Nineteen months ago, right here at Edmonds Community College, my brother Chad, in his amateur mixed martial arts debut, lost to Johnathon Moore by guillotine choke hold in the first round. Chad went on to win his next nine amateur fights, and is now once again fighting Johnathon Moore to attempt to avenge his honor, take the Ax Fighting 145-pound title belt and all the honors it betokens, and entertain the 2,300 or so people gathered to watch the fights this evening.
In attendance tonight: my brother Brady (21), my brother Jake (11), our parents, my girlfriend, Chad’s ex-girlfriend, Chad’s best friend (also the ex-boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, but this is neither the time nor place to get into that), Chad’s best friend’s new girlfriend, a handful of people from our high school wrestling team, and various other hang abouts. In total there are about fourteen people in our little clan, all here to watch Chad.
None of these people is here out of blood thirst or a desire to see someone’s eyes gouged out. They’re all here to support Chad—who spends his days working on cockpit design for the Boeing 787—in something he’s passionate about. I point this out because there’s a rumor out there that mixed martial arts is barbaric, that it’s “human cockfighting.” The premise of it—two people in a low-rules fight—does sound sensational, but in reality I’ve seen heavier injuries occur in youth soccer.
I’ll also point out that tickets to tonight’s event cost $25. The beneficiaries of this fight—you know who you are—are making at least $350 from the goodwill of Chad’s supportive family, supportive friends, and supportive younger brother who from the looks of it is the only person in the gymnasium who remembered to bring his Moleskin notebook. Incidentally, I haven’t yet been offered a press pass.
Chad’s fight, as the highlight bout, is the last of the fourteen scheduled fights. This is about six fights too many for my taste, and twelve too many for Jake’s. By way of making things more interesting Jake and I continue our tradition of betting a dollar on each fight. Jake’s caveat is that we won’t bet a dollar on Chad’s fight. If it were my turn to bet I would bet on Chad, and then Jake would be in a terrible dilemma for an eleven-year-old: he’d have to either root for his brother to win or root for his dollar to win and his brother to get choked, knocked out, or otherwise physically damaged.
The National Anthem
The Star Spangled Banner is sung by a man introduced as Ben. It is explained that he is a fighter, but he is not fighting tonight. He has a mohawk. I can’t tell if he thinks the mohawk is ironic, or if he thinks it’s retro—hey, this was cool in ‘97!—or if he’s trying to make a self-conscious commentary on self-conscious commentaries. Ben, though, probably didn’t think about any of these when he went for the mohawk, which I find quite endearing and refreshing. He seems honored that he’s been given the opportunity to sing for all of us. He swings for the fences on all the high notes. It is surprisingly okay.
There Are Some Real Schlubs Fighting Tonight
Apparently you don’t have to qualify to fight in these things—if you want to fight, and someone else will fight you, then you can fight. You needn’t be athletic or athletic-looking. Watching a pasty, flabby guy fight another pasty flabby guy is about as exciting as watching a three-day breast cancer walk. I’m going to omit most of these fights, which only leaves some admittedly sparse notes for just a few fights besides my brother’s.
I learn from Jake that when you’re on your back and roll over so that you’re on top it’s called an “Oompa Loompa.”
The fighter in the blue corner is wearing bike shorts, and before the fight he prances around the ring as though he’s all jacked up on Karate Kid movies. He appears quite amped up for the fight and ready to brawl to the death, as though he’s been training for this moment for years and now finally has his chance to show the world what he’s made of. He receives a quick, severe beating. It’s very sad.
The Zip Fizz Girls
After every three fights or so, the ZipFizz Girls come up into the ring. ZipFizz is apparently an energy drink, or, rather, a powder that transforms ordinary water into an energy drink. The ZipFizz Girls wear fishnet stockings and very little clothing. They aren’t discernibly un-attractive but now, with the spotlight on them, booty-shaking around the ring with all these mostly male eyes on them, they’re in the unenviable spot of being average-looking girls trying to seduce people into liking ZipFizz. I have it from Brady that ZipFizz tastes like “fizzy water piss with a hint of citrus.” I haven’t attempted to verify this.
What makes it worse is that the ZipFizz Girls’ only task on stage is to throw out little sample tubes of ZipFizz, which no one really wants. At one point a tube of ZipFizz gets thrown back on stage. We’re in the bleachers about thirty feet from the ring and thus out of ZipFizz range. I’m not sure what criteria were used to select the ZipFizz girls, but, presumably, they weren’t chosen for their throwing arms.
