Monthly Archives: June 2013

30 Minutes with Ronda Rousey

Since I started seriously watching MMA, I have had the chance to meet some cool fans. And although I have writing about the sport for a few years now, I still get a little bit star-struck when I have the chance to interact with a fighter, whether it is Kaitlin Young wishing me a Happy Birthday (though I did tell her it was my birthday first) or meeting Urijah Faber at a fight card at Northern Quest Casino.

Last night I had the chance to participate in a live chat with UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

Without mentioning all of the reasons why she will hold a place in my heart, I listened as she answered questions like who was her favorite fighter to watch – Fedor Emelianenko, and who would she would fight if she could fight a man – Bryan Caraway (she might have to get in line as I know a couple of journalists who want the first crack at him).

I wasn’t surprised by the Fedor answer because he was a lot of fun to watch in Pride. In some ways he and Ronda are kind of like each other: great at grappling, quick rise to stardom and loved by the fans. For a long time, Fedor was king of his division, much like Ronda is today…well queen of her division.

Ronda read a couple of my questions as well, one of which was “what would she be doing if she wasn’t fighting?”

Her answer: saving people’s lives.

Rousey was the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo (bronze), which she won at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She is the former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, as well as the last Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She won 12 consecutive MMA fights, six in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), before suffering her first loss, to Holly Holm in November 2015. She won 11 of those fights in the first round, nine of them by armbar submission. Rousey trains under Gokor Chivichyan of the Hayastan MMA Academy, and Edmond Tarverdyan of the Glendale Fighting Club.

She hasn’t fought in a long time, but there’s speculation she will return.

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Mirko “Cro Cop” returns to MMA in fall 2013

Mirko “Cro Cop” returns to MMA in fall 2013

One of most beloved fighters in combat sports is making his return to MMA in October or November.

Former Pride Openweight Grand Prix champion and UFC star Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (28-10-2 1 NC) is scheduled to return to action in a rematch against Alexander Emelianenko (22-6) in Emelianenko’s native country in Russia. The two had previously squared off at Pride Shockwave in 2004 where Cro Cop won in the first round after delivering one of his famous head kicks that sent Emelianenko to the canvas. After fighting Emelianenko, Cro Cop is also scheduled to face Satoshi Ishii (8-2-1) in Japan, Dec. 31

Famous for his runs in both Pride Fighting Championships and the UFC, as well as his devastating kicks, Cro Cop briefly retired from MMA in 2001, following a three-fight losing streak in the octagon. Although some fans and critics thought it would be the end of his career, Filipovic returned to kickboxing. He spent the latter part of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 racking up six wins and capturing the K-1 World Grand Prix title.

Cro Cop hasn’t been completely absent from mixed martial arts. At IGF – Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2012, he submitted Shinichi Suzukawa (0-1) with an armbar, 78 seconds into the first round.

If Filipovic wins these next two fights, could it lead to a return to the UFC?

There have been fighters who have been cut from the UFC roster after some time away, who have then returned and have been successful. Cro Cop could make a return to the octagon and fight in Japan. Still, defeating opponents at the level of Emelianenko and Ishii may not be enough to impress UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva. It also may be Filipovic’s goal to finish his career in Japan and Europe, rather than return to the UFC. As hard as it to believe, not every MMA fighter wants to compete in the UFC.

Wherever Cro Cop decides to go, the fans will be behind him.

Update, Sept. 18, 2017 – Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is still active in combat sports. He won the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix and the 2016 RIZIN Grand Prix tournaments.

Al Rescues the Warchief with swords and Miller Lite

I will go on record right now and admit that I played the online video game “World of Warcraft.”

It was after high school and some of my friends, as well as my mother, had gotten into the game. I wasn’t much better than the average player, mostly because I could spend three to four hours sitting in a chair before the urge to outside and do something settled in. There was only one character I ever really played and that was my draenei hunter, who had a pet wolf and loved to wield twin swords.

My favorite aspect of the game was that I got to interact with characters from the Warcraft Universe. One of my favorite quests involved going back in time and rescuing Thrall the Warchief before he had escaped the Alliance prisons.

The first attempt at the rescue resulted me leaving before the quest was finished because my four-hour sitting time had hit the limit and my stomach was begging me to get off of my rear and get some food.

My second attempt was more successful, though it slightly less planned. I had been on a weekend trip to Kennewick for my friend B.J.’s birthday. It was my first encounter with characters like Dave and Thirsty Pete. One thing I learned is that a lot of these guys were Warcraft players and had high-level characters. Although my hunter was not in the level of epicness as their characters, they treated me with respect, asked questions about my deanei and shared with me some of their favorite adventures.

During the second night of the trip, I was sitting in the living room when a group of them decided to head to a club, leaving myself, Bri, Dougie and a batch of cranberry juice mixed with some Potter’s vodka. As Bri played his warlock, I used Pete’s laptop to jump on and look at my character. As I finished the concoction Bri had cooked up, I opened a bottle of Miller Lite and went to the Caverns of Time.

