Posts Tagged ‘The Ultimate Fighter’

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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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By Jonathan King The Clinch Report

Video By: Bob Fisher and Alex Linares

Manny Gamburyan burst on the scene as a contestant on the ultimate fighter early in the genesis of that reality incarnation. At first he was known for his grappling, being the cousin of Karo Parisyan, Gamburyan possessed a slick judo¬†game but his striking was always an issue. However at only 5’5 inches tall, the vertically challenged Gamburyan was constantly at a size disadvantage, and usually ended up losing most of his power as he reached for his opponents. His punches landing past their peak power.

Still he was able to maintain a pretty good record, and eventually when the UFC began to take on the lighter weight classes, Gamburyan began to test the waters. At 145 lbs, Gamburyan made it all the way to the number 1 contender spot, earning a shot against WEC champion Jose Aldo, when he was ale to knock out divisional stalwart Mike Brown. Since that win Gamburyan has gone 2-4 with 1 no contest.

After Gamburyan lost a 3 round decision to Nick Lentz, dietician guru Mike Dolce joined him in the cage and told him it was time to try 135 lbs. Under Dolce’s guidance Gamburyan rearranged his training and diet in order to drop the weight. Gamburyan is now set to make his mark in a division that is full of young hungry lions frothing for a title shot. Gamburyan’s power and pure judo automatically make him a dangerous opponent for anyone in the division.

For “The Anvel”, the new division is not an excuse to just hang around. In his eyes, this is his last shot at making a legitimate run for a title. It doesn’t matter who or when, Gamburyan is ready. The question remains, is the division?

Manny Gamburyan trains at The Glendale Fighting Club under the watchful eye of head coach Edmond Tarverdyan. Make sure to tune in to the UFC 178 preliminary card to see Manny take on Cody Gibson.

 

 

August 10th Hollywood Park Casino

August 10th Hollywood Park Casino

Lights Out Promotions returns to The Hollywood Park Casino on Aug 10th. Headlining this stacked card is a very interesting matchup between two fighters with very different backgrounds, however they both share one goal. Both want to fight on the big stage, and whenever graduation is on the line you can expect a good fight.

Dominic Clark (6-3 MMA) vs. Karim Ghazi (11-6 MMA) is an intriguing match up. Ghazi, formerly known as Chris Saunders, is a ‘TUF’ alumnus with both UFC and Bellator MMA fights on his resume. After a loss to Sevak Magakian, Ghazi rebounded with a 3rd round submission over Dominic Gutierrez¬†at ‘Chaos At The Casino 4’. Consecutive wins would certainly put Ghazi back on the UFC’s radar.

Clark  is aware of that and of several things, he understands coming off a loss that he needs a good performance. The UFC will not even look at a fighter with two consecutive losses, especially in the stacked 155 lbs division. Clark is also aware of his opponents pedigree. In his way is a very well rounded and dangerous fighter. A tactician who has tasted the big show, and is scratching and clawing his way back.

Fighting out of PKG in Los Angeles, Clark enters the main event as the underdog. With the way his last fight ended, its hard to imagine why he would take a step up in competition instead of taking a tune up fight. However Clark is an opportunist. He is not fighting for the sake of fighting. He has a goal. Like many others Clark wants to fight in the UFC, and you don’t get the UFC brass’s attention by fighting tomato cans.

Excuses are abundant. In life, and in the sport of MMA they roll off the tongue freely. Performances are often blamed on nutrition or, horrible judges renderings. Dominic Clark makes no excuses for his performance in his last fight. He was winning the fight, dictating the pace, and implementing his gameplan. Then his opponent hit a homerun.

The loss although heartbreaking, changed very little about Clark. “My past four fights I showed up to every one. In the last one I was putting the fight where I wanted, and he got me¬†with a ninja type Machida-esque kick.” Clark said “I am really looking forward to showing a loss is a loss, and we move forward now we always stay aware.”

As for this opponent, Clark  seems to have a pretty decent scouting report prepared.

“He was on the Ultimate Fighter, and had a great run in the house.” Clark said. “He beat Sam Sicilia, put up a great fight against Vinc Pichel and ran into a very tough Myles Jury.” An impressive resume to say the least, however Clark is still confident. “I’m just really excited for the opportunity, especially with the buzz a promotion like Lights Out generates.” Clark said.

