I suspect that my brother Chad won’t have another MMA fight. In his previous fight, Chad defeated Drew “The Eternal Fire” Brokenshire to regain the Ax Fighting 145-pound title belt. But Chad went into the fight with a broken hand and, as one would expect, a five-round MMA fight wasn’t kind to his injury. In the last three months, he hasn’t been able to punch things. And you obviously can’t fight if you can’t punch things.
One of the frustrating parts about following an amateur sport is that you’re not guaranteed a climactic seven-game playoff or a trophy ceremony at an all-you-can-eat pizza place. Even now, we don’t get the closure of knowing that Chad is for sure done fighting. He says that in a few months he’s going to go into the gym and punch something. If his hand survives, he might continue fighting. My opinion—and it’s just an opinion—is that for the story of Chad’s amateur-fighting career, his fight with The Eternal Fire was the best ending we’re going to get.
So what we have tonight is an epilogue. The two other fighters I’ve been following—Billy Walker and Jonny Gilbertson—are both fighting for title belts at an event called Chaos at the College 2. Tonight we also get to watch the debut fight from Ben McKinley, a former color commentator for this column who has a circumference of 72 inches. Ben claims that this will be his only MMA fight, a once-in-a-lifetime event that happens to take place on his wife’s birthday. His wife’s attitude about this coincidence is best described as tolerant.
Before the Fights
I don’t even have to show my press pass to get into the fights. I just walk in with a group of people. I sit with my dad, my mom, my brother Brady (23), and my brother Jake (13). Jake has somehow acquired a bag filled with what looks like a pound of Mike & Ike’s and Runts. Jake tries telling me that banana runts are his favorite. My dad is having a conversation about an anal catheter and how my dad thinks an anal catheter is a good idea.
Pre-Fight Interview with Ben
Q: “Ben, what’s your strategy going into tonight’s fight?”
The announcer, after saying that “the action is going to be intense tonight,” tells us that the first fight is canceled because one of the fighters didn’t show. The fighter who did show gets to stand in the cage and wave to the crowd.
Our announcer is Chad Walker, also known as the musical artist Chad Walker Is Big Mouth. When Chad Walker Is Big Mouth talks, he makes the same hand motions that hip-hop artists do in music videos. The hand motions seem subconscious and involuntary. Chad Walker Is Big Mouth is the most talented amateur MMA announcer I’ve seen.
Jake bets a dollar on Andy Baker, who isn’t even in this fight. Andy Baker was the fighter whose opponent didn’t show up for the first fight. Jake agrees that he owes me a dollar just for being dumb.
In the actual fight, one of the fighters lifts his opponent, turns him upside down, and drops him on his head.
Guy behind me: “That shit is all fucked up.”
The first fighter—whom the announcer calls “Chops”—comes out to a song that begins: “Let the bodies hit the floor. Let the bodies hit the floor.” Doesn’t seem totally appropriate for an MMA fight, where there’s really only one body he’s supposed to let hit the floor.
When the other fighter walks out, my dad says: “It looks a little unfair here. You got the kid with the farmer tan.”
The kid with the farmer’s tan ends up on his back and gets punched in the face nine times. The ref lets the fight continue, and the first round ends. In the second round, the kid with the farmer’s tan comes out swinging and misses twice. On his third try he lands a jab on Chops’s nose. Chops crumples. The kid with the farmer’s tan wins. The crowd goes nuts.
One of the fighters is bleeding. I don’t know which one, and I can’t see where the wound is, but the fighters are now wrestling in a patch of blood that’s about six square feet and growing.
Someone finally gets punched enough for the ref to end the fight. We’re left with a patch of blood that covers about twenty-percent of the ring, not including bloody footprints around the perimeter. Someone tosses the ref a white towel. He gets on his knees and starts scrubbing.
The ref pauses from scrubbing and appears to wipe the sweat off his brow with the same towel he’s been using to scrub the blood. The net effect of the scrubbing is that the bloodstain has expanded to cover about twenty-five-percent of the ring. Brady says that if he ever murders someone this is the guy he’s calling to clean it up. The ref stands, looks down at the blood, and appears to shrug. The next fighters are called to the ring.
Jake is bored—this is a women’s 125-pound kickboxing match—and wants to know if there are any tasks that I would pay him money to do. I offer Jake five dollars if he can convince the pre-adolescent-looking DJ to play “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!. Jake is not aware of this song but accepts the explanation that it’s the song you’re least likely to hear at an amateur MMA event.
