Monday, May 26, 2014

MMAJunkie Radio Gathering 2014: You don't know us, you don't know what we've done

You'd think after going through this three times previously, there would be no way I'd come home speechless. Yet, here I am looking for the words to aptly describe the laughs and joyous memories I've just experienced. Where do I begin? I guess day one, which was Tuesday for me, would be the way to go.

As I sit here typing, my memory instantly flashes to how I felt as I walked the corridor last Tuesday at The Hotel @ Mandalay Bay towards the studio, knowing that in seconds I was going to be back in the mix with my Junkie family old and new. From that point forward the next five days were nothing more than a blur. The hugs from my brothers and sisters that were already there before me brought about the Kool-Aid smile that I would not lose for the rest of the week. People such as Gali from Toronto, Victor from West Virginia, Cupcake Katie from Boston, Bad Mo Jack from Seattle and Buffalo Blue to name but a few.

However, there was also an all-star rookie cast there this year as well. That Tuesday I met Darius from New York, my vote for rookie of the year, along with Dalzino from Australia. 'Man' after seeing how Dalzino can throw down one thing's for sure; I'll never try to drink a brother from down under "under the table." Some other rookie standouts included names such as Jason Lackey, Jeff AKA Huggy Bear, Erika 'The female Keith Hackney', Marco from Waco AKA 'The Waffle Maker', Doncho AKA Mr. Nice Guy and "Fuck the fuckin' Diaz brothers," we got the Sanchez brothers James and Mike.

Hanging with these people and so many others the rest of the week just drinking and laughing would have been more than enough; however, there were also the events. The Michael Jackson 'One' show, Mini-Golf, Guns 'n' Roses and the Bachanal Buffet. There was also the MMA Trivia with no less than 10 fighters in the room including such names as King Mo, Joseph Benavidez, Larenz Larkin, Luke Rockhold, Phil Baroni and the original Junkie Frank Trigg. Phew, are we done yet? Just getting started; this was just through Thursday.

Friday brought the Vegas Fight Tour, the UFC 173 weigh-ins, our own exclusive meet and greet with UFC President Dana White (photo above) and the first ever ICFC Championship @ Inserts Coins between Buffalo Blue and the eventual winner Jacob 'The Gentleman' Dowell. Props to Justin Bernard, Burt Watson and 'Stitch' Duran for their time in making it official. Then of course Saturday was highlighted by UFC 173 @ Diablo's Cantina and the after party gathering at the studio and beyond.

After reading this, one would probably think there wasn't much time for anything else. However, it is during those down times in between that the most laughs and memorable moments occur. Everyone has their own, as what happens in Vegas/stays in Vegas, but here are just a few of my own that most of you may not know about.

Wednesday after checking into our room with Goze and Victoria, it was on. She came strapped with two coolers of various beers and a two-liter bottle of 'Nicaraguan Rum'; thus the reason I was slurring words at mini-golf if anyone was wondering. Thursday afternoon chillin' with my road dawgs DJ Zoo, Ray in ya Face, and Steve AKA Lex Luther in their room groovin' to sounds Zoo was bumpin' on his laptop and Thursday night, the annual party @ Dante's Inferno.

Then there was Friday late night in our room with Goze, Victoria, Blue, 'Spider Rico', Dante and Joe from Odessa. This is where the infamous 'Blue in the closet' and 'Doncho emergency phone call' stories came from; sorry, but you had to be there to get it. There were also all the laughs in between. Anyone that sat near me at the weigh-ins knows what I'm talkin' about with tears literally rolling down my face more than once. I laughed so hard this week; I think the abdominal hernias that I just had repaired came back. :)

To get serious for a moment, before I finish I want to shout out a few people that I feel deserve it in a big way. First up were two guys I had the pleasure of meeting this week, which were Mike from Afghanistan and Big Jim. For two guys who have laid it on the line for us on the front line, these were two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Another Mike who deserves major props is ‘Northern Lights’, the unofficial photographer/videographer of the Junkie Gathering. This brother sacrificed his own good time to capture moments, such as the one in the photo above.

Of course, it wouldn't be right if I wouldn't acknowledge Gorgeous George and Goze, the hosts of this whole thing. Because of you brothers, so many others and I wouldn't even know each other, let alone experience what we have. As for Goze, being his roommate for all of the gatherings, I know the stress this guy puts himself through just for the sake of making everyone happy, including me because he won't tell me shit before it happens. Thank you brothers for being you!