After three drinks, I had found a group to go rescue Thrall. Our party was well-rounded and most of us were experienced enough to get through a raid, though I refrained from gloating to my party about playing while drinking. Although I’m sure admitting to them that I had an open beer next to me would have gotten a laugh or two, it also may have gotten me kicked out of the group by the more serious players.

If my party would have had a problem with me drinking while WOW-ing, I could imagine the reaction of the NPCS.

I’m sure Thrall would have felt very safe knowing that his party was being led by an intoxicated hunter until this particular hunter accidentally set off the snake trap while trying to unsheathe his swords which would result in the group and the trash mobs running in fear at the snakes flying from the hunter’s backpack.

After nearly getting shot by the hunter’s poisonous crossbow bolt and being mistaken for a dwarf by the hunter, Thrall went back to his cell and waited for some elves to rescue him.

Thankfully the rescue mission went off without a hitch. Thrall was saved. The party defeated the boss at the end. My beer was finished.

Needless to say I do not recommend drinking while playing online games that require you working in a group. However I do encourage drinking while playing console games.

The Chicago Way Part 2

To leave off where we were yesterday, my coworkers and I left Lizzie McGill’s Irish Pub and ventured through the streets of Chicago. Somehow we made it to The Billy Goat Tavern, or as some of us had called it “Billy Goat’s Gruff.”

For those who have not heard of The Billy Goat Tavern, think back to the early days of “Saturday Night Live” and the skit where John Blushi kept saying “Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger.” During the day, this is how the Billy Goat actually was, though the ordering moved at a faster pace. If you were placing your order to the cashier with a thick Greek accent, you wasted no time in ordering for fear of getting chewed out by the cashier or the cooks. However, it was not just the staff that gave the Billy Goat life. The walls were decorated with signs, posters and newspaper clippings of Chicago’s past. If Lizzie’s is my home, the Billy Goat would be my vacation spot.

When we returned that night, it was a calmer atmosphere. Perhaps it was because of the change in staff over the day and that some customers were coming in after a long day of work. For some of us, it was a chance to get some food to hopefully slow the effect of the beer we had drank at Lizzie’s. After we had gotten our food, Kurto bought a round of beers for us. We were joined by our ads guy Joey, who had taken to exploring Chicago by himself.

As most of us were wolfing down our borgers and Libs was matching us in the beer realm, Freese grew excited at the group of journalists – donned in their suits – sitting behind us and talking about their day.

Taking my eyes away from the articles that documented the newest buildings in Chicago, I turned back and glanced at these professional reporters in awe. This is what Bri, Adam and Manda have must have been felt when they were in the presence of top Primerica executives, or how a group of Spokane Indians fielders must have felt when they learned they were sharing the field with some outfielders from the Chicago Cubs.

Besides the professional reporters, there was a group of college journalists, who were attending the same Associated Collegiate Press convention as us, were sitting at a table near the jukebox. We learned this as Kurto selected a couple of Michael Jackson’s songs. As Jackson’s “Billy Jean” filled the air, our table once again busted out in song, much to the amusement of our fellow convention attendants.

After Kurto’s songs were done, the other group picked their own music. As a soothing “When the moon fills the summer house” played from the speaker, Kurto’s eyes lit out as he shouted “The 5th Dimension, this is my jam!”

Just as the band was letting us know that it was the “Age of Aquarius,” Kurto began doing this dance that I can only describe as a combination of belly dancing and crotch thrusting. It was a dance that will forever be burned into my memory. It was a dance that had the rest of us laughing our asses off.

The dance was cut short as Kurto grabbed his coat and said, “I gotta go, there’s no way than to end on that.”

The rest of us grabbed our jackets and followed our friend out of the door, Once we were out of Billy Goat’s Gruff, we once again erupted in laughter before going back in the direction of Lizzie’s. Our second stay was not exciting as our first, though Freese and I shared with each other our past fanfictions.

After one last Kilkenny, I followed my friends back to the hotel and began planning how I would prevent the morning’s hangover.

A core hound named ‘Cigano’

Note this is not the exact picture of my mother’s core hound, but Cigano does look like it.

My mother has been playing ‘World of Warcraft’ since the game came out in 2006.

Now, she’s not like most players, who has 10 characters who are above level 50. She still takes time to go play with her grandsons, her puppy and work part-time at an assisted-living center. Still, if you manage to get her on a good day, she will tell you about her level 70 – last time I checked anyways – tauern hunter named Tilamock. Yes, Tilamock, after the ice cream.

In Warcraft, hunters are characters who are similar to rangers seen in books like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and games like ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’ One quirk of hunters is they get a pet that assists them in combat. Some players – like myself when I played – will stick with one pet. Others will collect pets in order to get the different abilities granted by the pet. As for the number of pets my mother owns, I lost count a long time ago.

She has hunter pets, vanitiy pets, which are small companions that follow the player around and do nothing but get in the way, and mounts, which are good and riding from zone to zone and showing off to other players who will constantly bombard you with questions as to how you got your mount. I like to think the plethora of pets my mother owns comes from her affinity for animals.

