Posts Tagged ‘BJ Penn’

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“May see thee now, though late, Redeem thy name, And glorify what else is damn’d to fame” Richard Savage

By: Jonathan M. King The Clinch Report

Photos By: John Walsh The Clinch Report

Edited By: Bob Fisher Pugilpix

Perspective can bring clarity. Unfortunately there is no time line for understanding. For some it comes early, for others it may never come at all. For Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson, perspective has been quite elusive. As a young fighter Stevenson made his pro debut in 1999 at the tender age of 16, now nearly 50 fights later, that perspective has arrived.

Long after his last fight, Stevenson found himself on the mat at his gym, working with his younger fighters. He told them he wanted them all to define their goals as fighters clearly. He wanted to know what each of his fighters expected of themselves, so he, the coach, could do his best to make those expectations come true. Everything was going according to plan until one of Stevenson’s young proteges, Jamal Pogues, asked, “What about you coach?”

The seemingly innocent question may have been considered a wise-ass response, but instead the question stabbed its way through 17 years of fighting and attacked a soft spot inside of Stevenson that he himself had never addressed! “I thought about his question for quite some time.” Stevenson said, with the answer eluding him at every turn.

As a coach, Stevenson has many young students who count on his experience and knowledge to light the dark passage that is a fight career. During the ‘goal definition’ process, Stevenson realized he himself had never completed the exercise. “I’ve had a lot of great coaches, but I’ve never had someone in my ear outside of the cage” Stevenson said. Although he had many coaches that focused on technique, Stevenson didn’t have a coach to lean on during the difficult times away from the cage.

As young wrestler, Stevenson’s stock skyrocketed with his success. At 16 years old he was already training with the likes of Oleg Taktarov, Bas Rutten, Ted Williams, and Genki Sudo. All of whom, were successful mixed martial artists at the time. For Stevenson, this opportunity was all he had. “Wrestling was the only thing I was ever good at!” Stevenson said. After working with these legends, fighting seemed to be the next logical step. His pro debut came against Joe Camacho (rest in peace) one month before his 17th birthday.

His career was off to a terrific start, and after a successful stint with the King of The Cage, Stevenson moved to Las Vegas to pursue his black belt in jiujitsu. During this time, Stevenson pretty much retired from fighting. Instead he focused on coaching, training and helping others prepare for fights. Things stayed the same until UFC matchmaker Joe Silva came into the gym to watch Stevenson train. After watching, Silva insisted that Stevenson join season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter. Just one year earlier this show launched the sport of mixed martial arts into the main stream. With the epic bout between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar fresh on his mind, Stevenson leapt.

Opportunity once again knocked, and Stevenson was ready to answer, but still he was going through the motions. Once he was isolated inside the TUF house, the demons that haunt so many came knocking. “I was very self conscious about my drinking, thats why if you re-watch the show I always had a red cup!” Stevenson said. “I didn’t want my kids or any kids to see me drinking!” So, he tried to keep the demons hidden, away from view.

Still, Stevenson thrived professionally, winning season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter. Inside the cage, Stevenson was becoming one of the most feared men in the lightweight division. However outside of the cage, and away from the lights, Stevenson’s life was beginning to unravel. Now the centerpiece in the crowd, Stevenson never felt more isolated.

Celebrity can bring with it a loneliness. For Stevenson, he looked for the answer in the bottom of a bottle, or three. “I was a undefeated as a drinker!” Stevenson said. Depending on how you look at the situation, one could certainly agree or disagree depending on what you consider defeated. “The day after the Ultimate Fighter Finale, the day after the biggest night of my life, I was given my first DUI.” Stevenson said. Apparently the alcohol from the celebration had not found its way out his body, and on his way back home, the TUF season 2 winner found himself in hand cuffs.

As a fighter, Stevenson could always rely on his god given talent. So the dance with demons continued between fights, and even sometimes during the fights. At the age 20 Stevenson’s marriage fell apart. And Stevenson responded by healing the only way he knew how, in the gym by day and the bar by night.

Still, inside the UFC cage the wins kept coming! After a self imposed hiatus from drinking, Stevenson went on a tear, winning four fights in a row, earning him a shot at the vacant lightweight title against the future legend B.J. Penn. A fight that still evokes a very deep emotion from Stevenson. “B.J. and I were actually friends.” Stevenson said. “I can remember hanging out with him in a bar one night, and he came over and said ‘You now one day we are gonna fight bro, good knows good!'”, and although that meeting ended in celebration, their next meeting was not so easy.

