Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bellator world title

Haven’t written anything on this fight, guess I just been too busy focusing on training and getting to where I need to be. So many things have been different for this one, and yet so many things the same. On the surface it didn’t seem like I had made all that many adjustments. I still basically went through the same training, diet, etc. yet I’ve never felt better, stronger or faster. This is also the first time that I haven’t had to cut any weight, as in zero, other than the countless times I fought people above my weight class, obviously. I’ve been trying to pin point exactly what it is, particularly since everyone has been asking me what I’ve been doing differently. “Honestly I don’t really know”. I really had to sit down and think about it. I feel, more than anything, that it has to do with just being a lot smarter, really listening to my body and mind, as well as being consistent for a longer period of time. Usually I would just push through regardless of how I felt but this time, if I felt like I needed to rest, I’d rest. If I felt like I needed some more calories or a different type of food, I’d eat. I found that because of this I’d be able to push that much harder when it was time to and more than anything, my body and mind were a lot healthier and functioning better. I’ve pretty much been on weight for the past 2-3 weeks. I kept thinking that my scales were broken or maybe I was just looking at them wrong. I certainly don’t feel small or all that leaned out. Ironically, I actually felt bigger and stronger than ever. I’ve been regularly weighing myself on three different scales just to be sure. It took me almost 15 years but guess I finally got it right. Better late than never I suppose, especially at this stage in my career.

I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about this fight, well about fighting this guy. It’s tough for me, after having spent the majority of my career being the underdog going up against guys, who on paper, I really had no business being in the ring with, to now being on the flip side of that. I never underestimate anyone and actually push myself that much harder for guys like this, but still, you can’t just pretend. Sure, anyone can get caught with anything, but that’s always the case. It’s one thing to stay sharp and ready when you are going in there against someone who you know and have seen them first hand just annihilate other fighters, even at the highest level. Now you are going in there against someone who looks extremely amateurish. No matter what you tell yourself about this guy it’s tough to lie to your brain about what you are actually seeing. There’s just something about when you don’t even have a choice. Although, like everything else, this is just another piece of the puzzle and as long as it’s used correctly will only add to my game.

The weigh ins didn’t make me feel much better about any of this. He looked like a scared little kid to me who was really overcompensating by trying to act tough. Guess we’ll see tomorrow. Fortunatley, this isn’t my first time in this situation. I’m the type of person that tends to fight to my opponents ability, which is a great thing when they are at a higher level. It’s as if when I don’t feel danger I can’t stay sharp. I could only compare it to the difference between some huge animal trying to rip your head off vs a little child. Sure, the kid could poke you in the eye or maybe they have a weapon, but your natural survival instincts aren’t going to kick in the same as they would against someone who you know is going to kill you unless you fight of your life. I look at this as a weakness in myself that I need to fix. We can’t always dictate who we are going to fight or what the circumstances are, and as always anything can happen. What we can do, however, is control how we react in these situations. Take painting for example. Maybe you don’t have the best subject in front of you, maybe the lighting is bad, maybe your paint is all dried up and you now have to use crayons. It’s easy for us to look at our circumstances and say, “Well, if I had the right ‘fill in the blank’ then I’d be able to do this.” What separates the greats from everyone else is their ability to perform regardless of the situation.

I know that I’ve killed myself in preparation for this and am ready anything and everything. As always, I plan on going in there and putting on a show. Regardless of whether or not this is the worst, or best, fighter ever I can still work my game and make it an exciting fight.

