Ended up going to the cage fight last night downtown. Really wasn't such a round about way I got tickets and planned on going , either. But nevertheless, when I found myself on the sidewalk in a long line that started at the door, people ALL around me smoking; me the only one without tattoos; and with no previous cage fight t-shirt of any kind; I knew I was on another adventure where people were speaking American English but I was a foreigner nevertheless.
It started almost immediately when four beefy guys came up and cut in front of me in line. I thought about it for five seconds, then lightly touched the lead guy's elbow and said in a firm voice, hey, what the hell do you think YOU'RE doing? He, and his boys, all turned around and just looked at me. I held my line, on my square on the sidewalk on Sprague Avenue in downtown The Kan EWA, wearing my black levis and my Black Dog Tavern Martha's Vineyard t-shirt, clutching my Prada handbag and wearing my Cole Haan shoes. Then I said in a much louder voice, the END OF THE LINE is back THERE! jabbing over my shoulder with my thumb.
He said well, it doesn't really make any difference. I said, louder yet, WELL IT SURE DOES TO ME. YOU NEED TO GET DOWN HERE EARLIER IF YOU WANT TO GET RIGHT IN. As I now had the attention of every man, woman and child for a two block radius, I held his gaze; wide-eyed and with just a hint of authority. One of his boys broke before he did, turned and trundled towards the back of the line so they all followed and trooped back down the sidewalk around the corner and down to the end of the block to take their place in line, their little shoulders slumped, their little cigarettes laying on the chests in their mouths and their little pierces hid in their coat collars.
People behind me applauded; man two groups ahead of me said Well done! I said, to no one in particular, anything else I need to get taken care of before we go to the cage fight tonight? Smart ass Cougar fan in front of me said, looks like the fights is right here on the sidewalk. I said, sweetly, if you want, I can kick your ass, too. Then smiled brilliantly at him. His buddies all snickered and snickered and he said, no I'm doing okay. I said Well, GOOD. We all are doing okay. And turned around and nodded, wide-eyed at the people behind me. They both winked at me.
End of Round I. I'm standing.
So they check my ID at the door and issue me a wrist band and with earnestness and sincerity, tell me I must show the band to the bartender and to the bouncers at the fight arena door to get in and out. They knew I had no idea what I was doing. I'm guessing that CC TV showed the near melee I was able thwart out on the sidewalk and they probably just wanted to take really good care of me. See that I had everything I needed. Right.
I get in the place finally, though a series of ramps and corners winding through ever more darkened hallways and such and finally show my ticket at the door of the fight arena to a guy who I assume, you have to love me, will show me to my seat. He stopped short of saying, whaddya you? think this is fucking 42nd and Broadway? But he did say Lemme stamp your wristband and you move on and find your own seat; it's over there. Then HE jabbed over HIS shoulder with HIS thumb. Without looking at me. Clearly, the legend of my sidewalk bravery hadn't reached him. So I whispered riiiiight, got the heck of his way, scrambled through the doorway and started reading pieces of tape on the floor with numbers and letters on them. In so many different ways, this was not the Shubert Theatre.
End of Round II. I'm still standing.
I actually have a really good seat and look up to see the banner of the major sponsor: 1-800-Not-Guilty Attorneys at Law. Suuuuuper. I have come to take pictures and can see, amazingly enough, that I am sitting in a seat with an uber-advantage as the fighters will walk out of the dressing room into the fight arena right to me, turn exactly in front of me, then walk the rest of the way to go into the cage. Whoa, Baby. Tonight is my night. The lighting is tricky, as the ceilings are high, the walls and the floors are black, there are blue and red gels everywhere, they are firing off rounds of smoke for aura, and I don't really know what I am doing with my camera so I spend the next half hour test firing around 100 frames to get what I want to get good shots out of the dressing room, in the crowd and into the cage, and in the cage. Okay, I'm ready. Still standing, too.
