Monday, May 29, 2017

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

Wow! I feel the only way to properly start this summary of what I just experienced is summed up in that one word. Although there is another word that comes to mind, blur. The last seven days of my life came and went so fast it appears to have been nothing more than a blur and yet it was so much more.

I'm not new to this as I am lucky enough to say I am one of the few who have been part of this from the very beginning, yet the Junkie Gathering continues to do what it has always done, be special. Of course Vegas will never disappoint and the events Goze plans every year seem to be perfect, but in the end it's the people, the Junkies that make this what it is.

So let's go back to the beginning, my beginning of the past week. Monday night I get to my gate at Newark International Airport for my flight out and as I look at all the people waiting to board with me, I immediately recognize a face with this unique hair I know, yet never met personally. I immediately walk over to him and say, "Danny, what up it's Sam 'All Jam'." Yes, Danny the producer and I were on the same flight and he was quick to let me know not to say anything on-line about it as it was a surprise for GG and Goze.

The surprise turned out to be great. However, what would turn out even better was that Danny was just part of an outstanding rookie class this year. A class that included Jon from Seattle AKA Sergio Pettis, Lewis "You better get Tough kid" from the UK, Lucas from France, 'Air Force' Carl from Virginia, Kyle "Is anyone here a marine biologist" from South Carolina, Josh from Canada and Cousin Geoffrey 'The Beast' from Tennessee. There was also Ryan AKA Jon Anik who was part of a tandem from Sacramento along with Micah (who I hid behind in the Escape Room hatch for the brave), Twindra AKA Berkeley and Stanford from Humboldt, CA and of course, Rookie of the Year Jersey Mike/Oklahoma Noles who is built like Ben Rothwell, but looks likes Justin Wren. My apologies to any rookies not mentioned, I'm writing this still half asleep. Some rookies mentioned above are in the pic below:

Of course we had veteran representation as well as mainstays such as myself, Mindra, Galli, The Sanchez Bros., Steve AKA Lex Luther, Ray 'In Ya Face', Spider Rico, Sam the Chef, Nick from Vancouver "Man," DJ Zoo, Buffalo Blue and this year's MVP Jason Lackey were back at it again. Along with Hal AKA Royce Gracie, Karen and Jamme Fuentes representing the ladies along with Cupcake Katie and the return of Hall of Famer Aaron AKA "Fuck you Phish!" There of course are way too many others to name, but you know who you are.

Highlights are way too many too mention, but a few to help recollect each day included Lackey making a diving effort in football with no shoes on in the football game. That was followed by Sam working the grill at the BBQ. There was Jon hurdling the bed at The Escape Room and Jason the intern bum rushing some strangers table at The Beer Park thinking they were Junkies; he was soon adopted by them.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony as Muna, Hal, Mike AKA Northern Lights and Burt Watson comprised the second class to be inducted. Congrats to my fellow Hall of Famers; it truly is a great honor to be in the same sentence with you gentlemen. Oh yeah, thanks Goze for the bad ass Hall of Fame bracelet from Enson Inoue. I was proud to rock that piece all weekend.

There was the heavyweight rematch between Blue and JD at the TUF Gym; JD rolling over on me when he came to was a total ad lib between us, but it seemed to have worked. The Royal Rumble Party Friday night, which was the sh**! It was great to see everyone dressed up and having a good time in a different setting for us. Then Saturday, which is usually depressing because it's the official last day, actually ended with laughs at trivia and the Fluffy show.

There is really so much more to this week that I could easily add, but then this would be a book, instead of a blog. Every year I come back from this thing of ours and think it was the greatest time ever and then the following year comes and seems to top it in its own unique way. I guess that means I had a good time, which is an understatement.

Goze asked me on Saturday where I would rank this Gathering and I couldn't give him an answer. I'm lucky enough to say I've been to every one, which is a blessing and I mean that in every sense of the word. We look at blessings as wonderful things that have been bestowed upon us by God. We're blessed to have life, good health, good fortune, family, friends etc.

This Junkie thing we have going and experienced is all that and then some. We have forged friendships from across the country and around the world. We have shared laughter and in some cases tears. We've depended upon one another for support in a drunken stupor and have shared love for one another in the same state. Let's face it, you can't spend days together with people downing unlimited amounts of Jello shots and not feel something for that person.  ;)

Goze's theme for the gathering this year was "This time it's personal," well it was. It was love, laughter and friendship, everything we enjoy in life. This time it was personal!