It’s so great having Johnny (Reilly) and Benny (Buttons) here, who flew in on Thursday, as well as so many of my family and friends. I never want to let them, or anyone else, down. I’ve worked so hard, killed myself day in a day out, over the past 15 years and given up so much. There’s no way in hell I’m going to let this little kid get in the way of that. Time to go to work…

Well everything went pretty smoothly. I drove up to San Jose on Thursday and checked into our hotel, which was beautiful and just a few minutes drive from the venue, and right on the corner from the Marriot (where the weigh ins, and everything else, would be). I gave Johnny and Benny my room that Bellator had for me there since I wouldn’t be using it. I was feeling great, had a big breakfast before coming up here and I was still only 147. Gina was driving up separately because she had the fan dinner with Fedor and Chandler later on in the evening. I had to go over to the hotel to do a photoshoot as well as sign a bunch of things for the fight. I got to do some pics with the belt, which was so beautiful, I didn’t want to let it go. Two more days and it will be mine, guess I can wait. Knocked the photos out real quick, which was a much better experience considering I wasn’t cutting any weight. After that I had to sign about ten million posters and a few pairs of gloves for Bellator. I have no idea what they do with all of these. Fortunately, I noticed that Raymond Daniels signed them with just his initials, which was the best idea ever and saved me about two hours haha. Last time I was signing them all with my full name and by the end it was just a squiggly line. Got to check my weight on the official scale, which was almost the exact same weight as the one I brought so that made things easier. Was still at 147. Met up with Johnny and Benny after that. It was so great seeing them. Hadn’t seen Johnny since I went over to Amsterdam to shoot the film we did earlier last year, which you can check out here, and it was my first time meeting Benny. We walked over to my hotel and hung out for a bit. Took a few photos and just caught up talking for a while. Gina finally showed up and they all got to meet, which was really great. They hit it off, as I knew they would. Gina and Johnny just started laughing when they saw each other. It was if they’d known each other for years. We all got to talking and the hours just ticked by. Gina actually ended up running late to the dinner, as we’d lost track of time. They ended up calling to find out where she was so she finally had to run. Said goodbye to her, as well as Johnny and Benny, and then I stretched out for a while. It was a strange feeling because normally I’d be cutting weight at that point, even if it was just a little, so my body and mind would be feeling a lot differently. It was as if I needed to keep reminding myself that I’m fighting in two days. Strange! I took an Epsom bath after that. It was more to make my body feel better and help relax me so I could sleep than anything else. I ended up weighing 143 when I got out, which was a nice, unexpected gift, so I got to have some dinner and even a few of the protein pancakes I had made this morning and brought with me. Yum! Gina came back later with Artem (Sharoshkin) and Hans (Molenkamp), who were at the dinner as well. We all hung out talking for a while. It was really great getting to hang with them all for a bit. I was feeling so relaxed but there’s always a question of whether or not I’m too relaxed.

Got a great night sleep. Woke up at 7:30am and checked my weight, just in case. 144.2 (my fight is at 145). Now, as much as I knew that my scale was the same as the official one and I should be under, you just never know. I had a sip of Pedialyte and just left it at that. I lay back down for a bit then we got up at 8:30 and walked over to the Marriot. Johnny and Benny met us in the lobby and we all went up to the 3rd floor, which is where everything had been yesterday. Gaston, who was already there waiting, looking pretty sucked up, as were a few others. Jorina Baars came over, said hi and got a picture with Gina, who she seemed super excited to meet. I told Gaston that I got to have protein pancakes with sun butter for dinner. “Son of a!!!”  Hahahaha, I started cracking up. They were going to weigh us in according to when we showed up, which looked like I was around 8th in line or so. Right at 9am they started calling us over to the next room one at a time. They had the scale set up in front of this big Bellator banner and a few commission people sitting at a table in front of that. Finally, it was my turn, 144.3, easy! Walked over to finish up some paper work and got my wrist band. It dawned on me that this was the first time I didn’t immediately start rehydrating the second I got off the scale. This was great! I planned on going back to the room to rest, get fluids in me and then get something to eat later on. We said our goodbyes to everyone and started walking, ran into a few fans wanting pics with Gina and I. Talked to them a bit and then started walking to our hotel. Gina was hungry and hadn’t had any breakfast yet so I said we could just go get some food now, get it to go and then I’d probably eat mine later on. We walked around the corner to this crepe place and she ordered about 4 meals, just in case haha. We ran into Paul Daley’s coach as well as a few other fighters. Seemed like this was the spot to be at. I couldn’t wait to get back in bed. Finally, the food came out, said bye to everyone and we walked back to our hotel. It all looked so good that I just decided to eat then. Made a plate with a little bit of everything, as well as a few more protein pancakes. So good!