So the smokes billows upward, the X-Box music cranks, the flames ignite and out walks Sam. He's going with the Rocky look, sweat jacket on with the hood up. He hears the crowd and immediately comes to life. He spreads his arms in a high blessing, feeding off the crowd's delight and smiles widely and in promise and enters the cage. The door slams shut and locks. uh, God. I move up by the cage, trying to get a good picture of him as he loosens up, flexing his huge shoulders to his music and the roar of the crowd. He dances in places and stretches and flexes and stretches and flexes and I can't get focus because the light is random and screwy and he is stretching his neck with his chin in his chest. Finally he lifts his face up, into the spot far above his head, the light flooding his body, his face full of apprehension but determination, only I don't get the shot. I'm adjusting my e/v comp at the time. right. Sam was actually booed when he came into the fight arena and now he's booed again as he's introduced. WTH? He's never fought before. His opponent is a four-time winner. Clearly, enough is not enough even if you're a four-time winner. Gotta boo the new guy.
Sam mentioned in the week previous to the fight that while his defense is sturdy, his offense isn't always lightning fast and he's working on being opportunistic, being sure, being deadly. He says that his real disadvantage going into his first cage fight is his lack of wrestling experience. Most fighters are veterans of high school and college wrestling. I say I bet his relentless training in ju jitsu, kickboxing, boxing and his compulsive cardio routines of the last year will make him a contendah. Sam says his job is to go in low and get the guy down. And if he can do that, he'll be ok. Sam's analysis of his weakness and strength proves out in the first minute. He is defensively spot on. The Booing People Guy can't get a shot at Sam's face or a shot at Sam's ribs. Can't find a way to take him down either. But when Sam gets the guy against the cage and goes in high to drag him down, like greased lightning, the guy goes for Sam's unprotected waist, dumb ass move on your part, Sam! and takes Sam down in a nanosecond. oh nooooooo.
Amazing but Sam fights his way out; the same scenario repeats itself over the first round and into the second. The Booing People Guy is now throwing air punches and makes an unathletic, feeble kick move. Sam grabs his little footsie, drags his sorry butt down and punches him for dear life. Punches him and punches him and punches him. The crowd is roaring SAM, SAM, SAM. Suddenly the refs violently yank Sam off the guy and drag him to the other corner Sam still kicking and swinging; the other ref anxiously kneels over the Booing People Guy, now permanently affixed to the bottom of the cage; then the first refs on a swift, slight signal from the other ref raise Sam's arms in the air. SAM WINS!
The crowd goes wild, the X-Box music explodes and we all lapse into kisses, hugs and tears. Sam is made to do just this as he basks in the heat of the lights, glistening in sweat, scratches and bruises, with head thrown back, fists high in the air in victory. This is his moment and in a flash, in a panorama splashed over the cage, I can see the entire excruciating training and sacrifice he has undergone in search of his own adventure, on his own private quest that would prove to be an ultimate challenge. This is been a singular, solitary, and lonely for him. And he wins. IMpressive.
The Master of Ceremonies actually interviews Sam after the medal ceremony about how he beat this guy, whom he apparently knocked out cold. Sam goes into his pre-fight strategy about getting in low and dragging the guy down but says, generously, the guy was too good to allow me to do that so Sam says, I just went for any piece of him and kept punching. And that's true. Sam's offense was clumsy and ill-timed but when he found a piece, he went to work.
Life never turns out the way you think it will, or the way you plan, but the people who prevail prepare prodigiously and then just start punching for dear life when they need to.
The Master of Ceremonies says, So we'll be seeing you back here, right? NOPE, says Sam. I love my wife too much; this is all for me. Turns out the real prize is wisdom, gleaned in solitary moments of fighting hard.
I hope to have an outcome with good pictures like Sam got in cage fighting; but I know I have to work harder and figure out better ways to get better shots. But I was inspired down there on Sprague Avenue last night; and I tell you all this to encourage you to find your own inspiration; watch for a hero that you know, take a few
lessons and then keep punching. Just keep punching.
The 'Kan EWA