Finally home! A incredible trip that will be in our minds & in our stories for years to come. We had some wins & some losses. How we handle these experiences will be how we define our character.
I have a feeling though that regardless – we will charge on! None of the events downfalls had deterred us from our objectives nor will any of that take away from the Epic time we had in Richmond. The bonds created on this trip will be felt for the rest of our lives! We endured, fought, won, loss, supported each other, lived together, fought our hearts out & laughed our faces off. In the end we came home a little bigger and a little more wise to the world of Muay Thai. We are focused on what we must do in the future to be the contenders we want to be. Our level has just been up’d!
This was an unexpected roller coaster of emotions for me personally. Our arena housed some old students, training partners & every trainer I’ve had outside of Boston in my life. To one side of us we warmed up right next to Eric Haycraft and our friends from Real Fighters gym. On the other side was Kru Phil Nurse and his fighters from the WAT. I reconnected with my old friend Angel Cartegena from Body Arts Muay Thai, Casey Bohrman – a former student of mine who’s now a Pro Muay Thai fighter & Joe Sampieri – an old training partner of mine who’s now the head Muay Thai trainer at Renzo Gracies school in NYC! I was overwhelmed with the unexpected level of emotions I felt. I shared a lot of blood sweat & tears with these guys. Just wow. But just like how all old friends are, our demeanor was very much like it was only yesterday we saw each other.
Eric Erps: dropped his weight down to 132 from 140 at the TBA’s in Iowa to face more appropriate sized opponents. Eric dominated his first fight against a taller opponent. He couldn’t handle Eric’s clinch & knee. But Eric fell victim to a Leftie in the Semi-finals. He was coached on the spot and adjusted well for the most part but it wasn’t enough to out score the southpaw. Eric’s opponent went on to win his division.
Brian Gamez: Dropped to 187 from being 233 last spring. I think there’s a bunch more pounds to squeeze out of him. Again Brian faced someone who had been training for roughly 6 or 7 years & another Leftie who had his game down pat! Brian’s opponent ended up winning his division. Brian fared better in his fight than the other guys who fought him. A tough loss for him but at least it was to Angel Cartegena’s team Body Arts Muay Thai who I trained with 12 years ago when I was in Philly! Still, it showed Brian he needs to be in an even lower weight division, seriously consider outside conditioning & brush up heavily on fighting lefties.
Jon Wright: Just when you though God couldn’t make anyone bigger than Jon … There were some gigantic humanoids at this competition. Luckily Jon didn’t have to fight those guys but the guys he did fight wished they didn’t! Jon easily beat his first opponent. Jon was probably the only person who threw effective elbows in the entire tournament! The officials were completely off their game for the second fight. From horrible ref’ing to telling us the wrong ring to be in and which fight he was. He was tapped up Sat morning, waited all day from 10am – 6pm with no fight. Sun he was there from 8am but didn’t fight until 3pm then again around 8pm. Long long waiting. Jon’s second opponent complained of some groin shots and played the judges. Although Jon didn’t come up with the win it was Jon’s opponent who was limping out of the arena. He has the belt at the end of the day as Jon says but this is a team sport. In that – I can clearly see Jon needing to hold back with us because he has no one else to spar with his size. The gigantic missing piece of his puzzle will be to find him good sparring partners more his size. The amount of holding back Jon does in the gym with us totally affected his ability to fly on his own terms. He makes us better but there’s no one making him better. This will change.
Everyone who lost on our team lost to someone who won their divisions. I feel strongly our fighters did better than the guys who ended up fighting in the finals. We are on the right track!
Mike Watson: Basically has earned himself like three nicknames. Mike ‘The Hammer’ Watson. Mike ‘Wreck it Ralph’ Watson & my favorite Mike ‘It’s on like Donkey Kong’ Watson. Holy shit is all I have to say. Mike took 1st place in the Novice Division in the 159 weighed class. He planned on being 167 but accidentally got down to 163. So he lost a few more pounds, got to 160 and they gave him the variance. I don’t think Mike knew what he was going to do when he got in there but due to his opponents form of disrespect, it sent Mike into the beatdown mode stratosphere. 1st guy touched gloves & immediately teeped him in the ribs. This made Mike go ballistic. He developed an interesting strategy: I asked him if he listened to anything I said during his fight & he said “No”. Mike said that he started listening to his opponents coach and defended appropriately then punched him in the face. Repeatedly. Well it worked. 2nd fight Mike fought a guy who came from the gym that trained the entire pro-card – USA vs. the World… Mikes opponent was from “the world” part. Him & his boys were trying to intimidate us by starring us down while Mike warmed up on the pads. Mike’s first fight was around 8:30am and this fight was like 10:30pm. Waiting around all day Mike kept saying “My heads not in this coach”. Well a little disrespect from the other team is all the fuel he needed. He tried everything from starring him down, to yelling in his face. To make things worse the opponent was receiving all his coaching in Armeanian which ruined his plan of reacting to the other coaches instructions. At one point Mike gave him a couple of body shots and he immediately fell to the floor grabbing his crotch complaining of a low blow. This time the judges saw his bullshit and called him on it. But Mike kept beating this kid down and won the match. It was an important win because in a way he redeemed Eric, Brian and Jon’s losses. As a team we started on good notes and with this win we ended the tournament on a good note.
After the tournament partied like it was 1999, a much much needed release for what we had tolerated this whole time. From botch weigh ins, to endlessly waiting to fight, I think the announcer was about to hang himself by the end of the 2nd night. The equipment team said to us that the day was so unexpectedly long they “just didn’t care anymore”. At one point in Mikes 2nd fight the ref said break from the other side of the ring – which was unclear because he needed to physically separate the fighters. On the flip side we saw endless fights from fighters who “brought it!” We saw crazy crazy Muay Thai! From everyone everywhere. We learned a lot about Muay Thai, ourselves, each other & what we need to do to be competitive. We start tonight!!