Around the fourth fight Brady and I begin convincing Jake, who won the Wisdom Award last year at his private Christian school, that ZipFizz is awesome and that if he acquires ZipFizz he will be more acceptable in our eyes. We tell him the only way he can acquire ZipFizz is by going down to the ring and taking off his shirt. He asks us how close to the ring he needs to get. As close as he can get, we tell him, and it’ll help if he swings his shirt over his head like a cowboy stripper.
Jake respects us and takes us at our word. One time when he was seven, I was driving him somewhere when we stopped at a stoplight next to a man driving a Hummer. “Rory,” Jake said, “that guy has a small wiener.” I asked him how he knew that. “Brady told me that people who drive Hummers have small wieners.” To this day this is one of Jake’s fundamental beliefs about the universe.
The next time the ZipFizz girls come on stage, Jake walks down the bleachers to the gym floor, just out of spotlight range. He raises his hands. The ZipFizz girls don’t notice him. He looks up at us and we communicate that he needs to remove his shirt and swing it over his head. He steps closer to the ring, into the spotlight’s circle, removes his shirt, and swings it over his head so everyone can see his eleven-year-old nipples.
The ZipFizz girls throw Jake a tube of ZipFizz. He re-clothes himself and returns to the bleachers. Our mother immediately confiscates the ZipFizz and begins sternly talking to Jake. She is not amused. Jake never gets to use the ZipFizz. We later let Jake know that he is now more acceptable in our eyes and that he can hang out with us sometime.
Team Red Line Fight
The photocopied sheet that contains the essential info—fighter names, weights, ZipFizz logo—states that one of the participants in this fight is from Team Red Line. He walks out to the fight with no less than nine people accompanying him. All of them are wearing white. They are waving red flags, and seem very pumped up, angry even. It all looks way too much like the KKK. Jake says, “This guy has a pretty big posse.”
The fighter from Team Red Line removes his robe thing. In large letters across the back of his shorts is written “TRL.” Someone in the crowd yells “Carson Daly.” The rest of the fight was un-noteworthy, and I’m not sure who won, although for some reason I wrote down that in mixed martial arts you are indeed allowed to smother.
Fight Number Eight
Someone in the crowd uses the word “pussiest.”
Not Related to Any Specific Fight,
But Still Worth Pointing Out
Almost every fighter, when he/she throws a punch or kick, makes a noise that ranges between phwwt, shffft, hifff, or phwooooowf, i.e. they make noises that sound like discarded sound effects from a Mortal Kombat video game. I assume fighters make these noises for the same mysterious reasons that tennis players grunt when they hit a ball. I should admit though that for the first two fights I attended I was under the impression that these were just the noises that punches made when they sliced through the air.
Fight Number Nine
Jake picked an African American fighter to win this fight, and the African American did indeed win it. The only thing I wrote down for this fight is a quote from Jake: “I’m glad I like black people.”
The Net Results of Our Gambling
I’ve been betting on fighters based on sensible things—their win-loss records, which gym they fight at, how they’ve performed when I’ve watched them before. Jake’s been betting based on Jake things—skin color, tattoos, color of shorts, shininess of muscles. When the second-to-last fight ends, Jake and I are even. (In case you’re doing the math, one of the thirteen fights was a tie. It was very boring and I don’t want to get into it.) I’ve learned tonight that sensible things don’t perform any better than Jake things. Jake has learned that gambling is harmless, that you can bet on sporting events, or anything, really, with no harm done and a good time had.
The Title Fight
Johnathon Moore, along with spelling his name creatively, is 32, a nurse, and is married with a young child. I’ve been unable to verify any of these with anything resembling journalistic integrity. I’m not even sure on the spelling of his name. I took it from an MMA website that also spelled the number “two” without a W. Johnathon Moore seems like a nice person, which makes it hard to view this as the ultimate battle of good-versus-evil à la Mighty Ducks vs. Team Iceland.
Also, like any good sibling, a small part of me hopes Johnathon lands a few solid punches. Chad’s had it coming to him ever since the time when we were kids—I think he was twelve and I was ten—and had just watched the The Three Ninjas trilogy, and so naturally we decided to make pepper bombs out of coffee filters and anything we could find in our mother’s spice drawer, and then Chad proceeded to somehow detonate one of these pepper bombs near my eyes. If Johnathon knees Chad a few times in the kidney I’ll call it even.
