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The International Fight League’s Grand Prix Finals went really, really well – I’ll go as far as saying that it was the best IFL event that I’ve attended so far. They gave out five individual championship belts – one for each weight class – with the biggest upset coming from the lightweight division, where underdog Ryan Shultz utterly pummeled the very talented undefeated pretty boy Chris Horodecki.
I scored a spot in the media section – the lone lady among a group of a couple of dozen tussled sports writers from various mixed martial arts sites and magazines. I was close enough to be able to hear the smack of the various kicks and punches, which I always appreciate, although also close enough that the cameraman was often standing right in front of me. I managed, though. Only one fight ended in a decision, which is good, and none of the fights were boring or unbalanced.
I especially enjoyed watching Matt Horwich, the strangely endearing Jesus-crazy middleweight, win the title by defeating Benji Raddich. I’ve been following Horowich since we attended a small show in Portland three years ago, and he improves so much with each fight that I can’t believe he’s the same kid, except that he still carries his Bible to the ring. He’s so weird and sincere that you just want to take him home and make him a sandwich or something.
Even with the five belts on the line, though, I was most intrigued by two of the preliminary bout fighters, Brett Cooper and Tim Kennedy. There’s something about seeing a rising star make his first big win that is more exciting to me than seeing a well-established fighter continuing to impress. Cooper (pictured above after winning, looking a bit shy and dazed) fought the dangerous and well-versed Rory Markham and got a TKO a minute into the second round – showing off a strong chin and a big heart. The IFL found him during their open tryouts, and everyone thought he was going to get killed by Markham in the ring (whether he knew it or not). It was great to watch him prove everyone wrong.
I was so impressed by Cooper that I’m planning an interview for later this week that, hopefully, Ben will pick up for the IFL website. I’ll let you know how that goes.
After the fights most everyone hung out at Mohegan Sun, the casino where the fights took place. Ben and I don’t do well with the crowds and smoking and loud clubs, though, so we headed back to the hotel for more laid-back drinks and snacks. As always, you can read Ben’s official weekend commentary here and his unofficial commentary here.
We headed back to Queens yesterday, where I finally got to spend some time with Ripley after her brush with death last week. She looks like a hobo cat because of all of her hair loss, but she’s healthy, energetic, and alert. And constantly hungry.
It’s been good to get back into my routine after almost two weeks away from home – as of today I’ll be back to regular blog updates and as of Wednesday I’ll be back in the office, returning to my regular combination of depressed and determined. Watch out world!
I’m writing from beautiful Mystic, Connecticut, where I’m accompanying Ben to the International Fight League’s Grand Prix. It’s a pretty wonderful glimpse into his life on the road – talking with the fighters in the hotel lobby, attending the weigh-in, staying up late writing up articles and getting up early to write articles. It’s a completely different life from my office job – and I can only imagine what it would be like to, oh, I don’t know, have a job I cared about.
The good news is that I scored another freelance job today and am now working on two big-ish projects during the day while Ben is down in the conference rooms doing TV interviews and radio commentary. If I score two or so more jobs in the coming weeks, I’ll even be able to break even on Ripley’s insane vet bills. God willing.
After a day of pecking away on our laptops, we headed to the weigh-in at Mohegan Sun, where the fights take place tomorrow night. It sounds pretty boring, but it’s pretty fun with Ben whispering color commentary to me about the fighters. A few of my favorite fighters, Chris Horodecki and Matt Horwich, are competing for belts, and I’m more than a little excited to see them in action tomorrow night. It’s always a bit sad to sit alone, but getting to see Ben ringside and typing furiously makes me proud enough not to care as much as I might.
My favorite part of the fights, though, is surprising males with my MMA knowledge. There’s nothing I relish more than dropping fighter names or submission names to people who think that I’m just another girlfriend of somebody who actually cares, dragged to the fights against my will. Sure, I might be a 5’4″ chick and just over 100 pounds, and, sure, I might be wearing a skirt and a shirt with kitties on it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what a gogoplata is.
My second favorite part of accompanying Ben to the fights is working out alongside the fighters in the hotel’s fitness center. This morning, while I was doing my 30-30 (30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of lifting) many of the fighters were busy on the treadmills, covered in their plastic sweat suits, cutting weight as fast as they could.
Every once in a while, one would step off, strip down to nothing, and weigh themselves to see how close they were to making weight. Not only have I now seen more than one of the fighters’ junk, but getting to see the fighters train and hearing them talk really gives me a better idea of who they really are and who to root for tomorrow night. I’m certainly not a sports fan who only likes the best athletes, period – I like to pick my favorite fighters based on the whole package. Pun intended.
What I’m saying is that I’m less likely to be won over by the fact that a fighter is an Army ranger, for instance, than by the fact that while cutting weight he outlined the entire plot of Lord of the Rings to his very patient trainer. Matt Horwich is another great example – he’s not the best fighter ever, but his intense sincerity, baffling Christianity and strange smile make it impossible for me to want him to lose at anything.
For more in-depth fight coverage, with Ben’s hilarious insights and inside information, he always blogs about his on-the-job experiences at The Fighting Life.