Jake talks to the announcer and convinces him to write down the song’s name. Jake later sends one of his friends to request the same song. This friend returns and tells us that the DJ said: “We don’t take requests, yo.”
A few CageWars staff guys finally bring out a mop and liquid to clean up the blood. Announcer: “Cleanup on aisle three.”
This fight is between an African American and a Caucasian. The person sitting next to me says something so racially insensitive that I refuse to write it down.
In round one the African American fighter gets on the Caucasian fighter’s back and chokes him out. To celebrate his victory, the winning fighter lies in the center of the cage and does three snow angels.
The person sitting next to me: “No, I meant the white guy. The white guy looks like a gorilla.”
Fight Seven: Ben’s Heavyweight Fight
Ben has told us—and promised his wife—that this will be his only fight. Doing an MMA fight is apparently something Ben wants to check off his life to-do list, like how some people want to skydive or see Italy in the Fall.
Ben has at least a seventeen-inch advantage in circumference against his opponent, which means that his opponent has a six-inch advantage in height. Early in the first round Ben’s opponent tries to kick him. Ben catches his leg and then kicks the guy’s other leg, knocking him down with the sort of thud you only hear in heavyweight fights. Ben jumps onto the guy’s back but somehow slips off and ends up on his own back, with the other guy on top—not only on top, but sitting on Ben’s chest and trapping both Ben’s arms, punching him in the face until the ref ends the fight.
I’m later told that Ben now plans on fighting again.
One of the fighters here, Jaimin, comes out with a posse of guys wearing shirts that say “Hawaii Boyz.” One of them is waving a red, green, and yellow flag that I’m assuming is the Hawaiian flag. The announcer tells us that we have a few guys here who’ve come all the way from Hawaii to fight tonight.
The guy from Team Hawaii Boyz gets beat in about forty-five seconds.
This fight features the second and final fighter from Team Hawaii Boyz. There’s the same ruckus with all the Hawaii Boyz shirts and the flag.
Right after the fight starts, before the fighters have even touched each other, the Hawaii Boy, while just standing there, grabs his shoulder and falls. He doesn’t get up. His coaches enter the ring and tend to him.
Sources report that the Hawaii Boy swung his shoulder and threw it out. Same sources wonder where his Hawaiian flag is now.
The Hawaii Boy eventually gets up. The announcer says that the Hawaii Boy is unable to continue the fight due to injury. The other fighter gets his arm raised and gets a trophy.
A middle-age man sitting near me says: “He’s just a pussy. That’s all there is to it. Never seen anything like it.”
When I first started watching MMA, most fights seemed riveting or at least worth watching, for the novelty if nothing else. But now, watching fights like this one, fights between two below-average fighters I don’t know, I start thinking about all the Saturday evenings I’ve spent watching sweaty young adults trying to grab each other’s legs—or, worse, playing paddle fisties on the mat—and how boring it can be. Even the guy climbing the cage and straddling and then sort of humping the cross-post after he wins—even though “that’s what [the announcer] came to see”—it’s just not that exciting anymore.
Post-Fight Interview with Ben
“Don’t write anything too terrible about me.”
Judging by the sound of the crowd, I’m missing a good fight while waiting in the bathroom line. On the upside, I witness an obese teenager walking out of a bathroom stall with a giant smile.
Interview with a ZipFizz Girl
I told myself that I was finally going to interview a ring girl tonight. But now that I’m here all the questions I want to ask seem like they’d come across as sleazy (“Do you change into your swimsuit once you get here, or do you like drive here in your swimsuit?”), condescending (“Did you always want to be a ring girl?”), or just pointless (“What’s your favorite part about being a ring girl?”).
So instead I opt to interview a ZipFizz girl. A person could at least have a non-sleazy reason to go to the ZipFizz booth and talk to one of the ZipFizz girls, i.e., the purchasing of ZipFizz. The two ZipFizz girls are at the ZipFizz booth near the entrance, trying to peddle their just-add-water energy drink. I approach the table and, in an effort to be nonchalant, read their ZipFizz promotional materials.
Did you know: ZipFizz is the healthy alternative to energy and sports drinks. It is now available in Walmart. 0 SUGAR. 10 CALORIES. LOW CARB. 41,667% VITAMIN B12. LOADED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS. 4-6 HOURS OF ENERGY with . ZipFizz is a propriety blend. ZipFizz advises using 16-20 ounces of water. Drink a sip to make room. Add powder. Shake it up & ENJOY!
The ZipFizz girls ask if they can help me with anything. One of the ZipFizz girls is substantially better-looking than the other. I try to direct my question to the less-good-looking girl, who’s probably sick of everyone always interviewing her cuter coworker.