The ‘show’ weigh ins weren’t until 4 so we had a few hours to relax. I passed out for a bit and then just rested in bed for a few hours. Got up around 3ish and drove over to the SAP Center, where the weigh ins as well as the fight would be, with Johnny and Benny. Gina and my mom were going to meet us there.

One of the best parts about having the two weigh ins is that they wait till the second one to do all the mindless BS like the rules meeting. Usually they would do this while we are all dehydrated and dying waiting to get on the scale. I get so annoyed at these things, even when I’m not cutting weight. They talk down to us as if we are a bunch of kindergartners that have never done this before. It’s what happens when you give some people a little bit of power. Surprised none of them have ever been beaten down, although Joe (Schilling) did get pretty close on the U.S.A. vs Thailand card. On that one the commission people showed up 2 hours late, which tends to be the norm, and the entire process, from when we had to be there to when they finally let us weigh in, took over 5 hours. I don’t think they realize that they are dealing not only with fighters but fighters that are basically temporarily insane. Maybe now is not the best time to mess with them. I’m so glad that they are finally making some changes, for everyone’s sake.

Watching the commissioner basically try and mimic the legal and illegal moves is one of the funniest things to witness. You can really tell that he’s never fought in his entire life, which you’d think would be a requirement. Gaston was there looking much better than he had been in the morning. The whole thing went relatively quickly. I spent most of the time hanging out and catching up with everyone that I hadn’t seen in forever. Finally, they had us all line up and get ready to get on the scales. We waited behind the curtain as they called us out. I finally got to see my opponent, who seemed to really be overcompensating his fear by acting tough, which I found pretty humorous. I wanted to tell him, “Just relax man, we ain’t fighting till tomorrow. Trying to act hard right now isn’t going to change anything.” They ended up putting us at the back of the line. Guess we’re the main event now. Kirian told me that they probably realized how dumb it was not having us as the main considering that this was basically my hometown. “Are they gona make a new poster then?”, I jokingly asked. They called my opponent out and then me. We were allowed to keep our pants on and just go out shirtless, which was a  nice change. They had us face off after we both got off the scale. Finally got to look him in the eyes. I could tell he was afraid but that also probably meant he knew he was going to have to have the fight of his life. I’m ready for anything! Afterwards we waited for Gaston to weigh in, as they had done the kickboxing fighters first then MMA even though we are actually fighting after them, then Gina drove Johnny, Benny, my mom and I over to where I had parked. I took Benny and Johnny with me back to hotel. We hung out for a bit and then my sister came up with her kids up, they’d all flown in earlier. I told them we could all hang for an hour but then I had to kick everyone out so I could eat and have some peace in order to get my mind right. It was really great seeing everyone and getting to spend time them all but it was a lot having all that energy bouncing off the walls. Finally, I kicked everyone out. I had ordered some sushi, salad and sweet potatoe fries from the restaurant downstairs right before they had left. Gina’s cousin and her boyfriend, as well as Jason and Christy (her sister and brother in law), who were staying in the same hotel, came up to say hello real quick. After that Gina went with all of them to have dinner. I just sat in bed with my giant plate of food and relaxed. Rested. I had originally asked Gina to bring me back something from where they were having dinner but she didn’t get back till really late and I was stuffed anyway. You always have this urgency in your mind that you need to get back in as many calories as you can, regardless of how much weight you cut, or didn’t. It’s tough because normally you’d go off of whether or not you are hungry but now you know you’ve been limiting yourself so much that you’re trying to replenish. It’s a tough balancing act. You don’t want to force a bunch of food down that your body isn’t used to and is going to have to expend extra energy to digest.  My brother, his girlfriend and their son all had been driving down from Oregon. They were about half way when his car started acting up. They didn’t want to risk it breaking down in the middle of nowhere so ended up turning back around and going home. They were all really bummed about it, as was I. I was just glad that they were all safe and told him not to worry. It’s tough though since I hardly ever fight in the states, particularly this close to them.