What do Warcraft pets have to do with mixed martial arts? On the morning of Dec. 30 – the day after Junior dos Santos dropped the UFC Heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez in their rematch, my mother messaged me on Facebook and showed me an image of her newest pet. It was a two-headed core hound that had a dark purple shade to its fur. While she was proud of her newest pet, she wasn’t sure what to name it.

I had been watching a short documentary on dos Santos when I messaged my mother back and suggested she give the hound the nickname “Cigano,” which is Portuguese for gypsy. This was to play off my mother’s love for all things spiritual and magical.

Cigano is also dos Santos’ nickname and I thought naming my mother’s pet after the former champion would take some of the sting away from his loss the night before. I’d like to say that when I told him on Twitter, he was ecstatic, but alas there was no response, not there should be. After losing to Velasquez, I’m sure dos Santos’ Twitter feed was flooded with “well wishes” and “get well soon” from MMA fans – including myself – from around the world.

There is one positive outcome to this though. It gave me a chance to talk to my mother about my love for MMA. Although she tolerated the hundreds of football games and professional wrestling matches that were enjoyed by myself, my stepdad and sometimes my sister, my mother wasn’t really a fan of sports. She’d occasionally make a remark about Kevin Nash’s glorious hair, but for the most part she would go on the computer as the men took over the television.

So when I explained the meaning of Cigano to her, I also took the opportunity to share with her dos Santos’ backstory and his beginnings in MMA. She sounded intrigued and I shared with her the link to the documentary. Whether or not she has watched it is still a mystery.

The same goes for her pet Cigano. I don’t know if she still plays him. However, one thing about my mother is that she would never abandon a pet on Warcraft. So even if she is not using him on a regular basis, Cigano has a good home with the rest of my mother’s pets.

Korean Zombie, Alexis Davis, Rosi Sexton and featherweights

Alexis Davis and Rosi Sexton shine in UFC debut

Now that I am graduated, I have had more time to write about my thoughts surrounding mixed martial arts. Here are links to the MMA columns I have written so far this week.

The women’s bantamweight division made another stride at last night’s UFC 161 event, as the “Ally-Gator” Alexis Davis (14-5) and Rosi “The Surgeon” Sexton (13-3) went the distance.

After three rounds it was Canadian from Port Olborne, Ontario, who ended up with the decision victory.

Still, props have to go to Sexton as she was able to to survive Davis’s several submission attempts. one of which included a deep triangle choke in the first round. There were even moments during the match where The Surgeon was able to trap Davis and deliver several shots to Ally-Gator’s face.

With the fight now in the books, it will be interesting to see where both fighters go from here. Sexton’s strong performance earns her another chance in the octagon. She could get the loser of the Julie Kedzie (16-11) vs. Germaine de Randamie (3-2).

As for Davis, she, like so many other fighters, has long expressed her desire to fight current UFC champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (7-0). While she did showcase great grappling skills in her match against Sexton, it may not be enough to convince the UFC brass for an immediate title shot. Personally I think Davis has made improvements over the years and her shot with Rousey will come as long as she continues her winning ways.

If not Rousey, I say give Davis a rematch with rival Sarah Kaufman (16-2), who is set to face Sara McMann (7-0) in August. In first meeting back in April 2007, which also happened to be Davis’ MMA debut, Kaufman scored a third-round TKO victory. In their second fight back in March 2012, Davis and Kaufman went three rounds in a fight that ended both women bruised. In the end, Kaufman emerged the victory with a majority decision.

For Davis, a victory over Kaufman would not only be a feather in her cap, but also the closing of a chapter of her career that would probably lead to greater opportunities.

‘I hear the change a comin’

Now that I have graduated from college, I guess it is time to look for work. I’m in the process of interviewing with a publishing company in Yakima, not to mention taking on a new role with CagePages.com. Still, this is just the beginning of the changes that are rolling, like Blaine the Mono though I hope my fate is much better than his.

Leading up to graduation I had cold feet and was uncertain of myself. I had recently gone through a change that brought me some unwanted stress, but in the end I like to think the whole ordeal was a test. Having gone through that whole ordeal, I am now more focused and ready to accomplish my goals.

This won’t make a lot of sense because there is context to it, but if I ever get the chance, I’ll not only thank her for helping me focus, but also tell her that I am glad to have had her in my life. That goes for everyone else in my life. My family. My friends. The ones who I never told how I felt.

Putting that aside, I can’t wait for the future.I know I have a lot of opportunities coming. This past week has been two interviews, perhaps it may be more … or just two. Either way I am ready.

Update Sept. 18, 2017 – This was about four years ago after I graduated college. I have since been employed for over four years, working at three different newspapers. After a six month stint in Wolf Point, I returned to Cheney and worked at the Cheney Free Press for three years. I was given the opportunity to work at the Ritzville Journal and I took it.

I have been at the newspaper since mid-July and I’m learning my way around things. It’s a learning curve, but I’m excited for the potential to do some great things at this newspaper. I also made the decision to move to Ritzville as opposed to making the daily commute from Cheney. Living in a small town has been nice so far and while I miss my friends, I don’t regret moving here.