Penn won their fight decisively in what would be remembered as one of the bloodiest fights in UFC history. “I remember seeing my blood shoot out of my head in a stream that was about five feet long”, Stevenson said. According to a ringside doctor the gash on his head caused him to lose over 500 ccs of blood. You would think a loss like that would be devastating, and to some extent it was, but after all, Stevenson had never planned on even getting there. Up until this point, one of the best fighters in the world still didn’t have a single defined goal. Instead the loss was handled much the way the wins were, with a few pills chased by alcohol.

After that fight, Stevenson returned with an impressive win over Gleison Tibau, but then alternated 2 wins with 2 losses. One of the wins was an impressive domination of current lightweight contender Nate Diaz. Up until this point, Stevenson was always able to maintain two lifestyles. at first he was a fighter who liked to party, but soon he became a partier who moonlit as a fighter. Soon the perennial fight of the night contender now found himself in rather boring fights. An uninspiring decision loss to George Sotiropoulos was followed by 3 more losses, including a KO loss to Mac Danzig, which was the only time Stevenson had ever been knocked out in his career. After his loss to Javier Vasquez, Stevenson was released from the UFC.

Although devastating, the loss was quickly washed away, and soon the mediocrity of everyday life became the daily reminder to what he had pissed away. Stevenson began to realize he had not only lost his job, but he was beginning to loose himself as well. Nearing bottom Stevenson began to look for answers. He found some of those answers in familiar faces that were now anonymous. It was in these meetings that, Stevenson began to discover himself. He found both comfort and solace listening and sharing. He reveled in being an example.

In the gym, Stevenson was quickly becoming known as one of the best young coaches in the sport. His pedigree and wrestling base made him a fountain of knowledge that even the most seasoned of fighters could drink. Rapidly his young stable of fighters began to start making names for themselves. And Stevenson himself was also starting to evolve professionally.

After working on the show ‘Breaking Bad’, Stevenson began his love affair with Hollywood. Soon after he received a phone call from coach Greg Jackson that would change his direction. Jackson had been contacted by the powers that be in Hollywood, who were looking for a fight choreographer for a new show that showcased the world of mixed martial arts.

The show created by Byron Belasco starred Frank Grillo, Nick Jonas, Jonathan Tucker, Matt Lauria, Mac Brandt, Paul Hauser, Natalie Martinez and Nikki Going as a dysfunctional fight family native to the Venice Beach area. One of the main problems with shooting a show about MMA, is making it look real. In the past, the sport has not been kind to the translations of MMA incarnations on film, which weighed heavy on Belasco. So they brought in Stevenson to sculpt the cast into fighters, and to add certain level of authenticity that would resonate heavily with mixed martial arts fanatics.

Taking his time, and working from the bottom. Stevenson began to shape these actors. “I only know how to train fighters,” Stevenson said. ” I don’t know how to pretend to fight”. So these actors pretty much went to bootcamp. Their bodies changed, their diets changed, and even their outlook on the sport changed. The show ‘Kingdom’ debuted to raucous reviews, and quickly became a hit. Not only were television audiences impressed, but the MMA community specifically was considerably thrilled. A testament to the actors, and the choreography of Stevenson.

Busy on many fronts, Stevenson found himself torn between coaching and working in Hollywood, living somewhere in the nexus between an old itch returned. Constantly being involved a long forgotten flame began to burn again, and soon ‘The Daddy’ was ready again, to take to cage. Returning to the action for the first time in 3 years, Stevenson took on very tough prospect Dominique Robinson. The fight ended up not going Stevenson’s way (he lost a 5 rd split decision) but his performance was hindered by poor preparation and by an infection that had him on antibiotics the day of the fight. He simply forgotten how much preparation was necessary, and Robinson was more than willing to remind him. Even still the fight could have gone either way.

The loss bothered Stevenson, but his performance is what left a particular bad taste. “I didn’t prepare for the fight properly.” Stevenson said. “Even though mentally I was in the right place, physically I didn’t take enough time to prepare. When you are out of action for 3 years you can’t just jump into a camp and get ready, and I thought I could.” Stevenson said.

For the next few months, Stevenson went back to the usual grind. Alternating between cornering fighters, coaching, and working on set, while maintaining his role as the father of four young boys. However this time he kept his weight down, returned to training, and for the first time in his life Joe Stevenson was doing everything the right way, but he didn’t know where he was heading.

