Column: Knees To The Grounded

Oh man, the office was beautiful. Open concept, high ceilings, and an infectious enthusiasm for success permeated the landscape.

I was there, not as an employee, but rather another advertising executive, pitching new ideas and budgets to match. The marketing VP, although willing to hear me out and showing strong signs of conducting business was still very tough to read.

After I ran through my song and dance and outlined a plan for “next steps”, the conversation as it always does progressed to the personal.

I don’t need that “personal” connection, per say. It’s not make or break for me in terms of doing business. And for some clients, they’d rather not have it at all. But more often than not, I go for it and continue to develop the relationship until something strikes. Something I can remember. Something that will help them remember me.

The subject of my family’s forthcoming vacation came up, as I explained how I was going to be packing up my wife and kids and driving 800 miles south.

“So, we do this every year, well for about the past five years.”

“Really. Where do you guys go?”

“A little town called Seaside. Say ‘round 250 miles outside of Alabama. Right on the Gulf Shores.”

“Huh. Gotta be a weird place to fly to. What airports are around there?”

“No airports my friend. We pack up the car National Lampoon’s style and hit the road.”

“Nice.”

For some reason that put a smile on my “hope to be soon” client. He’s a world traveler. Spending weeks in China, Brazil, and every which way in between. I was lucky just to get an hour of his time. Now hoping I didn’t sound like a complete “rube”, compared to his extravagant earth wandering.

I continued. “It’s a great way for all of us to sort of bond. As a family.”

He responded. “Not only that my friend. It’s probably just as important for them to bond with this country. I feel like with all of the airports I find myself in, all the quick ins and outs. Especially when I’m here in America. It’s tough to gauge distance. How big this place really is. You’re teaching your kids distance, Kevin. Those 15 hours in the car will give them an appreciation for this land, how big it really is and the importance of distance.”

I’ve been in love with fighting for as long as I can remember. Started organized and competitive grappling in high school and train BJJ as a rank weekend warrior to this day. My youth also brought me my fair share of backyard brawls and train track fist ‘a’ cuffs.

My teenage years produced a number of outright street fights and multi-partnered rumbles to which today I thank all who’ll listen that I’m still alive, as well as my opponents.

And throughout my time in both legal and illegal combat, an appreciation for distance continues to stick with me.

The proper distance you need to be in order to shoot a successful takedown or score a well-timed jab is razor thin, especially at the highest levels of engagement, which admittedly I have never and will never reach.

But I have utilized my novice at best knowledge of the game to gauge my own behavior outside of fighting and into my relationships with my wife, kids, friends, and business colleagues alike.

The art of knowing where I should be in comparison to my counterpart both physically and mentally when mounting a conversation, approaching an argument, or providing a solution has been crucial in the overall structure of success and failures in life.

I’ve had the right answers, preparation stellar, shown the appropriate amount of empathy and still failed because I did not gauge the distance properly. My feet weren’t planted from the get go. I started too close or didn’t retreat at the appropriate time.

I’m not a master by any stretch. But I am aware.

And my appreciation for distance remains an important tool to this day.

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Look Back: Although fairly quiet in terms of action, by no means did the combat sports world slow down over the Easter break. Injuries are once again the topic of the day as both Daniel Cormier and Tony Ferguson have dropped out of their upcoming fights.

Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones 2 had promised to be a once again classic, headlining a pretty stellar pay per view featuring the likes of Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo as well as Anthony Pettis vs Edson Barbosa. Losing Daniel is a major hit, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not as broken up about this hiccup as others may be. Cormier’s replacement, Ovince Saint Preux, is actually a fairly good replacement and one befitting for a comeback fight post-Jones suspension. With the track record that Jones has put up (out of the cage) over the course of the last 16 months, I like the idea of him having to fight someone before he gets a shot at the belt. Saint Preux, although commanding in power, does not provide that much of a threat to Jones and will at least give the former champ the chance to redeem himself before getting an automatic title shot.

It also sets up a perfect opportunity to perhaps book Jones vs Cormier 2 at UFC 200 or even the inaugural show in NYC.

Of course St. Preux could derail the whole thing by KO’ing Jones, time will tell.

The Tony Ferguson injury presents a much more difficult task though. The upcoming UFC on Fox card is as good as any, but losing the main event of Ferguson vs Nurmagomedov does take some luster away.  It was the classic striker vs grappler clash that was poised to raise as many questions as it answered by fight’s end.

Rumors abound that Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will ride the white horse in to replace Ferguson.  Why not? Cowboy, much the striker like Ferguson presents a smooth transition in terms of balance and expectations. I do wonder why Eddie Alvarez hasn’t been mentioned as a replacement, but that leads me to believe he has earned an unannounced shot at the Light Weight belt this summer.

So, hell. Let’s do Cerrone vs Nurmagomedov and enjoy it.

The World Series of Fighting put on a show last Saturday with three marquee fights that went to decision. All favored combatants won with David Branch retaining the belt at 185, Jon Fitch obtaining the vacant 170 belt, and ADCC Gold Medalist Vinny Magalhaes scoring a victory at 205.

Look Ahead: Combat action starts to ramp up this weekend as the spring thaw sets. UFC Fight Night 86 in Croatia features two marquee Heavyweight match-ups that I have much confidence in gaining some pleasure from.

In a battle of the “super nice guys” of the division, the surging Ben Rothwell will continue to make his case for a title shot as I see him winning a razor sharp decision against the faltering Junior Dos Santos. It will be competitive early, but JDS has seemed so gun shy as of late. He should have a bit more confidence coming up against Big Ben, but as the fight drags on I like Ben to grab a few takedowns, maintain top control, and work to a 29-28 victory.

The Co-Main Event, Derrick Lewis vs Gabriel Gonzaga, will be just as competitive. I love watching Derrick Lewis fight, but he struggles when facing takedowns and grapplers, which is exactly what Gonzaga brings to the mix. I actually like Gonzaga by submission, in the 3rd or possibly late in the 2nd.

Manny Pacquiao promises to bring a victory back to the people of the Philippines in what is being billed as his last fight, a rubber match between him and Timothy Bradley.

Bigotry aside, Pacquiao has been one of boxing’s brightest stars, and if in fact this is his last go at it, we all would be well served to at least pay attention.

I like Pacquiao to win here, obviously by decision.

And finally, but most assuredly close to my heart, the US Olympic Wrestling trials will be held from Iowa City this year and with a full weekend of mat action this is the exact time you should be digging into the sport.

If any of you have followed me over the years, you know that I have consistently slammed USA Wrestling for the inept marketing job they have brought forth in the past…well essentially forever.

Someone must be listening though, as every match will be available live on NBCSN online with recap shows on network both Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Check your local listings, set your DVR’s, and log on.

There’s plenty to watch and quite frankly you’ve worked hard this week. You deserve it.

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