Props to GG and Goze for their efforts and allowing us every year to be a part of Junkie Nation

Photo credit to Mike AKA Northern Lights for the group pic at the TUF Gym

Sunday, November 20, 2016

So what's all the fuss about?

In a Presidential election year when the outcome surprised the majority and has caused an uproar within the nation, it seems only fitting that the biggest boxing match of the year has appeared to do the same. Not because no one thought Andre 'S.O.G.' Ward (31-0, 15 KO's) could not win, as he was the favorite going in. It is because the majority believes he didn't win. I am not part of that majority.

Let me clarify that by making that statement I am not saying I thought he won either. What I am saying is I thought the light-heavyweight title fight Saturday night against Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev (31-1-1, 26 KO's) was so close that it could go either way. This is just what happened as Ward won on all three judges cards by one point, so why such an uproar?

Well, among the four friends I watched the fight with and the texts that I received from a couple of other friends, they all believed Kovalev won the fight. When the fight was over and I was asked my opinion, my exact statement was, "It's close; that two point round on the knockdown could prove to be the difference." That knockdown came in round two when Kovalev dropped Ward with a short right, smack dab on the nose.  Ward was clearly stunned by it, but got up right away and finished the round.

At the end of the fight before the  decision was read, I texted that statement to two friends of mine, including one from Oakland who happens to be personal friends with Andre Ward. His immediate response to me was, "You took the words right out of my mouth." This obviously meant he too saw the fight as I did, too close for comfort.

To break it down quickly, Kovalev clearly won the first three rounds as he started out strong, which was expected. However, he was surprisingly effective in winning the boxing exchanges, which was not expected. It was obvious Ward was extremely wary of Kovalev's punching power, so much to the point it inhibited his own output.

A boxer of Ward's skill set and tactical acumen usually takes a few rounds to figure out their opponent and once the fourth round came, it appeared as though, he had slowly begun to do just that. Thus, the middle rounds saw a change in the pace where I felt Ward started to turn the tide with the use of his jab and effective body punching. This began to slow the bigger puncher down. It seemed as though the steam had run out on the "Krusher."

However, just when it seemed the fight had turned, Kovalev came back and in the "championship rounds" at the end of the fight, both fighters proved their championship worth. Each had their moments both boxing and power punching, which cemented a great fight that lived up to the hype. Now the only question was who won?

When ring announcer Michael Buffer said, "All three judges scored the fight 114-113," my immediate thought was Kovalev had won and it was because of that two point knockdown round as I had anticipated. Sure that means I was a little surprised to hear Buffer say, "and new light-heavyweight champion of the world," which signaled Ward won.

However, a little surprised and shocked are two different things and just like Max Kellerman said after the fight, "a controversial decision and a bad one are two different things." This decision is only controversial because it was close. It's not like we haven't seen this before in boxing.

Classic boxing matches such as the "Fight of the Century" between undefeated welterweight champions Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad in 1999 or the "Super Fight" in '87 between former middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard are two such fights. Both of these are just two examples of recent memory that still spark debate among boxing fans today 17 and nearly 30 years later respectively.

Every fan is a judge in their own mind, so every fan has an opinion. However, just like boxing judges, not every fan thinks alike. Some fans tend to favor the harder puncher or more aggressive fighter, while other fans, like myself, tend to appreciate the slicker boxer and clearer puncher. Thus, in these fights that I've mentioned, just like the Ward/Kovalev fight, no one's opinion is really wrong. The fights were obviously too close to call and left up for debate.

I want to point out that while Kovalev clearly had Ward in trouble early and built a lead on the scorecards, it is not unfathomable to think Ward could not come back to win a decision. For this, I remind every one of the first fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. In that fight, Pacquiao knocked down Marquez, no less that three times in round one. Had it not been that the three knockdown rule was not in effect, the fight could have easily been over. However, it wasn't and Marquez eventually boxed his way back to earn a draw.

