Tonight’s event is at the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn, WA, which isn’t so much a town as a collection of vacant lots and houses with cars on blocks in their yards. The actual Civic Center is in a clearing in the woods. We park in a drainage ditch. A reader board informs us that we’ve just missed an event called “Scrapbooking.”
The inside of the facility has a community-theater stage, basketball hoops, and a fighting cage. The facility appears to be decorated for a high school prom: all the windows are covered by vinyl sheets decorated with stars and moons and city skylines at night, and across the stage are several strings of stars made from cardboard and glitter glue. It smells like chewing tobacco.
Our Cast of Commentators for Tonight
I’m here with my mother (Terry), my father (Steve), my brother Brady (21), and my youngest brother, Jake (12). Steve once broke his arm during a JV wrestling match in ninth grade, so he knows a thing or two about mixed martial arts and has positioned himself so he can speak his wisdom directly into my ear.
Everything You Need to Know
About DJ Charlee Brown
DJ Charlee Brown (sic) is wearing an oversize yellow T-shirt with the black Charlie Brown squiggle across the front. It seems relevant to point out that DJ Charlee Brown is a different race than the original Charlie Brown.
He has two tables of complicated-looking equipment and always seems immensely busy. Yet throughout the night he only cues songs, which seems like something he could do with a standard MP3 player.
And Now Everything You Need to Know
About Tonight’s Announcer
The announcer is dressed in a suit, but although he’s at least thirty-five he still looks like he’s wearing his father’s suit. He’s so nervous that he’s visibly shaking. He reads every word he says from three-by-five note cards—every single word, including things like “hello” and “thank you for coming out tonight.” He pronounces things in the same monotone as a fifth grader giving a class presentation on the pyramids. He welcomes all of us and describes DJ Charlee Brown as “very talented.”
Most of fight one is occupied by Steve giving me a thorough explanation of what a farmer’s tan is. He describes it as “unsophisticated.” The farmer’s tan in question is worn by a fighter the crowd calls “Pit,” who likes to throw illegal elbows.
Steve’s take on fight one: “This is so boring.”
Pit wins, but instead of a trophy he receives a goody bag. The losing fighter receives a goody bag of a different color. The contents of the goody bags are not revealed to the audience.
At the end of the fight the announcer tells us that “Tonight’s event is brought to you by Smokin Hot Espresso. How hot can you handle it.” Let me again point out that this is read from a note card in a monotone.
The woman sitting in front of me, who looks like she’s in her early fifties, is reading a thick novel with not-very-small print. She didn’t look up from her book during the first fight. This doesn’t seem like an ideal reading environment. I lean over her shoulder enough to see that the novel’s title is Sizzling Sixteen. She is on page 121.
The first fighter to come out, Gabe, has a mohawk and a wife-beater tan. There are enough wife-beater tans on fighters tonight that from here on out they’ll be left to your imagination. Gabe looks like he’s six feet tall and 130 pounds. This is a 150-pound fight. Steve’s take on Gabe: “He’s going to get hurt.”
This was, however, before Steve saw Gabe’s opponent, Roger. Roger is about five-eight and 130 pounds, and that’s not all muscle. Roger and Gabe both look like the sort of guy who was regularly shoved inside of dumpsters during high school. I’m betting they started fighting to get tough so they could one day confront their bullies and show them who’s the Renaissance-Fair pussy now.
And oh are these guys angry. They spend most of the fight throwing wild windmill punches that don’t connect. Roger tries kneeing Gabe in the chest. Gabe tries a backwards spinning roundhouse kick aimed at Roger’s head.
The problem, though, is that both Roger and Gabe are incredibly weak, and their punches—when they actually land them—don’t do anything. Gabe ends up winning. I can only imagine how this will affect Roger’s anger level.
Steve’s take: “The blonder your hair, the more fun you have.”
Book Lady is on page 148 of Sizzling Sixteen.
Most MMA coaches are coarse-looking, tattooed guys that look like they’ve at some point clubbed another person with a broken pool cue. The first fighter in this fight, James, is coached by his mother. My family members debate whether she’s best described as “overweight” or “obese,” but we all agree that either adjective should be preceded by “very.” Instead of carrying the usual rags for cleaning up bodily fluids, she has an armful of blue bath towels.
James’s opponent immediately punches James in the face eleven times. James’s mother has no visible reaction to the beating. DJ Charlee Brown cues the song “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
We’re now on page 162 of Sizzling Sixteen. I’m able to make out a single line of dialogue from the book: “I bet Chopper got money.”
A Quick Note on Smokin Hot Espresso
Tonight’s ring girls are the staff of the above-mentioned Smokin Hot Espresso, which, from what I can tell, is a drive-thru espresso stand where all of the baristas wear as little clothing as possible, a sort of hybrid of Starbucks and Sugars Night Club.
But so: in between rounds, the ring girls come out two at a time. One holds the sign saying what round it is, while the other throws a T-shirt into the crowd and tries to look sexy. Jake and I agree that our future happiness depends on obtaining one of these T-shirts. During fight four Jake accidentally kicks Book Lady while trying to obtain a T-shirt. Book Lady says, “Thanks for kicking me.” Brady tells Jake he’s a little dick for disturbing her reading.
The first fighter out has apparently ordered a novelty-size cup to protect his testicles. This doesn’t interest me, so I leave to find something to drink.
The only beverage sold at the concession stand outside is a drink called “Turn On: A Love Drink.” The can’s label says “Warning: this beverage will arouse you.” A Turn On flier at the table says “Turn On in the Media!” above a picture of Donald Trump.
