calming me and addressing my laceration. We came out for the second round and I was able to land a head kick. But the kick to his midsection was caught and he went in for a takedown. After a scramble for position, I ended up on top in a north/south position, with his arms wrapped around my leg. I was able to work my leg out, secure both the hooks and backpack grip to take his back and sink in a rear naked choke and end the fight at around 1:51 in the second round."

The Aftermath:

"After the fight I was just happy to have my first win and to prove myself inside the cage to my academy, family, friends and most importantly myself. As it turned into a new day, I spent the early hours in the emergency room receiving stitches. It was also my birthday, but that stuff just comes with the territory.

Evolve came up big in securing the first trophy given out to a team with 10 wins in MixItUpSports promotions. Tyson Kellerman 135lbs won a decisive unanimous decision at 135 pounds against an opponent with a better record. Trevor Thompson was supposed to fight at 155 pounds, but his opponent forfeited. He must have seen how hungry Trevor looked and chose not to show.

I'm grateful to call Evolve Academy my home and family! The term 'gameness' definitely defines my first fight experience and I look forward to future challenges. Each fight is a new experience and a new obstacle for me to overcome in my journey as a fighter.

Going to work the next day with stitches and explaining you were in a cage fight is also a unique experience that amateur fighters deal with."

As you can see, a lot goes into a young fighter's experience, particularly when he's making his debut. Walter perfectly articulated his journey and really provides a keen insight into why MMA fighters do what they do.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Answering the call

Man, it feels good to write here again. I know it's been a long time. But I finally came across something that I want to share with you guys.

A local fight organization with one of the more unique names I've ever heard, Mix It Up Sports, is putting on a card, "Call Out", on Sept. 6 in Manassas, Va. It's a spot I'm quite familiar, having both a friend that used to live there and a MMA event I wrote about a couple years ago. This card will feature fighters from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, and one of them was kind enough to share his thoughts with me.

Brent Walter will make his MMA debut on the card and is dealing with the same emotions you'd expect from someone about to compete in their first fight.

"Excitement and nervousness, moments of confidence and moments of doubt," he told me in a Facebook chat earlier this week. "Coming from a previous competitive background in college football and some wrestling and Brazilian jiujitsu experience, I understand these emotions are normal but it's harnessing it which I feel is the biggest battle."

"Confidence plays a big role in competition and in a sport like mixed martial arts," he added. "If you're not confident, it's almost like blood in the water for your opponent."

Walter has been training at Evolve for the last six months, as well as at an affiliate gym in Frostburg, Ryoma Academy. It's through his training that he's learning the importance of having good cardio.

"At the amateur level, these guys don't have a lot of film and we all are still raw fighters," Walter said. "I feel the only thing I can control is having a gas tank to push the fight and ensure I have the ability to push hard in the later rounds."

The mental game will heavily contribute to Walter's victory. Just ask him.

"I only can picture my hand being raised," he said. "If I picture any other situation, then there is no reason for me to step into the cage, or put my self through the training I've done up to this point. They say 90 percent of the fight is mental and 10 percent is physical, so in my mind I have to win it before I even step foot into the cage."

I think Walter's mindset going into his first fight is the same as other debuting fighters. You run the gamut of emotions and you just have to make sure you have those in check. Adrenalin is a great ally, but it can also be a hindrance. I'll follow up with Brent after his fight and see how his debut went.

Don't want to wait that long? Check out his fight on Sept. 6.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A 10 across the board

Shogun Fights X at the Baltimore Arena tonight may have looked like a usual, run-of-the-mill event on the surface, if such a thing exists. But the crowd in attendance and the fighters competing on the card had other ideas for the show’s 10th incarnation. From beginning to end, a lively crowd energized the intimate confines of the arena and the fighters left nothing to chance, putting their best foot forward to deliver performances that didn’t disappoint.

Fight 1: Albert Benjamin vs. Greg Saumenig (Flyweight – 125 lbs.)

Saumenig started the bout against Evolve Academy’s Benjamin on the offensive, landing a big takedown early and positioning himself for some ground and pound. He transitioned to Benjamin’s back and attempted a rear-naked choke, before Benjamin managed to escape, switch position so he could take Saumenig’s and deliver a rear-naked choke of his own for a submission victory with just over a minute left in the first round.

Winner: Albert Benjamin (submission by rear-naked choke, 3:57 of Round 1)

Fight 2: Charles Gamble vs. Najim Wali (Light heavyweight – 205 lbs.)

