Team Liddell fighter Rich Attonito returns again in the newest installment of his Cage Potato guest blog. Read on to find out what it’s like to have John Hackleman and Chuck Liddell whipping you into shape, and how a Jersey boy like Rich would have handled the beef between Jamie Yager and Nick Ring.
We were all called together for a big announcement and we waited patiently in the gym for the arrival of Dana, Chuck, and Tito. When I saw them make their way through the doors and towards us I knew that it was all business just by the way they were walking. I knew that something was up and by the looks of it, it didn’t look good. Tension in the air was thick. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong but I started to rewind my brain to see if I could think of anything I might have done that would get me in trouble. I felt like I was back in high school for a second.
Then Dana asked Chris Camozzi to step forward and delivered the terrible news. Chris had broken his jaw and was no longer able to continue in the competition. He was going home. It was like everyone in the room got kicked in the balls all at once. I felt horrible for him. Chris was one of my favorite guys in the house and I was sad to see him go. He earned his way into the house through a hard fought victory. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to have the opportunity you earned right in front of you, and then see it vanish just like that. Watching Chris leave the gym only reinforced how fragile this opportunity can be and made me feel very fortunate to be in the position I was in. The only question now was who were they going to bring back to replace him?
Soon we were back into the swing of things. Team Liddell trained twice a day at 11am and 5pm. Our sessions were always appropriately paced in intensity and always a lot of fun. Our team consistently showed up to practice focused and ready to work hard. At the same time we constantly were busting jokes and breaking each other’s balls. It was the perfect balance for our training environment. There was an aura of positive energy that seemed to surround our group and the strength of our team as a unit continued to grow. Training time was always happy time.
The coaches always divided the sessions into different trainings. Striking in the morning and grappling at night, or vice versa. Howard Davis Jr. and John Hackleman would direct the striking session. Howard and John were the perfect mix of picture perfect technique and power. During the grappling sessions we would learn from some of the best in the business in Jake Shields, Scott Epstein, and Antonio Banuelos. Chuck was always there to oversee everything and show many of the subtle techniques that helped make him so successful. I was really impressed with how much Chuck knew when it came to MMA. Not to say I didn’t expect him to have the knowledge he did, but after seeing him repeatedly knock people out for so long you start to forget that he was a Division I wrestler and has studied BJJ for the span of his career. It was awesome learning from Chuck and great to see how passionate he is about fighting. It motivated me to train harder.
There was always a conditioning hit at the end of each workout courtesy of Hackleman. He would always say, “I got good news and bad news. The good news is you’re all in good shape. The bad news is Chuck wants you to be in better shape.” Hackleman always had a humorous spin on everything we did but that didn’t mean we were getting any slack. He prided himself on his CrossPit workouts he put us through and day after day the team got in better and better condition. I knew that whoever was going to fight next was going to be well prepared.
Things over on Team Ortiz´s side of the fence didn’t seem to be going so smooth. We were always catching wind of some drama that would happen between some of the guys at their practices. The one recurring theme was Jamie Yager. I couldn’t quite figure out what the problem was. I knew Yager was a little outspoken (to say the least), but I had gotten along with him just fine and he seemed to be a pretty level-headed guy.
Then we get a glimpse of Team Ortiz’s training session and the beef Nick Ring and Yager get into with each other over the intensity of their sparring session. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t have even bothered getting in an argument about who did what to who. If someone hit me harder then I thought was appropriate I would gladly repay the favor. I mean I wouldn’t wanna be rude or anything and not give my training partner fair treatment.
Nick didn’t seem to appreciate the name calling much either. I know if someone called me a bitch I would spit back at least three or four verbal insults without blinking. Growing up in Jersey you get used to loud mouth wise guys and there is no end to the ball-breaking that goes on. Especially in a situation like we were in. To me the exchange between them almost seemed normal. The only thing missing was Nick firing back a few names of his own. Possibly a mother joke thrown in would have iced the cake.
Soon it was time for the fight announcement. But first enter Seth Baczynski. Team Ortiz decided he would be the lucky man to step into the shoes of Camozzi. Seth had fought a three round war with Court McGee and everyone knew he was a dangerous guy to be back in the mix. Seth seemed to meld with his team, and better yet the entire house, instantly. Seth is one funny dude who always keeps the mood light and is never shy to bust out some good trailer park jokes at his own expense. I knew Seth was friends with Chris before so I was happy to see someone Chris was close with carrying the torch for him in the competition.
Chuck called on Brad Tavares to take on James Hammortree. With our team up 1-0, we knew it was critical to stay in control of the fight picks. Everyone on our team had complete confidence in Brad.
I had fought on the same card as Hammortree before in Florida and I knew he had some serious knockout power in his right hand. I figured he would oblige Brad for a stand up war, which I felt would favor us. Brad has natural striking ability, a more well-versed arsenal, and was much more dynamic of an athlete in my opinion. I figured one way or another someone was getting dropped. But instead it turned out to be a close three-round war that saw Brad edge Hammortree in the final frame. I thought the fight was extremely close but I wouldn’t have been surprised either way the decision went. I felt Brad was effective in neutralizing Hammortree’s attack for the majority of the third round, which would give him the victory and the judges saw it the same way. Brad wasn’t pleased about his performance, but he got the job done. Our team had practice after his fight and Brad was quickly back to work, training immediately after his fight to improve upon some of the mistakes he made.
Now we were up 2-0 on Team Ortiz and we could feel the momentum really shift in our direction. Both teams felt that their guy had won the fight but it didn’t matter what people’s opinions were because the reality was Team Liddell was still in control.
I could sense the guys on Team Ortiz feeling a bit uneasy. So far they had been left in wonder about who would be fighting and when their name was gonna be called out. On the other side of the fence, it was definitely a more relaxed feeling of being in control and knowing that we would pick the match up long before any of the other guys would know. This erased a lot of anxiety and allowed us to relax and train. One thing was clear, Team Liddell had definitely gotten the attention and respect of Team Ortiz. Now the only question was, who was gonna be next on the hit list?
Special thanks to my sponsors – Buffalo Wings & Rings (Coconut Creek), Institute of Human Performance (IHP), and American Top Team.