Column: Knees To The Grounded

Grandma Emma’s.

The neighborhood diner, we all have one. Serving a diverse but affordable cuisine usually owned by an olive skinned family of either Greek or Italian descent.

In my early twenties and fresh into my first legally rented apartment, Grandma Emma’s was mine to hold court in. I was new to the neighborhood and they made me feel right at home, especially when I would bring my mom in for Sunday breakfast.

Red carpeting. Dark blood red. Thick brass trim separating each booth, the vinyl seats cracking a bit from the years of hosting everyone from truck drivers to Presidential candidates’. Mostaccioli, BLT’s, and cheesecake.

I sat down with my live-in girlfriend sharing the other side of the booth with my mom.

It was December 18, 1994. Just a shade past 10am. In a few hours the Green Bay Packers would be playing their final game at Milwaukee County stadium. The football club had been splitting time between Milwaukee and Green Bay for 60 years at various locales, and this was a huge day for Packer fans in the city of Milwaukee.

And as hyped as I was for the game later that day. Something else had me abuzz.

Less than 48 hours earlier I had gathered my own band of merry hooligans and purchased UFC 4.

I had consumed the early events with vigor, as we all watched Royce Gracie change thousands of years of technique in a matter of months. But it wasn’t until UFC 4 that I really began to both understand and imagine where this sport could go.

I was a former high school wrestler and two men made their first appearance in the sport that night. Game changing appearances.

Dan Severn and Jeff Blatnick.

I wanted so much to impress my mom. With my new apartment, girlfriend, job, and life. I was making my own choice as to what I was consuming from diet to media. Weighing risks and obligations with an exuberance that only youth can bring.

She raised me during the golden age of boxing. Heralding the likes of Ray Leonard, Mancini, Hagler, Hearns, and Duran.

She had screamed till her throat gave way at all my wrestling matches.

We were a combat loving duo. The two of us.

But in recent years, I had gone my own way. I had left her.

Combat still remained.

But with the likes of Olympic hero Jeff Blatnick now in the fold, and collegiate wrestler Dan Severn making it to the finals, I now saw this sport as it could be. A legitimate test of athletic skill and intelligence.

And I could not wait to tell my mom.

The frizzy white haired waitress took our order and I began.

“Ma, so you gotta see this Ultimate Fighting Championship that we watched Friday. These guys are awesome, straight fights, like in boxing except check this, you can wrestle too!”

My girlfriend rolled her eyes and chimed in.

“Kevin, your mom wouldn’t like that.” She turned to my mom.  “It’s no rules, Julie. It’s sort of gross.”

I gave the girlfriend the stink eye, assuring she knew of how unwanted her opinion was.

“Doesn’t sound like I’d like it too much, Kevin.”

“But ma. You don’t understand.”

The girlfriend shot back. “It’s really dumb Julie. Guys hit each other in the crotch. It’s not a sport.”

“Mom, you should really watch this. Like Hagler vs Leonard, but even better. Besides, wrestlers need a pro sport too. They had this guy, Dan Severn, suplex guys all over the mat, and they even had Jeff Blatnick doing the….what do you call like, like the color commentary, or the play-by-play. Remember him? From the 84 Olympics?”

“No Kevin.” My Mom responded. “I don’t. And I don’t much want to watch crap like that either.”

“It’s not crap Ma, it’s a real sport. Like wrestling or boxing!”

Frustration at the stalemate permeated the table as our breakfast arrived.

Like most arguments with my mom, the subject matter had little to do with the confrontation.

Desperately, I was trying to prove to her my growth as man. On my own, succeeded and failing without her.

Desperately, she was negotiating the success and failures she had with me. And how the chance to duplicate or correct those was now in the past.

For an hour, my mom and I went back and forth arguing the merits of this sport I loved, trying to find some sort of common ground.

But we were angry. Both very, very angry.

Anger. For it had consumed us both. Any sort of discussion concerning sport or otherwise mattered little. Nothing would get done. No compromise, no seeing someone else’s opinion. No respect.

Just anger.


I could choose to ignore it, but the anger is flowing. From, sea to shining sea. And at this point, it does not seem to be slowing down by any stretch.

Almost assuredly as the year progresses and the election season goes full boner, we will no doubt witness the type of vitriol we saw at the Chicago campaign rally for Trump last Friday.

And, with this, we should all take a deep breath. That, although America seems to be more divisive than ever, we have seen much, much worse. Assassinations, riots, city’s burning. We’ve been here before, but the early spring seems to be foreshadowing a chaotic summer.

I still believe that for the most part your average countryman falls somewhat in the middle of most issues. Some may sway a bit right, yet others left, though, at the end of the day, most of us just want a nice spot to raise kids, build a business, and enjoy the pleasantries of life.

However, the mob mentality of both sides is now the visible lead. Both so quick to raise their verbal confrontation into a physical battle. So, quick to scream, so defined by their team, with little room for discussion and education.

And I bet less than 5% of these people have ever engaged in a true fight. Combat.

Practicing combat or training in the martial arts, if done correctly with the proper instructor or coach can lead to a kaleidoscope of changes in thought and process. Changes that one can simply not achieve without the benefit of having a competitor try to put you to sleep.

The trait that I am most grateful for through my years in the wrestling and BJJ communities is the unwavering respect I have come to acquire for all who give me the honor of competing against.

I played a number of stick and ball sports. I played county minor baseball (not softball, mind you) into my mid 30’s. I know sports and have been around them for as long as I can remember.

Once you have sought out the conquest of another human being’s body, your image of the actual human race takes on a very different optic that I don’t believe can be acquired without the battle.

No, football can’t do it. Nor can soccer, basketball, or hockey. Those have teams.