The action began a little slow as the two fighters felt each other out before tying up against the cage and jockeying for position. Wali unleashed a spinning back elbow and peppered Gamble with punches, and though Gamble took him down to the mat, Wali pulled guard and used wrist control to prevent Gamble from inflicting any real damage as the first round came to a close.

Round 2 saw the fight return to the ground, where Gamble attempts a rear-naked choke before Wali reverses position and rains down punches on Gamble. The referee awarded Wali a TKO victory as well as his first victory in Shogun Fights.

Winner: Najim Wali (TKO – punches, 1:06 of Round 2)

Fight 3: Brent Hess vs. Myron Baker (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)

This was the first fight of the evening to solicit dueling chants and strong feelings from the crowd, as the fanbase of both fighters were well-represented. Hess was the aggressor at the onset, wasting little time in attempting a standing guillotine choke on Baker. Hess also quickly escaped a takedown attempt by Baker and the two traded punches through the end of the first round.

Hess kept his foot on the gas in Round 2, knocking Baker to the mat with a hard right hand and immediately pouncing on his fallen opponent, taking Baker’s back and locking in a rear-naked choke for a submission victory.

Winner: Brent Hess (submission by rear-naked choke, 2:51 of Round 2)

Fight 4: Stephen Speck vs. Timothy Wade (Catchweight – 150 lbs.)

Speck was a schoolteacher making his mixed martial arts debut, not unlike the UFC’s Rich Franklin at one time. Unfortunately, the fight didn't go as I'm sure he planned.

It took Wade one minute and one second to lock in a submission rarely seen in MMA – an arm triangle choke with Wade lying on his back and Speck on top of him. Wade said after the fight he saw Speck’s arm left available, “so I thought I’d try it … I was not going to let go.”

Winner: Timothy Wade (submission by arm triangle choke, 1:01 of Round 1)

Fight 5: Steve Moleski vs. Micah Terrill (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)

Terrill put on a brief striking clinic against the more-proficient-on-the-ground Moleski, nailing him with a stiff jab and following that up with additional strikes that rocked Moleski. It didn’t take long for the strikes to have their intended effect – awarding Terrill a first-round TKO victory.

Winner: Micah Terrill (TKO – punches, 2:31 of Round 1)

Fight 6: Binky Jones vs. Noe Quintanilla (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)

Jones received a loud and raucous welcome by his hometown crowd as he made his way to the cage. Jones had his right hand cocked and loaded, doing his best Dan Henderson impression. He swung it early and often against Quintanilla, even as he gained top position on the mat and hammered Quintanilla with punches and elbows to close out the round.

Jones was still looking for the big knockout blow in Round 2, and he finally picked his shot. A thunderous overhand right knocked Quintanilla to the mat and enabled Jones to finish him off for a TKO victory. However, Jones’ thunderous overhand right was easily shadowed by the ovation of the Baltimore crowd, which simply just exploded as the finish occurred and the winner announced.

Winner: Binky Jones (TKO – punches, 1:26 of Round 2)

Fight 7: Umaer Haq vs. Jonathan Vineyard (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)

Haq was the initial aggressor, taking Vineyard to the mat and attempting multiple submissions including a guillotine choke and armbar. Vineyard was having none of that however, as he reversed his position and locked in a rear-naked choke for a first-round submission victory.

Winner: Jonathan Vineyard (submission by rear-naked choke, Round 1)

Fight 8: Francisco Isata vs. Robert Watley (Catchweight – 150 lbs.)

There was apparently some bad blood and trash talk between Isata and Watley prior to the fight. The pair wasted little time trying to hammer out their differences on the mat. Both fighters traded control on the ground in attempts to finish the other off, with Watley nearly locking a rear-naked choke as the first round ended.

The two picked up where they left off in the second round, returning the fight to the ground and exchanging the dominant position. Isata finally asserted himself for good, locking in an armbar on Watley for the submission victory.

Winner: Francisco Isata (submission by armbar, 3:44 of Round 2)

Fight 9: Allanna Jones vs. Kirsten Murphy (Bantamweight – 145 lbs.)

The lone women’s bout on the card stole the show, but not for the obvious reason of the gender of the two fighters. Jones and Murphy started slugging it out from the get-go, with Jones appearing to get the better of the exchange by inflicting noticeable damage to Murphy’s face. She returned to her corner at the end of the first round a bloody mess.

However, the punishment Murphy suffered appeared to inspire, as she spent the second round retaking control by mixing up her strikes with kicks and Muay Thai and very nearly finishing Jones before the second round ended.