Therefore, one knockdown is definitely not the end all be all, as I obviously mistook in this fight, and was not the prevailing or ultimate factor. Looking back on it, we got a great fight that lived up to the hype of two champions who laid their undefeated records on the line in the prime of their careers. That alone is more than many in boxing are doing these days, which should be commended on it's own merit. In the end we'll probably get an immediate rematch, which is also not a bad thing; so what's all the fuss about?

Monday, December 14, 2015

More than just the latest of the greatest to fall

This past Saturday night the eyes of the combat sports world, including my own, were on the biggest fight of the weekend. That’s when Conor McGregor knocked out former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Aldo was considered the pound for pound top MMA fighter in the world and had not lost a fight in over 10 years. However in the fight game there is one fact and that is if you hang around long enough, someone always has your number.

That fact holds true for arguably the greatest fighter that has ever lived and clearly the greatest fighter I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. His name is Roy Jones, Jr. (62-9, 45 KO’s) and he too fought this past Saturday, yet nobody knew, including me. That’s because although I knew Roy had fattened up his record the last four years with an eight fight win streak against relative club fighters, I figured his previous fight in September 2014 was his last.

Who wouldn’t figure that? He’s 46 years old, already had a legendary career and these days, the only time anyone saw him near a ring it was as an analyst for HBO Boxing. However, part of what made Roy Jones so great is also what is slowly, but surely hurting him and his legacy. Roy Jones, Jr. always walked to the beat of his own drum and sadly that walk is starting to skip beats.

This past Saturday night, Jones got knocked out brutally in the fourth round against former cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli (41-7, 33 KO’s) in Moscow, Russia of all places. That is because he cannot get medically sanctioned to fight in the U.S. Video of this brutal KO has spread like wildfire on the Internet and for me to see it hurt me. That is because we are talking about one of the all-time greatest to ever lace up gloves in the ring, looking like a shell of his former self. That video is also what compelled me to write this piece.

There is a generation today that does not even know who Roy Jones, Jr. is, let alone was. For them, they think Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is the greatest to ever do it, and all respect due to Floyd, he is one of them. However, regardless of what Floyd tells you or what you may think, I’m here to let you know that Floyd in his prime and on his best day couldn’t hold a candle to Roy Jones, Jr. in his prime.

For those that think that I am saying a lot, it’s not; believe me. Roy Jones, Jr. was that nice! Let’s understand what I am talking about here. I’m talking about the perfect combination of speed, power, defense and ring generalship I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. If you actually think Floyd Mayweather is fast, he would’ve gotten hit with a five-punch combination from Roy Jones, Jr. in his prime before he could react. Think about that for a second.

Some may think I’m over hyping Roy Jones, but once again, I’m not talking about Jones today or even the last 10 years. I’m talking about the undisputed greatest fighter of a decade, the ‘90’s, and a multi-division champion that won titles from middleweight to heavyweight. Yes, Jones went from 160 lbs. all the way up to win a heavyweight title against a legit heavyweight in John Ruiz.

Ultimately that move would be the beginning of the end as well because after winning that heavyweight title, he had to shed all that weight to come back to 175 lbs, and defend his light heavyweight title.  He did so successfully in his first fight against Antonio ‘Magic Man’ Tarver, however it was barely by a majority decision. So when Tarver demanded a rematch and knocked Jones out cold in the second round, it was not only a shock, but nobody really knew what the ramifications of that move to heavyweight had done to him.

However, we should have known when the same thing happened four months later against Glen Johnson. Jones went from being unbeatable and untouchable, to getting knocked unconscious in two successive fights within four months.

That was back in 2004 and that should’ve signaled the end then, but Jones fought on. 18 more times to be exact compiling a record of 13-5 over the last 11 years. That may be okay for some, but for arguably the greatest boxer that ever lived, it’s sad, especially considering the competition. In those five losses, he’s also experienced three other vicious knockouts that have left him unconscious face first in the ring.

As a fan, I can only hope he never fights again. He’s actually really good as a boxing analyst on HBO and has a great chemistry with that broadcast team along with Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley. Yet more importantly, I want people that know to remember and people that don’t to recognize, Roy Jones, Jr. is not just the greatest to the latest to fall, he was and still is the greatest fighter I’ve ever seen in the squared circle.

