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9/11 Ten-Year Anniversary: The New York MMA Community Looks Back [VIDEO]

From TheFightNerd:

“This Sunday marks the ten-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The way America looked at itself was altered immensely on that date, and a decade later the world is a very different place. Memories of panic and uncertainty are still present, but the urge to keep moving forward is even stronger. In remembrance of this anniversary,, has released an exclusive short-film that commemorates this event alongside the New York MMA community. ‘A Fighting Spirit’ is a video memoir that interviews members of the NY martial arts community and discusses where they were when the Towers collapsed, how they have coped, and how New York and America have grown stronger.

Directed by Kahleem Poole-Tejada (director of the full-length documentary ‘New York MMA’) and produced by Matthew Kaplowitz (Editor-in-Chief of in association with Ranger Up, the film takes viewers around a tour of downtown Manhattan and provides a glimpse inside several of New York City’s top MMA gyms. It features many NY-based fighters, such as Renzo Gracie, Chris Weidman, Pete ‘Drago’ Sell, and Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro, as well as Stephen Koepfer of NY Combat Sambo, Mark Yehia of ‘Elite Plus MMA,’ Rob Constance of ‘The Renzo Gracie Academy’ and President of the ‘Ultimate Absolute’ grappling tournament, and Emilio Novoa, President of ADCC North America. Also appearing is UFC middleweight fighter Jorge Rivera, as well as Strikeforce middleweight Tim Kennedy, who adds the voices of members of the U.S. Armed Forces to this emotional piece.”

As a New York resident since August 2002, the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 has put me in a reflective mood all week. Maybe you feel the same. If you have any recollections or tributes to share from that day, please leave them in the comments section. Here, I’ll start…

The summer of 2001 is when I first fell in love with New York City. I came here for a two-month internship doing grunt-work for a dearly departed men’s magazine called Stuff. At the time, some of the editors on the payroll included Seth Kelly (who’s now the editor-in-chief of UFC Magazine), Laura Gilbert (who now runs, Jon Small (who later moved to Break Media and hired me to launch in 2007), and Greg Gutfeld (then the magazine’s editor-in-chief, now the wacky host of Red Eye). I’d never been around such a talented collection of smart, funny motherfuckers in my life. I think the majority of my days were spent transcribing interviews, but still, it was a dream job.

The experience helped me decide two things that had already been in my mind: 1) I wanted to write for a living. And 2) I wanted to live in New York while I did it. It’s hard to match the exhilaration of being 20 years old and spending two months in a crazy-ass city with nobody watching you. On one of my first nights there, I walked 25 blocks to CBGB, just to see the place and pay my respects. Napalm Death and Isis were headlining a death-metal showcase. At one point, I got slammed so hard by a mosh-pitter that I fell onto the stage. It was awesome. Now CBGB is gone, and I feel like an old man.

After my crash course in the lad-mag biz, I went back to Ann Arbor to finish my last year at the University of Michigan. Just a week into classes, my roommate woke me up and told me that something really bad had happened, and I should come look at the TV. Like most people, it took me a long time to process what I was seeing. “Holy shit,” I said. “I was just there.” Over the next few days, I contacted everybody I’d met at Stuff, checking to see if they were all okay. They were, but they knew people, and they knew people who knew people, and it was all very fucked up.

Obviously, nothing like this had ever happened in my lifetime. My heart broke for the victims, and for the multitudes who had lost children, parents, spouses, and friends, and for those who kept searching for their missing loved ones, past the point of hope.

But it was inspiring watching some of the news coverage that followed in the subsequent weeks. The tragedy united New Yorkers in an unprecedented way, and it was clear that the city would heal and become “stronger at the broken places,” so to speak. It seemed to me that New Yorkers were keeping their heads while the rest of the country was freaking out, and that made an impression.

So I finished school, kicked around Ann Arbor for a couple months, then rented a U-Haul with my girlfriend at the time and rolled the dice. I had friends and family members advise against the move because they didn’t think New York was safe. And maybe they were right, but I was young and adventurous, and I had faith that this big, ferocious city would protect me.

In November, my wife and I will be leaving New York to move back to the Midwest and raise our first child. I’m already bracing for the homesickness. In nine years, this place has never let me down.

(Ben Goldstein)

Cagepotato Comments

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MK- September 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm
I watched the towers smoke and collapse from the rooftop where I worked (and still work) on an eerily bright, sunny 9.11.01. I'd seen the headlines on and used the rooftop smoking deck as my news camera. I watched from miles away as war was declared on the US and as more people than I care name were killed.

My youngest brother is an Army Ranger with the 101st Airborne, stationed in Ft. Campbell, KY, and loves the news, videos, and comments right here at Cage Potato. I think this is one reason why I'm happy to be a part CP. He doesn't get Showtime where he is, so I jump at the chance to do the Strikeforce play-by-plays.

As far as I'm concerned, the hollow enlightenment of the 911 conspiracy theorists or the misguided hatred toward the Muslim community will never change the reality that people I loved never lived long enough to see NYC without its two front teeth. Say what you want; blame whomever you wish. I'll be praying for those departed.