Then came the answer in the form of a question. “What about you coach? What are your goals?”

“I went home after Jamal asked me about my goals, and thought about it.” Stevenson had often looked for answers, and often found them from within, but this time he was at a loss. Was his purpose now to coach, or was his goal now to grow as a coordinator in film industry? The answer once again came back to fighting.

“50 wins” Stevenson said. “My goal is to win 50 fights, then I can move on.” Currently Stevenson would need another 17 victories to accomplish that task (Some websites differ with regard to record). At 34 years old he is still young enough to compete at a very high level, and his pedigree will always translate to the sport. But why would he want too?

The goal although defined, remains obscured by certain mitigating factors. Truth, fear, the past, and even the demons themselves are all part of the motivation. For a fighter of Stevenson’s caliber his last performances can’t be easy to live with, especially since now he thinks he could today, out perform his younger self. ” I’d instigate the 25 year old version of me into a brawl, before I double legged him and pounded him out!” Stevenson confidently claimed. Perhaps that is who he will be facing the rest of the way.

For Stevenson, the goal may have been defined. The 50 win plateau may hopefully end up being the destination. The end may justify his goals, and what Stevenson finds on the road to redemption remains to be seen. However it appears in coming full circle as a person, Joe Stevenson has finally arrived as a fighter.

 

Notes: Joe Stevenson returns to action July 30 in his hometown of Victorville CA, fighting under the California Fight League promotion. Click the link for ticket information. Joe Stevenson is also set to fight in August under the Tru-Form Entertainment Promotion, it what could be one of the best SoCal fight cards of the year! For information on where to watch the hit television show Kingdom (click the link).

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Bellator 131-33

I wonder how long it will take Tito to sign the lawsuit!

 

By: Jonathan M King The Clinch Report

This week three fighters Jon Fitch, Nate Quarry, and Cung Le announced their filing of a lawsuit claiming violations of the Sherman Anti Trust Act, against their former employers The UFC. The lawsuit had been a poorly kept secret for last two years, with most industry insiders hearing tell about the suit over 2 years ago.

Basically the three fighters claim that the UFC uses its industry clout to crush competition, which history cannot deny. The UFC has bought out all of their major competitors including Pride, Elite XC, Affliction, Strikeforce, and the WEC which the UFC merged with creating the lower weight class structure.  Since then The World Series of Fighting and Bellator MMA have emerged, but neither have attained anywhere near what could be considered ‘competitor’ status. They even use Whites own social media postings as evidence to efforts to “kill” his competition.

Where there is smoke?:

With the Reebok uniform deal now in place it appears the UFC is trying to control all of the income generated by their fights. Fighters will no longer be able to pick and choose sponsors, and will be paid on a scale based on the fighters position in the rankings. The move according to Dana White will result in the UFC “Not making a dime of the deal!”. Which I find to be completely bullshit! If the deal is not resulting in profit, than why were the financial terms not disclosed? One reason is so White could say just that! The statement is a hapless attempt at trying to appear to be on the side of fighter advocacy. The idea was to make this deal look like it was done FOR the fighters benefit, which may be a side effect, but it definitely was not the reason!

Another source of the smoke, are the personal vendettas that were used to form policy that affected the fighters ability to earn. Fighters carry sponsorship on contract. Some of these sponsors have found themselves on the wrong side of the UFC’s wrath for sponsoring fighters who fight outside of the world leader. Companies like RVCA, Affliction, and many others have been banned at times, removing their fighters opportunity to earn. When Apparel company RVCA sponsored the one fighter the UFC couldn’t sing Fedor Emeliananko, they were banned from the UFC. Essentially removing several fighters primary sponsor, including a guy who built the UFC BJ Penn! A petulant move by a company that has essentially become an industry!

The UFC is the greatest fight organization on the planet. Dana White and the Ferttita brothers took a failing competition and built upon the foundation an empire that is at the head of a billion dollar global sport. They are the impetus, the Alpha and the Omega. They are great men, who have exceeded every expectation to date. They donate millions of dollars, consistently provide for our troops, and always give back to the cities that host their events. They do a ton of good things. You may not like Dana White, but there is no denying he is the best promoter on the planet. I don’t want this to be perceived as a “bash the UFC” piece because that is not the intention.