Friday, October 16, 2015

From the Amazins to now, my love for the Mets has come full circle

With The New York Mets currently in the playoffs, fresh off their Division Series win against The Los Angeles Dodgers; a feeling I have not had in a long time has resurfaced. One of joy of course, but more importantly I feel like a kid again. That's because my love affair with my beloved NY Mets goes back almost as far as they do.

Although we have a lot in common, as we were both born in New York in the same year, 1962, I can't honestly say I've loved them all along. Truth is told I wasn't even a baseball fan until 1970. However,when I did become a fan, the Mets were my team of choice; primarily because they were the team of choice by just about everyone in my Bushwick, Brooklyn neighborhood back then. That was a good and bad thing looking back on it now.

Born out of necessity due to the departure of both The New York Giants and The Brooklyn Dodgers to California, from 1962-68 the Mets were a pitiful laughing stock of rag tag/has been players that could only be loved by their loyal fans. Even in 1969 the year of the "Miracle Mets," it wasn't until a late season miraculous run that they made the playoffs. However, miraculous is exactly what that run came to be as they defeated two mighty teams en route to their first ever world championship.

First they took on and beat the powerful Atlanta Braves in the National League playoffs, which were stocked with heavy hitters such as Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews. Then they went on to defeat a heavily favored Baltimore Orioles team also with heavy hitters such as Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, but also a powerful pitching staff led by Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar. Little did I know at the time, while the Mets position players were considered also rans, their pitching staff was considered up and coming.

I say little did I know, not because of my age, I was six at the time, but because I had no interest. I always tell the story how in '69 when the Mets were in the world series, I came home from school and first grade looking forward to watching 'Popeye' at 3 PM on TV. We had one black & white television at the time and when I walked in my mom, who knows nothing about baseball, had the Mets on channel 9. That's because so did everyone else in the neighborhood.

When I attempted to change the TV my mom quickly stopped me and told me she was watching the Mets. Stunned and more importantly upset, I began to cry about missing Popeye. However, that would all change within a year. Once the Mets won the series and I saw the reaction of the neighborhood, I too got caught up in the excitement. Plus, I was hitting that age where baseball cards were beginning to replace "toys" as I was growing from a baby boy, to a boy.

That up and coming staff was comprised of future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and a rookie at the time who would also become a Hall of Famer named Nolan Ryan. That nucleus of three star pitchers would be the secret recipe to the Mets future successes as it is what catapulted them to the World Series again in 1973, my favorite Mets team to this day. Talk about a bunch of nobodies, this team made the '69 team look like all-stars.

The supposed big dawg on that team, our clean up hitter, was a chubby right fielder named Rusty Staub. Other no names such as John 'The Hammer' Milner, Felix Millan, Bud Harrelson and my favorite Met Wayne Garrett comprised the infield and a 42 year old shell of himself Willie Mays was in centerfield. However, we still had that pitching; Seaver and Koosman were still intact, only now Ryan was gone and replaced by a long lanky lefty named Jon Matlack.

This team of rag tags defeated the legendary 'Big Red Machine' in five games and took the mighty Oakland A's, World Champions from '72-'74, to the brink of defeat as they lost in seven games. As a 10-year old, who knew everything about and every player on this team, I cried. What a difference four years makes, crying for Popeye, but now the Mets. Nonetheless, I remained a fan through some very long lean years in the '70's and early '80's.

Then in '86, 13 years later, it happened again. This time I was a 23-year old newlywed still in love with my adoring Mets. Only now, unlike their previous two World Series appearances, this team was not the underdog, but rather the Big Bad Wolf. With stars such as Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, the Mets were stacked. Add to that the old recipe of three star pitchers Dwight 'Doc' Gooden, Ron Darling and David Cone and the outcome was inevitable, albeit with a little help from Boston bad luck as well; sorry Bill Buckner, but thank you.

Three series appearances and two world championships in less than 25 years, times were good; or so I thought. It would be 14 years before they'd make the World Series again, this time in a first ever Subway Series against cross-town rival NY Yankees. All I'll say about that is, I still believe if Mike Piazza cracks Roger Clemens over the head with the same broken bat Clemens threw at him while going to first base, the series outcome may have been different. I feel Piazza not retaliating set the tone for the series, which the Mets lost in five games.