I thank God for the conviction of people like my brother and his friends and ReX and Tim Kennedy and so many of the servicemen and women in your lives.

Alright...done rambling.

Enjoy the fights tonight.

Todd M- September 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm
RIP to all the victims and the rescue workers that have died as a result of helping in the aftermath. I don't care if I cop shit for this, Investigate 911
fatbellyfrank- September 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm
This event affected all of us worldwide on a scale I'd never seen in my lifetime, I was watching events unfold on Morning news and had a Navy mate staying with us who was still actively serving( I had paid off some years previously), first thing I had to do was get him back to his ship as all personell had been recalled,I recall a sense of utter disbelief as we drove to the wharf, and we wondered what the hell the immediate future held for us.

As the day progressed I recall the numbness and great sadness i felt, so many people , who just got up on that morning and went to work, as we all do, but on that day, thousands did not get to go home, and as we soon became aware,this was because of the distorted hate filled idealism of a small minority.

To all the family's affected, to the magnificient,brave men and women of New Yorks combined emergency departments and to all who were involved much love, thoughts and prayers to you.

Rex, Karma,take great pride in how you responded.

+Footnote, as an ex Navy man, I felt a surge of pride on hearing that it was a Navy Seal who got that evil bastard Bin laden
ReX13- September 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm
9/11 is absolutely a dividing point in american history, because we all hurt that day. how we reacted to that day, and what we've learned since, defines us as a nation.
i was visiting my family, asleep in my childhood bedroom when the first plane hit. My father, the 24-hour news junkie, woke me up by saying "we're at war." We watched the live feeds out of new york as everything unfolded.
Surreal is the only word that comes to mind. i'd grown up watching war on television, broadcasts from the first gulf war and even farther back ... but it was a wholly different feeling being on the receiving end. i won't lie and talk about how my heart went out to the people in nyc -- i couldn't even process what i was seeing for myself. Compassion and empathy came later; i had to work through comprehension first.
compassion did come. i think in September of 2001, we were all new yorkers in our hearts.
i wanted to help. perhaps it's more honest to say i wanted to hit back. i enlisted not long after.
NomadRip- September 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm
When my daughter was born, I realized how much I had changed, or how much life was about to change.
She was my first child (that I am aware of, anyway), and when that happens, you see the world differently. You really get what people mean when they say "oh it changes everything," and you mistakenly reply that you can imagine.
No. You can't imagine. You don't have any idea. But then that happens, and the lightbulb goes off as you think to yourself, "Oh THAAAAT's what they meant!"
My daughter was born the previous Friday, 9/7/01, back when the world was a different place.
KarmaAteMyCat- September 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm
Thanks BG, Just speaking the truth.
bgoldstein- September 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Great stuff, Karma.
KarmaAteMyCat- September 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm
I still remember being so young that the worlds problems seemed oblivious to me. I remember getting up and going to dragging my feet all the way to home room when we got word of the events unfolding. I will admit I was taken aback a bit I didn't really know what to think other then this was wrong completely and utterly wrong. Nothing in the world mattered accept what those poor souls endured and what the people in NYC must have thought at that moment, the fear the urgent need to just escape New York. I imagine many thought they were under attack as they obviously were I just don't think anyone thought it was to that extent.
I joined the Army as soon as I could but was released for reason I wont go into and would gladly go back in to this day. The images of people throwing themselves from the top floors either tower have never faded from my memory. Few things in life can turn my head or bring that sick feeling to my stomach but the attacks on America during 9/11/2001 was certainly one of the acceptions to the fact.
I've been involved in Martial Arts in one form or another for several years now. There are many younger students in the school and one of the other instructors and I were discussing when a person becomes fully aware of the impact they have on the world around them. I think on 9/11 I became aware of a lot more then I had ever thought possible considering I was getting ready to finish my last year of high school and head into college. It changed the way I perceive random acts of violence,bullying, and any cruel acts that could possibly fall into line.
I think 9/11 lit a fire under my ass as a person and made me want to help people more. It made me aware of how fragile and precious life really is, I've since been to Ground Zero and sat there for many hours I cried a lot. More then I can begin to explain and I don't even remember why I started crying it just happened such a Holy of holy places in my opinion brought me to my knees. I really wanted to go there this 9/11 but with an upcoming boxing tournament,a kickboxing match, and an MMA fight in November I have a lot on my plate. I'll make time over Christmas or New years to go visit and lay some flowers.
To those of you who lost loved ones during this time. To the NYFD to the NYPD and the National Guard members who were one of the firsts to respond to the attacks with LOADED m16's(VIVA FIGHTING 69th) I thank you we love you, and as an American you have my respect as a Human you have my love and as a FIGHTER you have a brethren if you ever need it.
bgoldstein- September 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm
@ Sloppyspray: No. And that's definitely a story for another time...
italia furia- September 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm
great read
Sloppyspray- September 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm
Is the girlfriend you moved to N.Y. with now your wife?