No, golf can’t do it. Nor can tennis, bowling, or track n field. Although individual, the physical confrontation ceases to exist.

For the layman. A fight is a fight. You do not see much more than people throwing each other around, punching, kicking, getting back up, etc.

But to the participants, there is a very active negotiation taking place and through that activity, if done correctly, you will find a concrete and rock solid understanding for that person across from you. Who in the beginning was an opponent, but can now be seen as more of a partner in education.

We’re all Americans here. We may be opponents, our beliefs may differ, but we can never be enemies. Our bond, too strong, our history, too entrenched.

Thus, I am of the thought that all of us should take the time to engage in some sort of combat sport. Some martial art. All ages, all genders, all races.

For it is within the fight that you can truly learn the respect that we all need to bring forth as we look forward to November.

When you fight, your anger dissipates. When your anger dissipates, conversation can begin.

With conversations comes, compromise, and solutions.

Let’s fight.


Look back:

Fairly quiet week in combat, but a few items to make note of both in and out of the cage and ring.

Justin Gaethje all over type of high level scrap that will continue to attract the attention of promoters outside of the World Series of Fighting. I question his aggressive approach to the game long term, but damn he’s fun to watch.

His first round stoppage of Brian Foster with some brutal kicks was a pleasant way for me to end my Saturday night. I’m looking forward to his next fight and continuing to follow this kid.

Long time UFC Heavyweight Matt Mitrione has inked a deal with Bellator and word is that Matt will also be doing some commentary for Bellator Kick Boxing. Ultimately, the right move for everyone, as I don’t think Matt was trending up in the UFC, and Bellator will provide a platform that will use Matt’s personality to its advantage.

And what up with this kid Otto Warmbier? Tearing down a bunch of DPRK gear in North Korea? I cannot imagine that Otto didn’t have someone warning him from the get go. Do not fuck around in that country. I don’t wish North Korean detention on anyone. But holy shit dude. That’s embarrassing.

As embarrassing for Bellator to announce on the slowest news day possible that both Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice tested positive for illegal substances?

Probably not. We could all guess.

At this point, I think we can safely say that this should put the final dagger in the career of Shamrock, but the Kimbo subject interests me simply because of this.

Was Kimbo Bellator’s top draw, and if he was, what’s a one-year suspension going to do to that organization?

Like it or not, Bellator has made it pretty clear that they are looking to freak us the fuck out with their fights, and losing a freak out commodity like Kimbo could mean a tough year ahead for Viacom/Spike and its investors/management. Freaky.

Outside of the fights, I highly recommend finding a way to view the PBS American Masters documentary on Fats Domino. Fats took boogie woogie/R&B out of the lower 9th and into the greater American landscape. His influence from Rock to Hip Hop is unparalleled. A true American treasure.

Also, try to find a copy of Sonny Chiba in Shogun’s Ninja. You’ll thank me. Straight up 16th century violence with a touch of G-Funk to ease the bloodshed. And mystical daggers!!


Look Ahead:

No rest in the Combat sports world and outside of the UFC, we have much to gaze upon.

The most gifted athletes in college sport compete this weekend in the world toughest tournament and it ain’t about who can throw a ball into a circle. The NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships start and the atmosphere should be electric in Madison Square Garden. As most of America’s focus will be on basketball, fans of combat should be out there promoting the wrestling tournament with little shame.  And you’re reading this….you are a fan of combat. View, digest, and spread the word.

The trials and tribulations of wrestling at a college level bury any commitments made by a college basketball player. Our graduation rates and GPA’s are higher, while we obtain much less in terms of financial assistance. Sure, our gyms may not be packed. But the blood we pour is built on thousands of years on the mat.

That should be noted.

The IBBJF Pan Ams are live and in effect this weekend as well. You can catch all fours days of competition via ppv stream at Good luck to all involved!

Veteran combat broadcaster Mauro Ranallo continues to expand his media dominance, not only finalizing his deal with the WWE, but now on his way back to AXS TV, hosting Inside MMA. Mauro is replacing Kenny Rice and will join the team comprised of Bas Rutton and Ron Kruk. Don’t know why the change was made, but Mauro will most certainly breathe some new energy into that broadcast.

Adding the “Black Beast” Derrick Lewis to the UFC Fight Night card this weekend, via a late replacement should make this card even more enjoyable. Derrick continues to ingratiate himself in the fight game, primarily because he is just so damn honest about what he wants to do and how he’ll do it. He’s a fun follow on twitter and has scary, scary power.

I don’t like his chances here, though. His opponent, Gabriel Gonzaga, although war torn, is crafty and has a slick ground game for a big guy.

I see Gonzaga taking advantage of the Lewis’ lack of grappling and possibly submitting the “Beast” late into the affair.

On the local side, I’ll be attending Pure FC this Saturday night. Former WSOF Champ Rick “THE GLADIATOR” Glenn, takes on Bellator and WEC Veteran Chris Manuel in the main event, and Bellator vet Joey Diehl and RFA vet Jay Pressley fight in our co-main event.

Also, for all my friends in the northeast, do not sleep on the St. Patrick’s Clash at the House of Blues Saturday the 19th. Murphys Boxing will once again exhibit a compelling night of pugilism as Stephen “The Rock” Ormond (20-2 11KOs) against Marcos ‘El Tigre” Jimenez (21-6 14KOs) for the Lightweight IBF Intercontinental Championship. If the local favorite Ormand comes out victorious, he has promising days ahead according to promoter Ken Casey, “This is only the first step for Stephen Ormond in 2016. After he wins the IBF Intercontinental championship we will be working hard to secure him a major world championship fight.”

Enjoy the weekend, my friends!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.