They also pay the fighters more than any other organization. UFC fighters are treated better than any other organization. However that is still not enough. When the uniform policy was announced, the UFC brass likened the move to the NFL and NBA, stating those players had a dress code, and couldn’t wear sponsors. This of course is true. It is also true that both NBA and NFL players have pensions, and healthcare, and a union that is consistently looking out for the players best interests! Yet UFC fighters are without both. Lets keep making comparisons to NFL and NBA players don’t just stop where your point looses steam!

NBA and NFL players are also guaranteed money and the bonus structure is defined in writing. If a player under contract is cut, he still gets paid! Players are also paid for their likenesses in video games. In fact the game Madden NFL has to come to agreements with the NFL and the NFLPA (players association) in order to use player likenesses. That means all players benefit, because the players union distributes that money. So I think the UFC brass should continue their line of thinking, by all means, just follow the logic. If they did, they would see the fighters point of view.

Major Problem with the lawsuit:

“When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command.  Very often, that person is crazy.”  ~Dave Barry

The three fighters involved with the suit all have baggage. Nate Quarry has always been a staunch critic of the UFC’s business practices, and is considered somewhat of a curmudgeon by other fighters. Cung Le just failed a well documented PED test, and although he has since been exonerated on a technicality, he is being looked at as a guy who is just pissed off at the UFC for the way they treated him following his failed test. Jon Fitch is the lone gunmen who could garner some support. Fitch was at one time the captain of Team AKA which features some of the most notable fighters in the UFC. He is well respected fighter but he is a quiet guy, and has never been the type to make a lot of noise. Unfortunately for these three that is what they need. They need a mouth like Quarry, with the respect of Fitch. I am not trying to bash these guys, I agree with their points, I just wonder if they were the best choice. Maybe they are, but I do not think I am off base looking into their past as reason for their motivations. Just playing devils advocate.

Of course the suit is geared to gain more names, however with so many staying silent. It may take a while. Most fighters and managers are keeping quiet publicly, although they are all inquiring privately. Essentially that is the problem and the major hurdle. Everyone is scared to anger the big bad UFC. After all, the ban hammer falls equally on sponsors and fighters the like, managers too! Like the Dave Barry quote states, the guy who stands up to take charge is very often crazy, but does that extinguish the need? No it doesn’t, it just extinguishes the fire, making the smoke that much more difficult too see!

Hopefully this suit solidifies the fighter base. That would be the best result. If the fighters emerge with one voice, looking out for their interests than this suit will serve the industry. In the end a fighter union is what is needed. One that represents fighter advocacy as their primary function. However, they must be careful not to fall in the same pit that most MMA manager find themselves currently in! Represent our fighters interests, or anger the big bad UFC? Unfortunately for the fighters fortune favors the bold, and most MMA managers are the exact opposite!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewed By: Jonathan M King The Clinch Report

Video shot and edited by Bob Fisher from www.Pugilpix.com

Mark Coleman is a UFC Hall of Famer, a pioneer in the sport, and an innovator of one of the most dominate techniques in mixed martial arts. ‘The Godfather of Ground and Pound’ Coleman transitioned to the burgeoning sport of mixed martial arts after a collegiate wrestling career that saw him win a National Championship, that lead to an appearance as an Olympian during the 1992 games.

Coleman began his career with two UFC tournament wins, and punctuated that run with winning the inaugural UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 12 when he defeated Dan Severn via neck crank in the very first round. ‘The Hammer’ as he became known went on to win The Pride FC Grand Prix Tournament defeating 3 fighters (Igor Vovchanchyn, Kazuyuki Fujita, and Akira Shiji) in one night.

While his career flourished Coleman also began training other fighters under his Hammer House banner. One of those fighters Phil Baroni was the reason Coleman was in town. Baroni and Coleman have been friends for over 15 years now, and was corner Baroni for the event.

Although now retired as a fighter, Coleman continues to carve a name for himself in this sport, but now as a coach.He was featured this season on The Ultimate Fighter, as BJ Penn’s wrestling coach. The contestants really took to his teaching, and who better to learn from than ‘The Hammer’. The man has fought all over the world, won championships on two continents, competed at the 1992 Olympics, and is recognized in the UFC Hall of fame.

For fans of the sport who remember the beginning, Mark Coleman is a legend, MMA Royalty. For newer fans that are not in the ‘know’. Watch his brutal landscapes on Fight Pass or Youtube if you can, it will most certainly be worth your time.

