My last fight
In the Spring of 2003, MMA was legalized in the state of Missouri. I had fought 7 MMA fights from 1999-2001 and never lost but I never got to showcase my skills for my home crowd. I knew I wanted to take one more fight before I retired from MMA.
I called up a promoter in May of 2003 and told him I would be interested in fighting in the summer. I’d taken 2 years off to go back to school and I hadn't been in the jiu jitsu gym since 2001. He said, “I’m glad you called because I need somebody this weekend.” I was unsure but I asked him to tell me more about the guy. He said “he is just a wrestler”. I am confident in a fight against any 1-dimensional opponent.
I had not trained jiu jitsu or mma in 2 years. That week in the gym before the fight I realized my left knee was bothering me anytime I took a wrestling shot for a takedown. Wrestling in college, I'd had 3 knee surgeries, a total reconstruction of the right and minor repairs on the left. The knee injury changed my strategy. Since I'm a right handed boxer, my left foot is always forward. With my left knee hurt, to take my opponent down, I would have to change out of my right handed boxing stance into a left handed boxing stance with my right knee forward. This didn’t matter, I thought, since my opponent was only a wrestler, I would just out-box him anyway.
When the fight started, we squared up and I threw the first 1-2 combo and landed it. The next attempt my opponent threw a left front kick at my chest. “Just a wrestler?”, I thought to myself. This happened 2 more times and I realized that I knew nothing about my opponent. If my opponent had a kickboxing background or trained kickboxing he didn’t tell the promoter. And if he did tell the promoter, the promoter didn’t tell me. If a fighter agrees to a fight on 1 week’s notice, everyone involved should have the courtesy to give him full disclosure on the opponent.
Realizing I knew nothing about my opponent at this point, I decided to move to plan B, take my opponent down and finish the fight on the ground. Since I knew my left knee hurt too bad to take a wrestling shot, I had to transition from a right handed stance to a left handed stance. In this transition, my opponent threw a right high kick at my head, knocking me to the canvas. Down and almost out, I instinctively grab for my opponent’s leg and reverse him.
Quickly moving to the mount position on top now, I can see my blood dripping onto the canvas. I know I’m cut bad but my adrenaline is rushing so hard I don’t feel my crushed orbital and cheek bones. I know that if I don’t finish the fight before the end of the first round the doctor will more than likely stop the match for blood. All I can think about is submission. I had never lost a fight and it would be my own fault for taking this fight on short notice and not getting the info on my opponent to develop a game plan.
My opponent rolls and I let him so that I can take his back, a common move I have done 1000 times. But this time before I can take his back we get tangled in the ropes. When I pull away he ends up on top! This seems to be his lucky day. On bottom now, I know by the Charles Manson look in my opponent's eyes that he has seen my mangled face and like a shark drawn to blood he is trying to drop heavy leather.
I try for a sloppy arm bar and he drops a punch or 2 on my face. I sit up and block his punches, moving to a sit-up sweep position or rubber guard position where his punches are negated. I then start sniping for submissions. I consider the oma plata but my first attack is Kimura, then I look for the guillotine, straight arm lock and then he moves where I want him, I slip my hips out to the side and climb his back for the finishing arm bar. But not just any arm bar. On this one, I have no intention of letting go until the referee pulls me off. By the time I let go I have rolled all the way over to my stomach taking his arm to at least 225 degrees. From what I know, he lied about his style to try and get an advantage on a superior opponent, me. If not, well, I’m sorry, but I can’t take any chances. Look at the bright side, for the next 6 months his elbow would act as a barometer and tell him when it was about to rain.
Walking out of the ring Rodrigo gave me the greatest compliment when he said, "I can't teach what you just did". Having won the battle in the ring but lost 20/20 vision, I knew something was wrong because I couldn't judge the distance down the stairs of the ring.
I went to the hospital that evening and got a CT scan. The doctor said. “you're telling me you won?” I said, “yes” and he replied, “your face is broken in so many places we quit counting”. One week later I had 3 titanium plates and 1 plastic plate installed in the left side of my face. According to the doctor, the repaired side is stronger than the other.
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