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The Travel Chronicles, Part 1: From Heart to Limb to Pen

The Spark

On March 16th, 2012, I’d handed in copy to my editor Mike Russell for a blog post about an interview a reporter named Karyn Bryant had done with UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and left my home office to go cover an Illinois political candidate on the campaign trail for Tribune Co. before the primary election just days away. Several hours later, after spending the afternoon with the political candidate, I opened up my email through my phone and saw a long chain with the CagePotato boys enjoying themselves at the expense of Bryant’s husband/camera man, Wade Eck. He had taken offense to the blog post and begun leaving threatening posts on the site’s facebook page.

In my blog post I called Bryant’s conversation with Jackson a “solid interview,” but I also commented on the weirdness of that video and one some months before with Bryant and Jackson on account of the fighter being sexually inappropriate with Bryant as her husband watched and filmed it.

I called him a cuckold. I compared him to the fictional “Chad,” from the old “Mad Real World” sketch from Chappelle’s show. I would have felt fine criticizing anyone in that situation — Jackson for acting like an entitled bully jock, Bryant for allowing for her reporting to be reduced to being the chick that let fighters objectify and grope her on camera — but I chose Bryant’s husband because his perspective was the one that I could understand the least.

Standing by and silently watching you and your wife get disrespected seemed strange to me, especially coming from someone like Eck who previously had no problem in the past publicly bullying less threatening people than “Rampage” while touting his “full contact” experience.

A lot of fun ensued for the next few days, including Rampage and Matt Lindland getting involved, forum members over at The Underground offering to sponsor me to go fight Eck in California as well as creating some hilarious photo shopped images and GIFs as a part of a thread that was eventually censored. I won’t spend much time giving Eck more attention in these pages but things basically went like this — I wrote the blog post, Eck said he’d kick my ass for it. I replied that, though I couldn’t provide the same assurance of my beating his ass as easily as he was certain he would beat mine, I’d gladly fight him.

At some point after that, he demurred and backed down. Just another would-be bully who had no interest in following through.

What Eck couldn’t have known was that I was already itching to fight again. More specifically, I was eager to have a goal to focus on and ramp up my training. I’d not really kicked my training into high gear again since injuring ligaments in my knee that past November while training for a kickboxing bout.

The image of me when I first read “Chad’s” insults and threats on my computer that March evening encapsulated where I was with training at that time – I had not one but two double filet o fish sandwiches in my lap with an extra large order of fries at the very moment I told him I’d fight him, tomorrow or whenever he was ready.

I had fought my first two bouts at middleweight – 185 pounds – but had gotten up to nearly 210 pounds. Certainly, too much of that was fat around my midsection but some of it was added muscle on my chest, back, shoulders and legs.

I felt stronger than I had at middleweight and liked it so I thought fighting at light heavyweight might make sense. I’d be a lot smaller than most in the division, because even at an amateur level guys like to cut at least some weight. I’d cut out the filet o fish sandwiches but I wouldn’t dehydrate myself.

I got back in the gym, started working, testing my knee out with the intention of finding a fight and trying 205 out. I texted a local matchmaker, Tony Bilius, I knew of who had been successful with his partner Mike in running shows for some time. They were starting a new promotion and had a show in late May.

The first time I fought it was on a few days’ notice and I didn’t know anything about my opponent. The second time, I had six weeks to prepare but still had never seen my opponent in action.

I decided to take the advice I’d given to fighter teammates through the years and be a bit smarter about who I fought. I told the promoter that I wanted to fight and asked him for a few names of possible opponents.

From there, I looked up tapes of their past fights and had my coaches check them out. Of the names he gave me, I felt comfortable fighting three of them. Tony got one of them to say he’d fight me and I had a fight. The guy I was supposed to fight had one prior fight that I could find.

I couldn’t tell much from watching that fight other than that he was clearly nervous and scared during it. He took on a much larger opponent and a rising undefeated star in the promotion, Bill Jessie, in his last fight. Jessie basically dropped him with the first good shot he landed and then he tapped out before taking much damage on the ground.

Either this guy would come out tentative again, in which case I planned to feint, feel him out and see where his holes were and then try to hurt him on the feet before finishing on the ground, or he would have decided that he never again wanted to look as bad as he did in his last fight. If that was the case, I could expect him to come out guns blazing.

There’s only so much that a fighter can actually learn during a training camp. I had about two months to get ready to fight and so I focused on basic strategy and tactics based on the few seconds of tape I’d seen on my opponent and conditioning myself. I wouldn’t become a drastically more skilled fighter in that short period of time. All I could hope to do was get in shape physically and get as many sparring rounds in as possible.

My head coach Dino Costeas is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu-based and loves smooth technique more than almost anything, but he knows the benefit of good, hard sparring, as well. “If you spar three to four times a week, you will almost get good on accident,” he once told me.