Fighting as the main event usually carries a heavy burden. Clark will be fighting in front of his hometown fans, and in a fight that certainly has career implications.  A win over Ghazi, may not be enough to get him in the UFC, but it will certainly open some eyes.

With both fighters making concerted efforts to move on, this is a fight you will not want to miss.

 

Dominic Clark fights for: Team PKG

And is Sponsored By: Training Mask Dethrone Zevia

Managed By: Iridium Sports

Dominic Clark would like to thank his Coaches: Mac Danzig, Chad George, and Jeremy Umphries

And his training partners: Joe Locicero and Eric Steans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jonathan King The Clinch Report

Competition in its most basic form, exists simply, well, ¬†because! ¬†The desire to compete ¬†does not require victory, or even decisions. As humans, it can’t be denied that in our nature is a fundamental desire too compete. Woven into the fabric of our being is the need to test our own skills against that of another.

Mixed martial arts offers a very pure form of competition that can satisfy that urge on a very raw, and basic level. Although it is cliche to compare fighting too warfare, as Josh Barnett once said, mixed martial arts is a ‘watered down’ version of combat. And although some people fight for the glory of having there hands raised, others find solace in competition alone.

Like fighters, soldiers are a different breed. They possess a different mind set, and the experience of warfare has offered some of them life lessons most of us cannot even imagine. The daily discipline, and regiment based life is not for everyone, and in many ways the daily goal based regimen resembles the training of a fighter in many ways.

At Fight Club 29 in 29 Palms California, head trainer Mark Geletko formed a fight team made up entirely of military members, mostly Marines and their immediate family members. Geletko, a ¬†former ¬†kick boxer with a strong boxing background first started the team as a way to stay in shape. “I started Fight Club 29 in 2005, when I first got returned from Iraq” Geletko said. Since then, the gym has seen a constant rotation of young men and woman, who are all at different stages of their military careers.

The reasons vary for those who choose to train at Fight Club ¬†29 vary. “A lot of us, just need to stay busy!” Geletko said. “As military personnel, we all tend to be ‘Alpha’ personalities, but we are also very much team oriented.” Others train simply because they love to compete. “Fighting is a high level of competition, and a lot of these guys are just looking for the next challenge!” Galetko said.

Three fighters from the team are actually competing on January 4th at The Agua Caliente Casino, under the “Up and Comers” or “UPC” banner. Promoter Jason Weiner has been a constant friend to the Fight Club 29 Team, and is giving three of Galetko’s fighters an opportunity too shine on a grand scale. “Our guys love fighting for Jason, especially at Agua Caliente, they have huge dressing rooms, and always treat the fighters really well.”

Fighting on January 4th, are: Kyle Stewart 170 lbs  (4-1) who has completed 3 tours of duty, Justin Robinson Heavyweight (3-2) who is a fireman at 29 Palms and is also the current BATCH Fights Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and Omar Romero 185 lbs (3-0) who served in Iraq, and is a Purple Heart recipient. Ryan Donnelly (3-0) is not on the card, but is an Afghan vet who will be fighting for Cali Cage Wars.

“Currently we have about 12 guys, 8 are fighting in MMA.” Geletko said. “We even have one woman fighting for us, Kathryn Proudfoot (1-0) as a boxer.” Unfortunately, the military’s ever changing schedule only has each fighter averaging about 2 years of training, before they move on, or get out of the military. Its a transit fight club, but one that serves a very important purpose.

Unfortunately, recent military cuts have left the Fight Club 29 to rely on private donations. Currently companies like Oscar Mike, Dethrone Royalty, Bad Boy, and Ecko have helped out with clothing, but our soldiers deserve a lot more. For those interested in helping Fight Club 29 with either Gear, Equipment, or Financial support please contact MGeletko@yahoo.com.

UPC 18 will be taking place on January 4th. The card will feature 2 World Title fights, and Top MMA Prospects Chris Honeycutt, Steve Swanson, Everett Cummings, and Jaime Sierra will all be in action at The Agua Caliente Casino here is the link for details: https://www.facebook.com/events/552369111513557/

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