The recap that follows is based primarily on a video of the fight. I was too emotionally invested in the fight to write any sort of notes, and it was also too dark to see what I was writing. The video, though, is filmed from right up at the ring, somehow slightly above the ring, a much better view than I had from the bleachers—whoever filmed it likely finagled a press pass.
Chad’s intro song has a chorus of “I’m gonna knock you out. Momma said knock you out.” Our mom did not say this. The fight is scheduled for five three-minute rounds.
There’s some obligatory get-to-know-you punching and arm-grabbing, which leads to what I’m going to call the Vigorous Man Hug, where they embrace each other and then try to knee each other in the ribs and stomp on each other’s toes but really don’t do much of anything except wobble around the ring.
After a few minutes of this either Chad or Johnathon makes a noise that sounds like “hufpushoeee” and then Johnathon’s head disappears. Chad is holding it under his left arm, by the neck. This is what is known as a guillotine, the exact same move Johnathon used to choke Chad out in their first fight, except now Chad is the one choking Johnathon out. This would be the perfect mirror ending, the most fitting Disneyesque way for Chad to avenge his loss.
Here’s a transcription of what various coaches and audience members advise Johnathon to do to escape the guillotine: “Peel that arm, peel it.” “Push his chest out.” “Come on.” “Peel the arm.” “Cross face, Johnathon.” “Come on.” “Hold the leg.” “Peel it.” “Come on.” “Underhook the leg.” “Come on.” “Feel that arm.”
And then, after one minute and ten seconds of restricted breathing, Johnathon somehow—I can’t whether he uses the Peel the Arm or the Come On—pops his head out. The round soon ends. Johnathon later tells Chad that if it hadn’t been a title fight he most likely would’ve tapped out and given Chad the fight.
Let me point out that I have no idea how these things are scored. I don’t know if Chad got any points for choking him—I don’t know if he accomplished anything in the first round, but in Jake’s opinion Chad is winning.
A few punches are thrown, and then the fighters once again do the intense-embrace thing. Chad then picks Johnathon up and tosses him onto his back, with Chad on top. Johnathon, on bottom, is holding Chad too close for Chad to throw a punch. Johnathon also has Chad’s legs wrapped up in his legs. So Chad, with no other options, is smearing his hand across Johnathon’s face, covering his mouth, and generally being a nuisance. Again, I don’t know if you score points for this. This continues for the rest of the round, and Chad, apparently frustrated that he’s unable to throw a real punch, starts hammering Johnathon’s face with his forearm bone. It is ineffective. The round ends.
A few punches, another hug—initiated by Chad—and then Johnathon this time tries to drop Chad, but Chad evades him using what our high school wrestling coach called a whizzer. (Origin of name unknown.) The great thing about this round is that most of it takes place in the corner right next to the camera. We can see that Johnathon has a Chinese character tattooed on his right shoulder, which, according to my girlfriend, who speaks Chinese, can be translated as either “Aspiration of moral virtue” or “Germany ideal volunteer.” Around his belly button he has a tattoo of what looks like a sunshine. Chinese-speaking girlfriend says this is not a Chinese character.
They hug and un-hug a bit, throw a few punches—nothing really connects—and then, when Johnathon goes for a big momma-said-knock-you-out punch, Chad ducks and tackles him, ending up on the ground in what’s becoming their favorite position. This happens toward the end of the round, and before the bell rings Chad only has time to give Johnathon’s face a good Dutch rub.
Same ideas as round three. I’m running out of synonyms for “vigorous man hug.”
Someone in our little clan who understands the judging system explains that Chad will win if he avoids getting knocked out in this round. Although neither fighter has mangled the other in the first four rounds, Chad has clearly dominated—we can’t imagine any way the judges could’ve given a round to Johnathon..
So Chad does the same thing that’s been working for him every round, which at this point is pretty boring. Johnathon’s fans—sitting not too far from us—are booing Chad. They use derogatory terms. They tell him to stand up and fight him like a man, which would, of course, be silly.
This is, however, the round where Chad delivers the worst beating, relatively. For four minutes he consistently lands punches, shoulders, and even a sort of head-butt to Johnathon’s face. Toward the end the announcer appears in the corner. He is wearing a floral-patterned shirt. The bell rings, and soon it’s announced that Chad has won by unanimous decision. The fight lacked the drama that we typically expect from sports. We now have another trophy and a belt in our basement—a belt with a Frisbee-size gold-color buckle—and now that Chad has avenged his loss and accomplished pretty much everything he can accomplish at this level, he’s not sure where he goes from here.