So we did that, concentrating on dealing with storms of punches, kicks and knees that I might see in the fight. Physically, we tried to concentrate on improving on the basic but crucial glaring mistakes I often made. On the feet, I needed to keep my chin tucked and hands up. On the ground I needed to not concede the take down and if I did get taken down I needed to work to get back up to my feet or reverse positions at all times.

Things were going well for about five weeks. I got less tired and more comfortable during sparring. I simply tried to become the best version of my current self that I could be by fight night. I’d be conditioned to go three rounds and I would spar enough to where, even if I couldn’t smoothly counter every move my opponent made, I at least wouldn’t feel psychologically overwhelmed by anything he did or any way he did it.

It could lose lots of ways, but I wouldn’t lose because I wasn’t tough enough in training to get in shape or because I wasn’t tough enough in the fight to stand up to any pressure he’d bring long enough to grab hold of him, drag him to the mat and finish the fight there. That, at least, was the idea.

A couple unexpected turns along the way got in the way of that plan. Before dealing with some adversity and uncertainty, though, I got good news and an added helping hand.

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Cagepotato Comments

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LoneWolf- October 12, 2012 at 11:31 am
Great story, one of the most sincere I've read on this site.
mookiestick- October 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm
That was a fascinating article. I'm not a fighter although as a child I fought often in the streets. Perhaps because I lived in an abusive household and had an alcoholic father. Still I'm not a fighter an all that doesn't matter now. Those three sentences "who are you?" really sum it all up.

I'm in my 40's now. A Black Belt in Shotokan Karate. Have sparred hundreds of times and even competed at a high level. Still, they were not fights. No one was out to beat you senseless. It was very structured point fighting. I never knew who I was. I still don't.

I do know how to stand up for myself and others but have always talked sense into my aggressor as opposed to attacking. In fact it happened twice over the weekend. The word is full of loonies. Knowing how to defend yourself can save your life.

That was such a good article that I can't wait for the next episode. I also want to learn more about who I'm not and what I can't do. I guess, I'll have to train and fight now. Thanks for making me want to go out and get my ass kicked. I'm way too old for this shit.
imnotgay- October 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm
way too many words needs more pictures
Houstons db- October 11, 2012 at 7:35 am
I thought this article was too long as is but there's a part 2! Nooooo!!!! Post the vid of this fight to make it worth the read.
hooligun- October 11, 2012 at 5:18 am
Best piece ever, awesome mate!
tosr- October 10, 2012 at 11:57 pm
Great article, enjoyed every word.
Zescape- October 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm
Really well-written and engrossing article so far. I watched the live stream of your fight, so it's interesting to hear the back story behind the opponent change and your reaction. I look forward to part II.

No punchline. Thank you Elias. Best piece of writing on CP in a while, maybe since Old Dad.
Clemmie- October 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm
Clemmie- October 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm

In a total "wants to sex you" kind of way
NomadRip- October 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Not in a "wants to do sex to you" kind of way.
mandible- October 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm
amazing article, really enjoyed it, can't wait for the next segment.
angry little feet- October 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm
I agree - I don't want to wait till next week.I actually got so engrossed in reading this that for a while I forgot I was at my crappy job and should be doing something productive. Not something I ever expected to happen here. No offense CP ;)
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm
lil feet, glad you're into it. Keep reading! BenG deserves all of the credit for this feature happening. Yes, he's capable of being hilarious and snarky better than just about anyone out there, but he's an editor with real vision.
apogee- October 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm
dude i held in a poop for 10 minutes to read this article.. and theres no ending?!?!?! i might as well just shit in my computer chair
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm
HA!! Agreed, just go for it
2DaDeath- October 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm
Great read! I'm hooked!
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm
Thanks, glad you like it!
The12ozCurls- October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am
We gotta wait a week. Don't get me wrong, I know how this fight ends, but come on. Good read EC - I dug it.
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm
Thanks brother!
Fried Taco- October 10, 2012 at 11:58 am
No spoilers!! Ahhh, can't take it man, I gotta know! He loses, right? His knee gets blown out, but he pulls a Brett Rogers and goes three rounds without figuring it out, and loses by unanimous decision.
The12ozCurls- October 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm

My man EC is actually a quadriplegic now after this fight and all his beloved filet o fish sandwiches have to first go through the blender because he can never eat solid food again. Stay tuned to next weeks addition of The Travel Chronicle where EC actually finds out his dread-locked opponent is a real life Predator. GET TO THE CHOPPAW!
Fried Taco- October 10, 2012 at 11:34 am
Is that you punching the ref in the pic?
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm
I did punch the ref with all of my might...*spoiler alert* he then proceeded to beat the fuck out of me