I ended up getting a really good nights sleep and was feeling great. Tried to sleep in as much as possible because I knew I wouldn’t be fighting till after 10pm but still woke up around 9. Leading up to this, well just this past week, I had been adjusting my training so that I’d get used to going on late, although I really don’t think it’s going to make any difference. It’s not as if there’s a point in the day when I feel all that much better compared to any other time. When it’s time to work I work, that’s it. I once had to fight at 2am in Mexico, good times!

I just ordered a big breakfast and went back to bed. Johnny came up with Benny around 4 and ran me through a real nice stretching session. Felt a lot better after that. We watched Gaston’s fight, which was streaming on the internet. He got choked out and put to sleep but had shown a lot of heart. It was really tough to watch. I got pretty emotional, as did Gina. I wasn’t sure what to get for lunch, didn’t really want sushi again. I had originally wanted some chicken with a bit of pasta on the side but I couldn’t find anywhere that looked good or had all the things I wanted. Ended up just ordering a wedge salad from room service and this chicken teriyaki bowl. I had asked them to put the sauce on the side but it was drenched and then they had extra sauce on the side. It looked so greasy and nasty, had a few bites but was worried about it upsetting my stomach. Not even worth it! I wasn’t even all that hungry anyway but I knew that I wouldn’t be fighting till late so didn’t want to risk being hungry. Ate most of the salad and then I brought a protein bar and some pancakes with me just case.

I needed to be at the venue by 7, even though the kickboxing portion didn’t even start till 9. Gina was downstairs still hanging with her family and Benny and Johnny. We had all planned on driving together but time was ticking by and I still hadn’t heard back from her. I was trying to figure out if I should drive myself or just uber. Finally she got back to me and told me to meet them at the valet at 7. Got all my stuff together and headed down. I’d packed my nice suit for the press conference, which would be after the fight, which I’m sure would be around midnight ha. We all crammed into Gina’s car and were finally on our way. When we got there the place was packed and we couldn’t find any parking. Eventually she dropped us off near the entrance and went to find a spot. Joe (Schilling) had sent me this amazing motivational video and I was literally standing there watching it, speechless with tears coming down my cheeks. It was powerful! Gina rolls up and we walk down. She could see how emotional I was, which gets her emotional which in turn makes me that much more emotional ha. It’s a viscious cycle! We make our way down to the back gate, inside through the back of the arena and find my changing room, which we were sharing with Jorina, Ghaji, Jose, Joe and a few others. Dropped all my stuff off and hit the bathroom. My stomach had been bubbling a bit but nowhere near as bad as usual. Chaz was there all dressed up in a suit, didn’t even recognize him. The commission came by and asked if I was ready to do my drug test. I had just gone to the bathroom so told them I’d wait, as I pounded water. I always get so worried that I won’t fill it up so never want to risk it till I know I have to go. When I had  my rematch with KangEn, back in like 2009, I got tested after the fight and didn’t end up filling it up enough and then had to wait for a few hours till I had drank enough water to go to the bathroom again. It was horrible, we didn’t get out of there till after midnight. Never want that to happen again.