Six years later, they were one game from going back to the World Series and I just knew it was destined once Endy Chavez made an over the fence game saving catch in the sixth inning. However, Chavez's effort and my so called destiny did not anticipate that supposed "franchise" player Carlos Beltran would go down looking like a statue as he took a called third strike to end the game with the bases loaded. 'Nuff said!

It's been tough being a Mets fan since, however in the last two years glimpses of light have been seen; most notably in the names Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. Two young stud pitchers with back to back stellar years, you could see that recipe coming together once again, all we needed was that third starter; enter in Noah Syndergaard AKA Thor to the Met faithful.

Outside of this talented trio the only real star position player is Yohan Cespedes, who can be seen as this team's Rusty Staub or Darryl Strawberry. The rest of this team is comprised of solid, but far from star talent, though Daniel Murphy is breaking out in a big way this postseason. David Wright, the beloved captain, is past his prime but still in the mix and a veteran like Curtis Granderson meshes nicely with a young homegrown talent such as Wilmer Flores.

Yes this 2015 team is eerily similar to the teams from '69 and '73 that captured the hearts of Met fans all over, including mine. In the process this team, with their dramatic defeat of the Dodgers in the division series, are doing the same. They have rekindled a fire within myself and Met fans that has been waiting to be lit for a long time. Hopefully this ride will continue as from the Amazins to now, my love for the Mets has come full circle. Lets go Mets!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mares vs. Santa Cruz = Reincarnation: I've seen this fight before

On Saturday night in Los Angeles, California undefeated featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KO's) won a unanimous decision over former multi-division world champion Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KO's) in what may very well have been the fight of the year. The two cross town rivals promised they would meet each other in the center of the ring and not back down and they held true to their word. In the end, it was Santa Cruz's height, reach and punch output that would prove the difference.

However, while this may have been the first go round between these two former sparring partners, I've actually seen this fight before, a few times to be exact. Mexico has a long, storied and proud boxing tradition, especially when it comes to the lighter weight classes. So every so often, it is inevitable that such a large country produces two fighters at the same time that mirror each other's careers and are just made for each other. While there are probably others before my time, here are just a few that I actually witnessed and remember fondly.

In 1974 before they were champions, boxing legends Bobby Chacon and Danny 'Little Red' Lopez met each other in an eerily similar meeting of LA cross-town rivals at the rise of their careers; Chacon was (23-1) and Lopez was (23-0) at the time. Live on network television, these two Mexican American warriors, put on an epic nine round classic that saw Chacon eventually stop Lopez. The two would go on to Hall of Fame careers, while never meeting again. 

The year 1977 saw two of Mexico's favorite sons Carlos Zarate and Alfonso Zamora meet as undefeated world bantamweight champions at the Forum in Inglewood, California in a title unification bout. What transpired were four rounds of fury before Zarate stopped Zamora via TKO in the fourth. I remember vividly being a 14 year old sophomore in high school and watching it live on the Spanish network channel on my mom's old living room floor model black & white TV; classic!

Then in the early '90's a couple of light flyweight champions named Michael 'Manitas de Piedras' (Little Hands of Stone) Carbajal and Humberto 'Chiquita' Gonzalez met with only one loss between them to unify their titles. The result were three legendary fights within a year from October '93 - November '94, which resulted in Gonzalez winning two out of three, both of his wins by decision. Carbajal stopped Gonzalez in their first meeting via a seventh round knockout. All three fights were great!

A few years later in 1997 it was another meeting of cross-town rivals, this time from Albuquerque, New Mexico. They met as world champions, super flyweight, with only one loss between them; their names were Danny Romero and Johnny 'Mi Vida Loca' Tapia. I remember HBO televised the fight and just like Saturday night's Mares/Santa Cruz tilt, I could not wait. Also just like Mares/Santa Cruz they delivered too, a twelve round back and forth affair that saw Tapia winning a unanimous decision. 

However, if their were ever two Mexican fighters that were made for each other, it was Erik 'El Terrible' Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. In February 2000, they met for the first of their four-year trilogy, in what I still consider one of the greatest fights I've ever seen. At the time they were both world super bantamweight champions with only two losses between them and the chemistry the two had against each other in the ring was magical. Morales won this first of three decisions, but would go on to lose the next two. It clearly stands alongside the other true iconic trilogies in boxing. 