This is where the fight, or the ending of the fight I should say, got interesting. The doctor stopped the fight before the third round and awarded the victory to Murphy. Why? I’m not sure. Jones appeared as though she could continue, but apparently the doctor felt otherwise. Perhaps Murphy’s variety of strikes inflicted more damage than what was visible to the naked eye.

While the crowd was disappointed with the result, they gave both fighters a well-deserved standing ovation for delivering the best performance of the night.

Winner: Kirsten Murphy (doctor’s stoppage, 5:00 of Round 3)

Fight 10: Adi Alic vs. Rob Sullivan (Bantamweight – 135 lbs.)

The main event featured two local fighters, with Ground Control’s Adi Alic (who also split with the world-renowned American Top Team) squaring off against Baltimore BJJ’s Rob Sullivan, who had yet to be finished in his mixed martial arts career.

Well, that’s why they fight, right? After a feeling-out process, Alic landed a hard shot that knocked Sullivan to the mat and busted him open. Alic pounced on the dazed Sullivan and locked in a rear-naked choke for Sullivan’s first non-decision loss.

Winner: Adi Alic (submission by rear naked choke, 4:38 of Round 1)

All in all, I was reminded why I enjoy going to Shogun Fights. I had been out of the loop but the energy of the crowd tonight, as well as the effort and passion of the fighters, will help me make sure not to miss any more. The MMA scene in Maryland is alive and well, and I fully expect 10 more shows from Shogun Fights, and many more after that.

Fight of the Night: Allanna Jones vs. Kirsten Murphy
Knockout of the Night: Binky Jones
Submission of the Night: Timothy Wade

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ten shows in the making

As I mentioned in my last post, tomorrow night is Shogun Fights in Baltimore. On top of that, it's the event's 10th edition. But it's not the actual 10th year, since the event is held twice annually. Man, it's hard to believe it's been almost five years with this.

I've been to a few of these cards, so I've seen Shogun Fights evolve. It's featured everything from 125-pound flyweights to more than 300-pound super heavyweights. It's counted NFL players and other mixed martial arts fighters from the UFC among its guests. But most importantly, it's always been a good time.

And it's also featured many fighters from both Maryland gyms and others, as well as a revolving door of the same fighters. One of those is Binky Jones from Ground Control Baltimore. He's been a staple at Shogun Fights, and was recently the subject of a nice article in The Baltimore Sun.

I'm looking forward to watching a good slate of fights tomorrow night. I'll be there to cover the event and will post the results here after the event. I'm not sure how many people expected Shogun Fights to make it to 10 events, but I'm sure there are many people who hope there will be 10 more, and more beyond that.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's that time of year

You can usually bet that during the first half of the year, Shogun Fights will have a card in the Baltimore (formerly First Mariner) Arena. They usually have it in the spring months, March/April, but since the city of Baltimore had the good fortune to host UFC 172 in April, I'm sure that was the cause of Shogun Fights being moved to June 21.

A 10-fight card awaits Maryland mixed martial arts fans who attend the event, featuring fighters from across the state and gyms such as Ground Control Baltimore, Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg and Conquest BJJ in Crofton. There are also fighters from neighboring states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, and even a female fighter from Michigan.

There are some familiar names on the fight card for me, including Binky Jones, Micah Terrill and Umaer Haq. But I also see some brand new faces, which I think just speaks to the scope that Shogun Fights is developing, attracting new fighters all the time from far and wide.

I am planning to attend this event (stop me if you've heard that one before) and I look forward to re-familiarizing myself with the Maryland MMA scene on a bigger scale. Look for a more detailed preview of the event here next week.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Write what you know

They say you should write about what you know. As evidenced by this blog, I know mixed martial arts. It's become one of my passions, much like professional wrestling was a passion of mine when I was a kid and I would watch it religiously. I now do the same with MMA, and I love writing about it.

So I've decided to write a book about MMA. It will be fiction; I don't pretend to be enough of an expert to try to write a book on this sport rooted in any kind of fact. It will chronicle a fictional fighter's journey through his career - he will face hardship along the way. Will he emerge from it? You'll have to read my book when it's published to find out.

But even though I'm writing fiction, I'm going to gather as much information from outside sources to ensure some semblance of authenticity. I'd like to reach out to fighters, promoters and others in MMA to get their perspective on the sport. Why do fighters get into MMA? What's their fight camp like? What's the first step a promoter has to take if he/she wants to put on a fight card? How do they approach the matchmaking process? What do they do if a fighter pulls out with an injury?