They took me into the back room where the bathroom was. I ran into Gina, who was in the room next to it doing an interview with that British guy I had done one with yesterday. I had planned on just saying hi really quick so she could finish up but he ended up interviewing us both. We both ended up getting pretty everwhelmed with emotion. Her dad was back there as well. Was good to see him. He seemed nervous for me. The guy giving me the test was all over the place. Seemed as if he’d never done it before. Tried to get an idea of when I’d be fighting. Seemed around 10:30. Stretched out, was feeling loose. Jose was first, Jorina, Joe, Ghaji then me. Finally at 9 the televised card starts, they apparently had a ton of trouble getting the ring up so Jorina was actually out there waiting for quite a while. She won, Jose lost, Joe smashed his guy out and then Raymond Daniels split Ghaji in the first minute and they stopped it. I was feeling great. Had a really perfect warm up with Kirian. Felt super sharp, fast and knew what I needed to do. Chaz moved around with me a bit. He had a few drinks in him so a few times he got a little too excited. Definitley no nerves. Did my best to amp myself up but it was tough. There was so much riding on this and it really was a lose, lose situation for me. Kept my hoodie on so I’d stay warm. They finally came and got us and Kirian, Chaz, Jongsanan and myself walked through the back to the waiting area. Chaz had tied my cup and arm bands and I was wearing my signature walk out shirt and rosary, had my triumph sweatshirt over that but finally took it off. Took a moment to myself against the back wall then that old familiar smile came over me. Couldn’t wait. They tell me it’s time, had to say my goodbyes to everyone for a moment as they would meet me at the ring. Got pretty emotional then walked up to the holding spot. My music start, Die Antwoord ‘Enter the ninja’ and the crowd goes crazy as I walk out. Made my way down the walk ramp, there was great energy in the air and I was feeling really good, calm. Tried to just stay focused at the task at hand yet still enjoy the moment. Got to the edge of the rind, kneeled down by the stairs and said a final prayer. Hoped the ropes, bowed to everyone and Kirian and Chaz got my banner up in the corner. I did notice how small the ring was. They announced Domenico first. He still had that same look on his face that he’d had yesterday accept now the anger was gone and he just looked nervous, however ready. They announced me, I made a circle acknowledging the crowd and went back to the corner. They took the banner down, shirt off, gave me my mouth piece and the ref brought us together. Tapped him on the gloves, went back to corner, everyone gave me their last advice, take your time, feel him out, etc. Said one final prayer. Ding ding.

-the ref had a meeting with me in the back final rules, wasn’t too excited that he’d be my ref but whatever. Realized they were gona let the clinch go a lot, probably shoulda focused on that more. Ah well.

-Didn’t feel good in there, wasn’t fun, defintley felt like work, lose lose situation. He was super awkward, hard to get in a rhythm, kneed me in the balls so hard, didn’t wana take time cause was only getting worse. Won split decision, which was crazy thinking one judge had him winning, gota see it to get my opinion, although it was competitive I didn’t’ feel that it was close in any way. Was worried Gina wasn’t going to be happy as I could hear her yelling at me the whole fight, could pick her voice out over anyone. She was so happy and hugged me as I got out the ring. I was worried that it was a crappy fight but the fans seemed excited. I did feel accomplished and knew I’d put myself in the best position possible, was just tough having to have business take the front seat to passion but it was what needed to be done.

Looking back I realize that I don’t even feel like I fought. I think it was because this was more of a work/business fight than anything else. I just wasn’t having fun in there, didn’t let go and wasn’t free. I had to be too safe cuz there was so much on the line. Every fight has pressure and every fight I go in there to give it my all. This one had so many levels of things. I sure as hell couldn’t lose to this guy, particularly at this stage in my career. If I would have lost who the hell knows what would have happened. This was the first time I’ve fought in front of all my friends and family, at least in that amount, in forever. Fighting for the first ever feather weight world title, fighting at home for the first time in almost 10 years, fighting a young and hungry inexperienced guy. Not to mention having Johnny, Benny and Jeff out here filming the whole thing for projects we’re working on…holy hell. It’s a good thing I didn’t have all these things going through my head prior to this fight. I always put more pressure on myself than any of that could anyway but still, I definitely didn’t think of all the different levels this was on. I was talking to Joe afterwards about this and he gave me a good perspective. He said regardless of what you think about your opponent you have spent the last 15 years getting yourself into this position. You’ve done the work and earned it. You dictate what that title means. Not the person standing across from you. That made me feel a lot better about the whole thing. Ironically it was the exact same speech that I had given KY when he was fighting Mark Holst for his title shot. The fight and everything else really went as good as it could have. If I would have just walked right through him that definitely wouldn’t have looked good in a lot of ways. The fact that it was competitive really was the best for everyone.

On to the next one!

-The end