Only time will tell if Mares and Santa Cruz will meet again. When asked in his post fight interview what would be next, Santa Cruz graciously said he'd be open to giving Mares a rematch if he wanted it; Mares being the fighter he is of course said he is open to it. Whether they do or not, their legacy has already been cemented in the historic tradition that has been laid out before them when two young Mexican warriors are pitted against one another at the peak of their careers. Viva Mejico! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dana White: Man of a Thousand Faces

Wow, I cannot believe I never noticed it before, but UFC President Dana White has an uncanny resemblance to Hugo 'Man of a Thousand Faces'. For those unfamiliar with Hugo, he was a popular toy in the '70's that could be transformed into different characters via disguises. Very similar to a Mr. Potato Head, which also seems to fit Dana these days.
Back in 2009 I had a different view of Dana White, that was because of a personal experience I had and witnessed with the man. In November 2009, I was in Las Vegas visiting my friends from MMA Junkie Radio Gorgeous George and Goze Garcia. This just happened to be the week prior to UFC 106. At the time I had no plans to attend the event, I was just planning to watch it with GG and Goze on TV; then it all happened.

Leading up to the event, GG and Goze had planned a couple of prime time night shows. Surprisingly on the Thursday before the Saturday night UFC, they were able to schedule Dana White to appear in studio for an interview. Dana in the meantime had tweeted about his appearance on the show and had also tweeted that he was going to be handing out free tickets to UFC 106 while there.

Suffice it to say the Mandalay Race & Sports Book where the show broadcasts from was packed; nearly 300 people showed up. One to catch a glimpse of Dana, but mainly to get their hands on some free tickets. At the time it was on my bucket list to attend a live UFC in Las Vegas. While I had seen it live in Atlantic City before, the energy of a live event in Vegas is what I wanted to experience; thus I waited outside the studio as well. However, when I saw how many people were there, I never thought I'd get a chance at some tickets; then it happened again!

Amidst the large crowd, I happened to be standing at the right place at just the right time. As I'm standing there wondering, which way Dana is coming from, someone slaps me on the back of my shoulders with their hands and says, "Boy you muthaf****s really came out for these tickets." Yes, to my surprise and luck, Dana came and just happened to make contact with me first before anyone else. Then another stroke of luck happened.

I just happened to be a wearing a MMAJunkie Radio shirt; so I told Dana I was with the show and would escort him into the studio. Dana told everyone to see his security man about the tickets. I immediately told his guy I was taking Dana inside the studio, so can I have my tickets first; he gladly obliged and thus I had four free tickets to UFC 106 in hand as can be seen in this pic I took with Dana outside the studio.

However, that isn't necessarily why Dana White was suddenly Mr. Nice Guy in my books; it was what I witnessed afterwards that gave me a positive opinion of the man. After sitting in the studio for over an hour, taking and answering all questions, he came outside the studio, where all those nearly 300 people had waited in the hopes of taking a picture or getting an autograph. Not only did he oblige, but also told everyone, "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere" and stood there for over two hours and took every pic and signed every autograph.

Mind you this is the President of the UFC two nights before a big event. I'm sure he had things to do, but at the time he realized his fans were his most important commodity. This was six years ago; a lot has changed in that time including in my opinion of Dana White. The man who was the primary reason for saving the UFC and bringing it from obscurity to mainstream, is also the man that is slowly destroying the product he created and not realizing it.

In the last six years the UFC has gone global, signed a major TV deal with Fox and most recently inked a deal with Reebok that would make them the official sportswear of the UFC. In doing so, the brand has grown immensely in popularity and Zuffa, the ownership of the UFC of which White has a 10% piece, is flourishing. However, as the late great Biggie Smalls once said, "Mo money, mo problems."

There have been many issues in the recent past including performance enhancing drugs and legal issues with fighters I can point to, but there are three in the past week alone I want to elaborate on. First was a segment on HBO's Real Sports that discussed domestic violence in sports, primarily MMA. While the main focus of the story centered around the fighter known as 'War Machine', a former UFC veteran, and his infamous brutal attack on his then girlfriend last year, it was the facts pointed out that were most damaging.

They showed an interview White did with Fox Sports last year where he emphatically said, "Domestic violence is one thing the UFC will not tolerate and you will never come back from." Yet, they showed numerous fighters currently on the roster that the UFC has signed after multiple counts of domestic violence on their criminal record. Not a good look to say the least.