I'd like to receive as many points of view as possible to really get some insight into the fight game, so that I may portray it as accurately as possible. Want to help and contribute your two cents? Send me an email at

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Getting an early start

It's always nice to read about young competitors coming up through the ranks, working hard to achieve their dreams of making it in mixed martial arts. A pair of amateur fighters in Maryland are doing just that, as this interesting and informative news article from southern Maryland shows.

Chris Cleary trains at Calvert MMA in Prince Frederick and Cody Denton trains at Conquest BJJ in Millersville, according to the article. Both guys emerged victorious in MMA and Muay Thai at a national event in March by the World Kickboxing Association.

Both guys have designs to go pro, which only bodes well for the local MMA scene. A steady stream of fighters constantly find their way from Maryland into MMA. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll see these guys at Shogun Fights, which I just recently learned will be on June 21.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fight week!

FIGHT WEEK!!!!!!!!!!

UFC head honcho Dana White usually makes that announcement at the beginning of the week leading up to a big show and really, are there any other two words that bring as much excitement to a mixed martial arts fan?

Well, I can use them this week, because as I've already mentioned, UFC 172 is Saturday night in Baltimore. And the local media has been ALL over UFC leading up to this event, including my esteemed colleague Kevin Richardson from The Baltimore Sun. He's published a number of pieces previewing UFC 172, including this video of UFC light heavyweight Phil Davis making his case for a title shot against champion Jon Jones.

In just 48 hours, UFC will finally be in Maryland at First Mariner Arena. I'm sure when John Rallo from Shogun Fights started his quest to sanction MMA events in Maryland a few years ago, I'm sure he had this end goal in mind. But I'm sure this event will exceed his, and probably my, expectations.

FIGHT WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The time is upon us

Man, I'm glad to be back at writing this thing. It's been over a month since I last wrote something, including no entries throughout the whole month of March. But I guess that's what happens when you move into a new place and deal with everything that goes with that. This is totally off topic, but as I'm sure most of you already know, moving sucks. It's not fun. No one enjoys it.

That said, let's get back on topic. And also as most (if not all) of you already know, UFC 172 is next weekend, and it's in Baltimore. I've already written about this at length, because it's the biggest mixed martial arts event to ever come to Maryland.

Still not convinced? Check out the articles here, here and here that are related to UFC 172.

Those articles primarily address the drug testing that occurred prior to the event, of which I'm sure everyone will come back clean. Simply put, this is a huge event for mixed martial arts in Maryland. If the fans turn out as I expect they will, and are as vocal as I expect them to be, the world will be introduced to an area that knows and loves its MMA. And that can only portend good things for MMA in Maryland going forward.

Where will be I during this event? Not there, sadly. But I will be watching, filled with pride that my home state is on the big stage.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's all coming together

We all know that UFC 172 is taking place in Baltimore. Now the local MMA community is getting their opportunity to chime in on this, with no less an authority than John Rallo (he of the popular Shogun Fights cards that also happen in Baltimore) getting his chance to offer his two cents.

I'm sure John is getting more than his fair share of opportunities to discuss the significance of UFC coming to Baltimore, since his name is synonymous with MMA in Maryland. Local radio has been offering promotions in relation to UFC 172, and I can only imagine the scene in downtown Baltimore that night. I was hoping to purchase tickets to be there in person. But I'm not sure if people know this, but UFC tickets are just a WEE bit pricey, especially for PPVs.

But I will still be tuned in to that card and see what kind of stage Charm City offers the UFC. I have no doubt it will be spectacular.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

UFC in Charm City? Part II

I wrote last month about the rumors that UFC was coming to Baltimore in April. After that, the UFC and First Mariner Arena in Baltimore came out and said they hadn't discussed holding a show there. Well now, it looks like they did, because it's happening.

Multiple media outlets, including USA Today, MMA Fighting and The Baltimore Sun, confirm that UFC is coming to Baltimore in April. The Baltimore Sun article goes into the deepest detail about the event and its connection to Baltimore, noting that First Mariner Arena is home to Shogun Fights and even gives the perspective of a local fighter. Even if it's the local newspaper, connecting UFC to local MMA helps shine a light on our burgeoning MMA scene.

The Baltimore card is still expected to have a main event of Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira for the light heavyweight title. The only main event that would be better for Baltimore's first UFC card would be a heavyweight title fight. But given Jon Jones' ever-rising profile, his connection to Baltimore with having a brother that plays for the Baltimore Ravens, and Teixeira's reputation as a fighter no one wants to face, Charm City's first foray into UFC is off to a great start.