Q: Yes, actually, I was wondering how one becomes a ZipFizz girl, I mean how did you get this job?
A: “Uh, my sister’s roommate was friends with the marketing director or something and she asked if I wanted to do it.”
I consider presenting my press pass and notepad to lend this interview some legitimacy, but I realize that then I might appear to be the sort of person who makes his own fake press pass and brings a creepy notebook to amateur sporting events just so he can have invasive conversations with girls who can’t possibly be older than twenty.
Q: And do you enjoy being ZipFizz girls?
A: “Yeah, we enjoy doing it. It’s fun.”
This last question was where I really screwed the journalistic pooch. It was a yes-or-no question that couldn’t possibly have received an interesting answer. And, worse, after that question all three of us are thinking about the sad facts of the situation: this is a god-awful and—when you think about it—incredibly depressing attempt to hit on a ZipFizz girl. An attempt by someone who doesn’t even have it in him to hit on the moderately cute ZipFizz girl. There’s only one possible follow-up question:
Q: How much for a canister of ZipFizz?
A: “Two dollars each or three for five dollars.”
Chad Walker Is Big Mouth tells us that the Hawaii Boyz would like to say something. One of them is handed the microphone. He can’t seem to achieve the proper face-to-microphone distance, so I only catch one sentence: “Thank you for not booing us.”
One of the fighters here, Colton, has a cheering section that contains no less than nine screaming adolescent girls. One of Colton’s coaches is wearing a T-shirt that says: HANDS UP, CHIN DOWN, NUTS HANG, FISTS SWING. Colton wins by split decision.
Fight Seventeen: Billy’s Fight
Billy Walker is fighting Jose “The Rasta” Garza. Billy has nine wins and four losses and has no known relation to Chad Walker. The Rasta has nine wins and two losses, one of which was to a guy now fighting in the UFC. The Rasta appears to be Mexican and has nothing visibly Rastafarian about his appearance.
In the first round The Rasta reveals a tactic I haven’t seen before: while they’re on their feet, as soon as Billy steps in for a takedown, The Rasta grabs Billy and falls on his back, pulling Billy on top of him. I’m not sure who gets points for this setup, which makes it impossible for me to know who won the first two rounds.
In the third round, Billy lands a punch that knocks The Rasta to his butt. Billy jumps on him, but the Rasta grabs Billy’s arm and scissors it with his legs. Maybe this is what he’s been trying to do from his back this whole time. The Rasta scissors Billy’s arm for a few tense seconds, and then Billy slips out.
In round four, the announcer says: “This is where the training in the gym pays off.” The Rasta must have trained by grabbing people and then falling on his back, because this is what he continues to do—although I still don’t see what he’s hoping to accomplish. Round five is the same story. Unless you get a bonus for falling to your back with your opponent on top of you, then Billy won. The judges confirm it: Billy wins the CageWars 135-pound MMA title by unanimous decision.
Fight Eighteen: Jonny’s Fight
Jonny, who’s more or less replacing Chad as one of the premier 145-pound fighters in the north-Seattle amateur mixed martial arts circuit, is fighting Drew Brokenshire—the same Drew Brokenshire that Chad defeated in his last fight. It’s a nice changing-of-the-guard moment. The consensus among Jonny fans is that this is a tough fight for Jonny. Jonny’s a better athlete and a much better wrestler than Drew, but Drew has a substantial advantage in experience.
At the start of the first round, Jonny lands a few kicks and then shoots for Drew’s legs. As Jonny’s doing this, Drew punches him in the head. Jonny ends up on top of Drew on the ground, but they soon get back to their feet. At the end of the round, Jonny does this flick-throw thing to get Drew off him that doesn’t accomplish much but looks cool. Not sure who won that round.
The second round starts with a section of the crowd chanting “Jonny” and ends with Jonny on his back trying to kick Drew. In between Drew landed a few kicks and Jonny got a takedown. Drew probably won that round.
At the start of round three, Jonny takes Drew down with a bear hug, but then Jonny ends up on his hands and knees with Drew on his back punching the sides of Jonny’s face. If I’ve learned anything about MMA, it’s that this is an undesirable position. Drew stops punching Jonny and wraps his arm around Jonny’s neck. After about fifteen seconds, Jonny taps out. Drew wins. Jonny is now 4-1 and has plenty of fights ahead of him.
Chad Walker Is Big Mouth must have sensed that it’s a special moment, the end of an MMA story. As people are filing out, he says: “Folks, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”