(Photo via Piper Sports Photography)
He was a two hundred and twenty five pound Canadian amateur MMA heavyweight champion. She was a buck and some change, blonde, twenty years old and from California. They would both knock me on my ass. I just didn’t know it yet.
A few days after my win in May I got a friend request from someone named Chad. I didn’t know him but for whatever reason I accepted. He was a young aspiring fighter out of La Ronge, Canada and recommended that I contact the matchmaker for Hard Knocks Fighting, Sarah, which put on pro/am MMA events in Northwestern Canada. Ronda Rousey had made her MMA debut at Hard Knocks and the organization was developing a strong reputation. Chad was going to make his MMA debut in July and had seen tape of my fight on CagePotato.
I didn’t feel ready to fight yet again — my knee hadn’t gotten more injured in my last fight, though it still wasn’t strong — but I thought I’d at least introduce myself to Sarah to put me on their radar. I’d never been out of the U.S. except for Mexico, and getting flown out and put up to fight in another country as a lowly amateur seemed like a prospect not to be missed. How many people other than high level professionals get that type of chance?
Sarah and I spoke, she looked at my May fight tape and said she was definitely interested in including me on a card at some point. Perhaps if they had an event in the fall I could jump on board after training during the summer to improve. Canada would come a lot sooner than I expected, and would become the first stop on my summer travels.
Shortly after speaking with the Hard Knocks Fighting matchmaker I happened to meet a girl at a concert my friend’s band was playing at. Turns out he was a mutual friend of ours. She was passing through Chicago quickly to see his concert and would soon be heading home to California from school.
I’d seen her behind me at the concert. I stared. She smiled.
When she came up to me afterwards outside the venue asking to be walked to the after party, I ditched the people I was with and we walked in the rain towards the party. I got us a little lost but she didn’t seem to mind. When we finally got to the party I sat back and listened to her chat away, charmed. She was nerdy, gorgeous, and could sing.
She had an early morning bus to catch out of Chicago and I left her with a hug and my number. She’d soon be back in Cali. I’d been toying with the idea of going to either the West or East coast that summer to mix up my training and conduct interviews. The West coast had just jumped into the lead in my mind.
I still had no tangible travel plans, though. Then I heard from Sarah and Canada. Hard Knocks Fighting’s heavyweight champion, Devon Smith, was set to fight at light heavyweight in less than two weeks but his opponent pulled out with injured ribs. Smith was a rising star in the organization. He’d won the heavyweight title the month prior by submission and had won other fights by vicious KO.
The July 23rd event was built around him but now, without an opponent, the Hard Knocks main event was in question. They’d fly me up to Canada a couple days before the fight and send me back afterwards. I told them to include a flight for a coach and make my return flight to LA or Vegas instead of Chicago and I’d be in.
I’d get to fight in a televised main event in another country and at least get my first flight out West paid for. I did a little research — for some reason rental cars were twice as expensive in LA as they were in Vegas, and so I decided to get flown from Canada after the fight to Vegas, get a car and drive to LA. I’d be able to stay with my buddy Dave Doyle, visit with my friend Sam Sheridan, train somewhere new and see about a girl. Then I’d drive back to Vegas to train with and interview folks in the fight capital of the world.
Read Part 3 in its entirety at CagePotato.com