In the wake of this, in the same evening, the UFC made what many others and I consider a wrong move in so many ways, when they decided to fire legendary cutman Jacob 'Stitch' Duran. This was done solely because of comments he made about the Reebok deal when asked for his opinion by a reporter. Note, in the interview, Duran never said anything derogatory about the UFC, he just gave his opinion in terms of how the Reebok deal does not benefit him and the other cutmen on the roster. Duran was a UFC employee for 14 years, being one of the firsts hired by White when Zuffa took over the company.

That is why it is so strange and more importantly classless when White was asked live on Fox TV Saturday night about the backlash he has received in the wake of the 'Stitch' Duran firing. His response was, "Stitch Duran and I are not friends, we were work associates; we were never friends." Wow! Poignant and disturbing words from someone who has always preached loyalty and family when it comes to the UFC.

Yet the most disturbing thing of all this past week is regarding the backlash I referenced above. That has come from UFC fans from all over the world who personally questioned Dana along social media fronts, especially twitter, regarding the Duran debacle. White's response was to personally attack each and everyone who reached out to him, even going so far as to belittle some fans and telling others in not so many words, go f**k yourself, we don't need you anyway.

Yes, the same guy who six years ago cared enough about his fans to stand for more than two hours to make sure everyone left happy is now telling them we don't need you. Dana White continues to be the voice of the UFC and it's not only gotten me angry, it has me worried. It seems that every time he opens his mouth now, there's something negative and stupid coming out of it. I keep wondering when Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, primary owners of the UFC, will finally step in and do like most owners in others sports such as baseball and either silence or fire their GM's for such acts?

Till then, I can see Dana White slowly destroying all the strides he's made with this company, including the loyalty he's garnered from hardcore fans such as myself; boycotts have actually been established on-line. Sadly, while he eerily resembles Hugo 'Man of a Thousand Faces', I guess in the end he is more like Mr. Potato Head after all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's not what you're doing, it's who you're with

So as I traveled home Sunday from Vegas over 13 hours, which included three flights, two layovers and a delay, I was thinking about the incredible week I just had. It was a foggy blur because of all the things I did and the three hours of sleep I averaged due to the late nights and early mornings; as a matter of fact Sunday, since I had broke night Saturday, I was literally in a daze. Nonetheless one thing was clear; it was only a great week because of the people I was with.

For four years and five gatherings now, I've been trying to convey in words what can only be understood by those who are a part of it. The MMA Junkie Gathering has become more than just a few MMA fans getting together to watch fights. It is now basically an annual family get together with family members from all over the states and world enjoying a week filled with events and surprises all planned by the family patriarch Goze. Of course his brother Gorgeous George gets credit as well, but even he gets surprised by Goze as he was more than once this week with the Mandalay Bay marquee and 2000th show video.

I've been lucky enough to be a part of all five Junkie Gatherings and every year I've been getting there earlier. Two years ago I flew in on Wednesday; the five days flew by so fast it was not enough. So last year I flew in on Tuesday; once again it went by too fast, so I figured this year Monday night should satisfy me. It did, because by the time Saturday night came, I was ready to come home, but the week itself was a blur!

No way to sum up all we did in a few paragraphs, but here goes. Monday night I show up at the studio lounge and to my surprise found a pretty large contingent of Junkies already in the house. Hugs from vets like Gali from Toronto, Blue from North Carolina; Hauie D from Austria and Lackey from San Francisco etc. would have been enough. However, there were already rookies in the house like Gabe from LA, the stand-up comedian who doesn't talk, and no that's not part of his act. LOL... And Billy from Texas who will now be known as 'Eddie Mush' for the crazy long shot parlay he talked a bunch of us into betting on.

So Monday night we went to a Pub on the strip, which supposedly has beers from around the world, but none on their menu. Ask Gabe and Gali, they were just as confused as I was. Tuesday brought more gluttony and debauchery with a trip to Buldogis for eats and Banger Brewery for drinks. Wednesday was awesome with our trip to Bishop Gorman for Ricky Lundell's camp featuring Frank Mir and Travis Browne (pictured above) and then laughs Wednesday night with Adam Hunter and a surprise comic, our very own Bad Mo Jack from Seattle.