You can find Mark Coleman via Social Media on twitter at HammerHouseMMA

Photo: Courtesy of Bob Fisher www.pugilpix.com

Photo: Courtesy of Bob Fisher http://www.pugilpix.com

By: Jonathan M King The Clinch Report

When the itch returned long after the scars faded, BJ Penn certainly felt confident. When the fight was announced and the The Ultimate Fighter began filming, he looked to be in great shape.

Were we seeing a rededicated BJ Penn? A champion reincarnated, back to rebuff his already stellar reputation. Could the legend rise again?

Before the show aired many wondered allowed, “Could he even make 145 lbs?” Then when the show did air we saw a very slim and apparently rededicated Penn. His training looked to be on point, his diet was under control (thanks to Mike Dolce) and he looked better than ever. For a guy who had a hard time making weight at 170 and 155lbs, Penn seemed to ready for Frankie Edgar.

Then the door closed. After the first salvo of strikes were fired it became apparent that the itch should have remained unscratched. Penn never looked comfortable and appeared like he wanted to be anywhere but in that cage. The instincts he relied on in the past betrayed him. All Penn could do was minimize the beating by relying on defensive tactics. He simply stopped throwing punches.

Frankie Edgar punctuated their 3 fight history with the finish he so yearned for. Edgar dominated the first 2 rounds, with his superior movement and power takedowns. Penn was never able to mount any offense from his back, and eventually in the 3rd round, after busting him up with elbows and punches, Herb Dean called a stop to the action.

Still, the legend rose. Refusing to stay down, a battered Penn popped back to his feet as soon as the fight was stopped. Not in protest, but because he is a true champion, and true champions are never down long.

Many will question the gameplan. Why was he standing so erect? Why wasn’t he able to step on the gas? The answer is Frankie Edgar. Its not just his clever nickname, its also the reason Penn lost. Penn maybe the legend, but its obvious he is no longer a world class fighter. Frankie Edgar, however showed the level differential between good and great. The win will certainly cement Edgar’s future title hopes, as he continues to chase the 145 lbs crown.

BJ Penn, however remained true to his prefight word and informally retired from the sport for the second time. The one sided beatings that ended Penn’s storied career (Diaz, MacDonald, and Edgar respectively) will fade from our memories. The bad performances will be excused, and instead we will remember one of the toughest fighters who has ever competed. BJ Penn fought in 5 divisions (145-205lbs) and wore two divisional belts (170lbs 155lbs). He is a lock for the UFC hall of fame, and although no longer known as Baby J he will always be known as the Prodigy.

Hopefully other fighters approaching that stage of their careers were watching. The itch will never go away being a fighter is mentality, not an occupation. Soon the fight is no longer in a cage, but with yourself to stay out of one.

After the Nick Diaz fiasco that saw him missing consecutive press events promoting his championship fight, Carlos Condit was moved into Diaz’s slot to fight for the title. Diaz, was left to fight BJ Penn, his punishment for not doing what he was told. Then something horrible happened to Carlos Condit. Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre hurt his knee, and withdrew from the fight. The situation worsened, when Nick Diaz completely destroyed BJ Penn, forcing the Hawaiian prodigy, to consider hanging up the gloves for good. Immediately following the decision Diaz, pacing frantically began looking for the cameras, to let the fans know who he wanted nest. “Where you at George?”

Once the post fight interview with Joe Rogan began, there was only one thing on Diaz’s mind. “I don’t think Georges is hurt,I think he’s scared. I think he’s scared to fight everyone right now.” This apparently caused the normal easy going champion to “flip out” according to Dana White. Leaving White with this statement: “Nick Diaz is the most disrespectful human being I have ever met and I am going to put the worst beating you’ve seen on him in the UFC.”

Once Diaz issued that challenger, Condit’s title shot disappeared! So, now who does Carlos Condit fight.

Probably: Jake Ellenberger

Ellenberger is waiting in the wings since knocking Jake Shields out cold. Instantly Ellenberger became a contender for the title. This is a tough situation for Condit, because his title shot guarantee, is only if he wins his next fight, which a fight with Ellenberger would offer no guarantee for victory.

Other candidates for Condit: Anthony Johnson, Rick Story, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields. All of these fighters would be consider top level opponents for Condit. A win over any of these names would secure his #1 contender spot, any one else would secure the “pretender” status!