To be able to sum up this past week and this thing of ours in a few words is virtually impossible. Sure adjectives such as great, epic, fun, amazing and memorable all apply, but for some reason, they just don't seem like enough. I always say, "Memories are good, but good memories are great!" So, I guess the most important thing is that this is definitely one of those good memories that are great! My only regret is that it's over; however that said, the anticipation for next year has already begun.

Special shout out to the MMA Trivia Champions, my squad, 'You don't know us, you don't know what we've done!'

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Look no further, Matt Brown is your next challenger

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I'll always keep it real; especially when it is deserved. With all the arguments as to who deserves to be the number one contender for Johny Hendricks's UFC welterweight champion, the UFC need look no further because Matt Brown is your next challenger.

Now before anyone starts to say I'm playing favorites because of the photo above, let me set the record straight. I started this off by saying, "I can't believe I'm about to say this;" that's because while I was always felt Matt Brown was a talented fighter, I honestly did not think he would ever be good enough to challenge for or even be in contention for a world title.

Second is, I was never really a big Matt Brown fan. When it comes to the photo above, which was taken at the UFC Expo in 2010, he actually came off a bit standoffish at the time. To his defense, there were a lot of people around asking for photos, but truth is I didn't get that feeling from any other fighter that day other than Jon Jones, which is a whole other story unto himself. Nonetheless, unlike Jon Jones, I went ahead and took the photo with Brown because I respected him as a fighter and where he's come from.

Matt 'The Immortal' Brown (19-11, 12 KO's 5 subs) has openly discussed his past struggles with drugs, yet here he is on a seven fight winning streak in the UFC. He's also coming off an exciting and impressive third round knockout victory on Saturday night over talented Erick Silva in the main event of the latest UFC on FOX card. A non-stop back and forth battle, which saw Brown himself in trouble early and often, but in typical Matt Brown fashion he fought through the storm and found his way standing atop of the mountain yet again.

Take a look at that record, do the math and yes it means at one point two and a half years ago Matt Brown was actually an average (12-11); thus my reasoning I never thought he'd be here. Much credit to my friend Noah Hubbs AKA 'Buffalo Blue', an occasional blogger himself; he's been singing Matt Brown's praises for years now and called this streak way back even when Brown was average at best.

In response to anyone who is looking to throw the following names out as legit challengers before Brown, Rory MacDonald, Tyron Woodley, Dong Hyun Kim, Jake Ellenberger or Robbie Lawler, I'm about to quiet those theories. Granted MacDonald is (6-1) in his last seven, but there is a loss there; two fights ago I might add and the one win since he did not look that impressive at all against Demian Maia. Woodley is only 3-2 in his last five, so what are we talking about here.

Dong Hyun Kim is the only one with a legit stand as he's on a four fight win streak, but only (5-2) in his last seven; last time I checked seven straight is better than both those equations. Finally, Ellenberger and Lawler are both coming off losses, so they shouldn't even be discussed. Any way you slice it Matt Brown is your next challenger and the way he fought Saturday night, I would love to see him in a fight against Johny Hendricks. 'Nuff said!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If you could only choose one

One of the most beautiful things about the sport of boxing is its never-ending material for debate. No matter the time period, the place or the person, someone, somewhere at some point always has an opinion. It's part of what makes this sport so special and unique.

As my friend Carla Duran, daughter of legendary cutman 'Stitch' Duran, so eloquently reminded me on Facebook, today marks the infamous seventh anniversary of the tragic passing of former two division world champion Diego 'Chico' Corrales. My thoughts of Corrales always instantly go back to his legendary battle against Jose Luis Castillo in their first of two fights (pictured above). The second fight was nothing to remember as Castillo knocked out Corrales in four, but the first is an all-time classic.

So much so, that I've always asked the following question of notable boxing fans whose opinion I respect. The question has no important relevance to anything other than I always like to see the expression on their faces whenever I ask it; and more importantly, since I could never do it, I've always wondered what people would say if they could only choose one.

The question is this, "If you could only choose one of these four fights as the greatest of all-time, which would it be; Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I, Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor I, Arturo Gatto vs. Mickey Ward I or Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales I?" If you're a knowledgeable true boxing fan, I can only imagine what's going through your brain at this moment as you try and process what I just asked.

Now before I get bombarded with comments about other great fights that I did not mention, please note that boxing has been around over 100 years. In that rich history there have been many legendary notable fights. However, for the sake of argument I've narrowed it down to these four, which I all witnessed live at the time they happened and are in recent enough memory, with Arguello/Pryor being the oldest at 32 years ago, that most fans could give an honest opinion.

