brett cooperThe 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!