Thursday brought more joy and laughter with the 'Silent Library' game at Tough Prints featuring UFC Fighters Lorenz Larkin, Tom Lawlor, Pat Barry and Rose Namajunas. (This pic below was taken outside Tough Prints) Then onto amateur tryouts @ Xtreme Couture and The Beatles 'Love' show with Pat and Rose again along with Tyron Woodley and Dominique Robinson. That night was capped by the hospitality suite @ Mandalay Bay where the star was Deane from Georgia who earned his rookie of the year title by tending bar and doing so much more all night. BTW, I'm not ashamed to say that Goze's surprise speech for GG and his parents about the marquee almost brought me to tears. 

Friday of course was capped by the 2000th show and the appearance of not one, but two current champions in Demetrious Johnson and Joanna J; if you think I was going to try and spell her last name, drink another one. Where's Darius when you need him? Lunch at Texas de Brazil, was followed by the weigh-ins, for those that could get in, then either the Marilyn Manson/Smashing Pumpkins for some and the Joe Rogan show for others; I did the Rogan show.

Of course Saturday we were all together at Twin Peaks for the fights and the after party afterwards at Eye Candy and Franklins Bar @ Delano. Everything you just read is great, but it's the untold stories that make this thing so special. The ones that happen throughout the week that bring the laughter that last for years to come. Last year it was Pancakes, Blue in the closet and The Great Wallenda; sorry but you had to be there to understand.

This years stories will include grilled cheese that taste like "sauerkraut and sadness;" those that were in the car understand how truly funny that was. Another was Goze, Victoria and about eight other Junkies scaring the f**k out of me around 1:30 AM in my room after I had dozed off; let's just say Hal from Chicago and Nick from Vancouver will forever greet me from now own with "Get the f**k outta here!" Then there was Buffalo Blue literally breaking and shutting down the escalator at Planet Hollywood. How do you shut down an escalator?

Those are just a few of the stories that will be remembered from this year's gathering. However, none of it is possible or means anything if it isn't for the people involved. This Junkie family is something special and it keeps growing with more great people, This year's rookie class included the aforementioned Gabe, Billy and Deane, along with other cool peeps such as Lerone from Maryland by way of The Bronx, Rumundo AKA Showtime and Gustavo AKA Henry Cejudo. John Wilkes Boothe and Lady Wilkes Boothe, (thanks for the donuts), Damian AKA Anderson Silva from London and Sam 'The Chef' from Chicago to name but a few.

The vets included the aforementioned along with staples such as Mindra, Duane & Regina from OKC, what an unbelievable gesture with that shirt guy, Spider Rico, Munabear and Ray in ya Face, DJ Zoo and Steve AKA Lex Luther etc. The reappearance of some O.G.'s like The Big Jew and SB Mike along with a couple of surprise last minute appearances by Dick Barrymore & Jennifer Banuelos and John Romero AKA 'Fat Guy in a little coat'; even Playboy/Millionaire 'Devante' showed up at the after party for a minute. I don't know who saw him, but Kindra and I were privy; it was epic!

I'm sorry I could not mention everyone because they are all so worthy and part of what contributes to this thing of ours; this "Cosa Nostra" known as the annual Junkie Gathering. Everyone that is a part of this thing is truly as Lou Rawls once sang, "Groovy People;" Okay, I know I just made another old man reference, but f**k it, I am the resident old man Junkie. What I'm trying to say is that the people are what makes "it what it is" (sorry Goze), special! After four years and five of these I understand now it's not what you're doing, but rather who you're with that counts.

Special thanks to my little brother Goze for the stress he puts himself through to pull this thing off every year. I see it first hand, but we all appreciate it. 

Shout out to Mike AKA Northern Lights for always sacrificing his good time to capture ours through photos and videos. He gets credit for the photos above. 

Finally, thank you to all the fighters who come through to spend time with Junkie Nation, even when Goze asks them to do some crazy sh**; like wear a giant mouse head on your head and come out dancing or get doused all over by Coke and Mentos. The Junkie loyalty and karma they will get in return is huge!

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

Wow! I feel the only way to properly start this summary of what I just experienced is summed up in that one word. Although there is anothe...