Brief research later reveals that Turn On is definitely not approved by the FDA. But more importantly: is this the time and the place to get turned on? Do I want to appear as though mixed martial arts arouses me? No, see, it’s this canned beverage that’s arousing me, not Roger and Gabe’s fight. And what sort of mess are we getting ourselves into, loading hundreds of people into a sweaty gym and then offering no hydration options except Turn On Love Drink? What good could possibly come from this?
I skip the Turn On beverage booth.
One guy grabs the other guy by the scruff of the neck and punches him five or six times in the upper lip.
Between rounds when the ring girls are doing their T-shirt distribution, the T-shirt thrower makes eye contact and throws a T-shirt to me. Well, not quite to me. She didn’t throw it far enough, but I think everyone around me would admit that she meant to throw the T-shirt to me. In retrospect, I may have been a bit too aggressive with the whole ordeal. Elbows are involved. Some chairs fall over. Everyone in the vicinity is looking at me like: it is just a T-shirt. I quickly give the shirt to Jake, sort of redeeming myself.
This fight is a Muay Thai fight, which is a type of kickboxing that originated in Thailand. The second fighter is wearing jewels and beads and a tennis-racket shaped headdress, i.e. he’s dressed like a witch doctor. Before the fight starts, he does a dance. He starts on his belly, and dances his way to his feet. Once on his feet, he continues dancing in a way that looks like a cross between karate and belly dancing. The dance lasts a total over two minutes.
He then gets the shit kicked out of him in forty-five seconds. He’s punched several times and is then donkey kicked in the cheekbone. He is unconscious. When the paramedics come into the ring one of them is laughing. The fighter ends up being okay.
Steve’s take: “He can dance better than he can fight, that’s for sure. I tell ya.”
Jake returns from a snack run to report that a female beverage vendor has asked him if “he wanted to be turned on.” He has also recently unfolded his T-shirt to discover that it’s size adult XL and that the shirt’s front features a screen print of a woman wearing fishnet stockings and not much else.
Steve then returns from his own snack run with a tale from the Turn On beverage table that I’d rather not transcribe
Brady and I, in our ongoing effort to raise our own self esteem at Jake’s expense, convince Jake that he should get his shirt signed by the Smokin Hot Espresso girls. After Jake is gone for about ten minutes Steve begins to worry. I assume he’s worried about what’s happening to Jake what with all these young ladies hopped up on Turn On love drink.
When Jake finally returns, he doesn’t have his shirt autographed, but he does have a full pin-up calendar featuring the staff of Smokin Hot Espresso wearing lingerie. They don’t exactly have their legs crossed. On their respective pages, the girls have written things like “Stay sexy Jakie Poo XOXO.”
Jake, for the record, states that he doesn’t know how he feels about this.
At the start of fight thirteen, Book Lady sets down Sizzling Sixteen, stands up, and walks closer to the ring. At last check in she was on page 257, for a total of 136 pages read tonight. We have overheard her say that she’s here to watch her son tonight. One can only assume how she feels about her son fighting at an event like this.
Her son’s opponent looks like he was cut out of Men’s Fitness magazine. He is 205 pounds of sweaty-fire-fighter-style muscle, the kind of muscle built by doing bench press while looking in a mirror. He doesn’t actually have a barbed-wire tattoo around his bicep, but it’s there in spirit.
And then Book Lady’s son, Mike, comes out. He looks like a normal 205-pound adult male who jogs three times a week and does cable weights at the gym and maybe plays some disc golf on weekends. He looks like it would never cross his mind to go tanning or to worry about the definition in his triceps.
Steve’s take: “I think this Mike guy is in trouble.”
Book Lady has the same patient facial expression most people wear during the Pledge of Allegiance.
The fight begins, and Men’s Fitness immediately manhandles Mike to the floor and starts punching him in the face, which is pressed into the cage not far from Mike’s mom. There’s this moment where Mike has a look of pain that I’ve never seen on someone over the age of five, and he appears to look directly at his mom. Men’s Fitness punches him in the back of the head for fifteen seconds until the ref blows the whistle. No discernible emotion from Book Lady.
When Mike leaves the ring—also expressionless in the exact same way as his mother—Men’s Fitness stays in the cage. He is handed the microphone. The crowd is quiet. Men’s Fitness invites his girlfriend into the ring.
The girl looks exactly how I would’ve pictured Men’s Fitness’s romantic interest: bleached hair, tanning-booth tan, tight red tank top, tight torn jeans. She appears to be the only person in the room who hasn’t figured out what’s about to happen.
Then Men’s Fitness—who, I suspect, shaved his chest pre-fight for maximum glisten—says “Will you spend the rest of your life with me?” There is no discernable verbal answer from the girl, but they then have a grope-fest on stage. Some people applaud.
Brady’s take: “They were fighting for her. The winner got her.”
My take is that this is the most depressing moment in the history of mixed martial arts. I strongly suspect this was a setup, i.e. that Men’s Fitness requested that he be given a fish, someone he could easily knock out before his epic proposal.
So Book Lady sat through two hours of noise and violence, diligently reading her novel, thinking she was here to watch her son compete, and instead watched her son get humiliated for forty-six seconds. My objective journalistic stance is that the Men’s Fitness is a terrible human being.
Chad’s opponent has a head shaved to the skull, tattoos, and a ring of facial hair around his mouth. My family says that the only fair way to describe him is that he wouldn’t be out of place at a white supremacist function. When he and Chad are face to face before the fight, he gives Chad an I-will-eat-all-your-future-progeny stare.
I know that Chad’s opponent probably wasn’t responsible for what happened in the preceding fight, but at the very least he’s from the same general area, and I can’t help but think that there’s a little bit of justice when Chad throws him to the ground, punches him a few times, and knocks him out in under two minutes. Chad doesn’t get a trophy, and they’ve conveniently run out of goody bags. After the crowd leaves, the floor is littered with bottles full of chewing tobacco spit.