While each one is a legitimate all-time classic in its own right, each one stands on it's own for varying reasons; yet, each have more in common than their differences. They all had so much drama and evoked so much emotion; it is impossible to forget any of them. Granted the brutality in every one of these would have made a great script to any of the ‘Rocky’ movies. However, this was not Hollywood these were for real.

However, the one thing that stands out the most in all of these is the heart of a champion that each one of these eight combatants displayed during their respective bouts. At any point, any one of them could have quit and no one would have questioned why; but they didn't and in doing so left us with an unbelievable respect for each one of them that has lasted long after their careers. In the cases of Corrales, Arguello and Gatti that respect has lasted beyond their lives as each one has died way too young and tragically.

So with that said, I ask again; if you could only choose one, which would it be? For boxing fans, have fun thinking and debating on it. For the casual or non-boxing fan, I implore you to make an effort and YouTube these four legendary battles and see for yourself what I'm talking about. Your viewing will serve as a tribute to these eight great champions who gave us more than just their blood, sweat and tears; they gave us their heart and soul!

Rest in Peace Diego 'Chico' Corrales, Alexis 'El Flaco' (The Thin Man) Arguello and Arturo 'Thunder' Gatti!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A true challenger runs into a master of adjustment

On Saturday night Floyd 'Money' Mayweather, Jr. (46-0, 26 KO's) finally met up with a true challenger instead of another survivor in Argentinian Marcos 'El Chino' Maidana (35-4, 31 KO's). The only problem was Maidana, who came to win, ran into a master of adjustment who keeps solving any punching puzzles thrown his way.

Unlike recent Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fights where there was really no concern going in, there were subtle signs going into Saturday night's affair, that 'Money May' may not be invincible after all. There was a question of his mindset and focus after news that he recently went through a break-up with his fiancee. There was also a concern that the fight itself may be called at the last hour amidst an issue regarding gloves Maidana wanted to wear in the fight. Yet, when it was all said and done, in the end Mayweather continued to do what he does.

At the sound of the opening bell, Maidana showed he was not there to survive as he went straight at Mayweather, forcing him to fight off the ropes and even flat footed when in the center of the ring. A more perfect scenario could not have been laid out for Maidana, whose only real chance was to break down and ultimately catch 'Money May' with one of those bombs he throws. After the first couple of rounds there was no question Maidana was winning.

Alas, as in fights past, Mayweather weathered any storm he's going through, just to come out okay at the end. His defense, which ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas praised and said was his best weapon, was and always is flawless. The fact that he's hard to hit is one thing; but on this night he was getting hit. However he never took a clean shot to the head and body as his arms and gloves took the brunt of the punishment.

On top of that, even when he got caught a bit low on a couple of occasions and obtained a cut over his right eye in the fourth round due to an accidental head butt in the fourth round, he never lost composure. Then again, that's the demeanor of a true master. Instead he went to work and started implementing his game and not even so much boxing on the outside as he could have easily done.

While he was not dumb enough to go toe to toe with a heavy puncher like Maidana; he did stand his ground and begin to throw punches. Beautiful combinations, including a new wrinkle of repeated and hard body shots began to take its toll. Though Maidana was never in any serious trouble, it did slow down his attack and he found it increasingly difficult to catch Mayweather as he did earlier in the fight. Don't get it twisted though, he kept coming.

Ultimately, Mayweather won a majority decision as one judge actually had it even. I had no problem with the decision as I had Junior winning by at least two rounds. Yet, according to social media many people do not agree; which is fine as talks of a rematch were immediately brought up after the fight and considering how competitive Maidana fought, I'm all in. A couple of people I know mentioned Amir Khan as a potential opponent, as he won in the co-main event; but in my opinion Khan is overrated and would be an easy fight for Mayweather.

One final note regarding Saturday night's fight and the issue surrounding the gloves Maidana wanted to wear. Apparently they were a version of Everlast gloves that Mayweather's manager Leonard Ellerbee felt were not padded correctly and the Las Vegas commission agreed. Yet, when the commission said okay to a different pair of Everlast gloves, the Mayweather camp still was not happy.

I've written about this problem in the past and there is a simple solution; both boxers agree to wear the same exact gloves into the ring. There are numerous brands of boxing gloves and all styles. I'm sure there are one pair that both fighters can agree on. The idea that two fighters can come into the ring wearing different gloves, while approved by the commission, is a joke. It is an uneven playing ground and Boxing Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein agreed with me wholeheartedly when I posed the question to him before. 'Nuff said!

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...