Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ladies Fight Night Fiasco

Currently on my way to Montana to corner an MMA fight 
How and Why?
Who knows! 

This girl got KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT. 
And I mean that with every ounce of gravity that can possibly be transmitted through capital letters and curse words.

Not only did she get knocked out. It was her second loss to the same girl. In her own gym’s promotion, a promotion known for feeding its fighters with quick wins.

When PRVT left Curitiba Priscila and I both left the team but 
We would still see each other occasionally at the boxing gym 
in my neighborhood. 

Luciana Pereira from the famed Nova Uniao team is a giant. Pleasantries aside (cause let’s keep it real she was always a bitch to me anyway) the girl looks like she’s been guzzling steroids for a couple years. Unfortunately, it didn’t help.

The much shorter, less muscular Priscila Souza ended up taking home the belt after catching Luciana with a wild right hook off. She went down. Hard.

When I went up to congratulate her on the victory she was still hyped up, wiping sweat from her forehead. She had the belt thrown over her shoulder and a bag of something that looked like Funions clutched in her arms, but none of that stopped her from giving me a huge hug when she saw me!

“You need to come to Curitiba!” she said, “Parana can get you a fight for sure!”

I’d met Priscila once when she came up to Rio with her MMA team. She trained at PRVT (Parana Vale Tudo) with Jessica Andrade from the UFC. PRVT is a shit show and that’s another story all in itself. It would be a stretch to say that me and Priscila were friends at that point, so I was shocked at her warm greeting and the fact that even in the height of her victory, she was even thinking about my fighting career in any shape or form.

It was touching and ultimately the reason I decided to leave Nova Uniao where I was training with Claudia Gadelha. It was a hard decision considering Claudia was one of the main reasons I decided to move to Brazil to train, but the fact of the matter was I wanted to fight… and Nova Uniao wasn’t making that happen.

My boxing, Coach, friend Poliana, and Me 
and my first MMA disaster... I mean fight.

I fought one time at Nova Uniao. It was a couple of years ago around Christmas time. It was finals for Claudinha and the middle of her fight camp for her UFC debut… but she managed to find some time to get me a fight. She made all the arrangement, helped me with my training camp, and advised me during my weight cut, all while preparing for her own fight and finishing her last year at college.

One of my first nights living in Curitiba. I stayed in the gym with Priscila 
for awhile. She lived there in the back and eventually brought her two daughters from 
Rio. Like I said the team was a shit show so we eventually all ended up leaving. 

She couldn’t go to my fight to corner me because she had a final, but my other coach from Nova Uniao had no excuse. He bailed on me the day of the fight. So, a couple of hours before my fight I ended up going to the pharmacy to buy tape to wrap my hands and catching a bus out to the middle of friggin’ nowhere.  In the end, Claudinha managed to get my boxing coach and another teammate to show up for me. but I was blown. Nova Uniao is like that. They’re a factory and they give zero fucks about their fighters.

Random places in Curitiba where I spent a lot of random time. 

So last week, I’m a work…  Like real work, like after 6 months of fucking around I actually have a real job… So I’m at work and I get a message.

“Yo I’m coming to the U.S. to fight. My visa got approved. If my coach can’t go you’re going to go to corner me”


“Ok what’s your full name. You’re going!”

I was shocked to say the least but this kind of last minute, drop everything and run stuff happens all the time in Rio.

Claudinha apparently got her this fight.
And when the promotor tried to tell Priscila that they couldn’t change the plane ticket and she would have to go alone… Claudinha raised hell.

Training with Claudinha and Master Claudio

So now, I’ll be working till 9. Running home to grab my trusty red suitcase, catching a bus to Jersey at 11 and then getting picked up in the morning by Claudinha and then taken to the airport to fly out with Priscila.

Priscila will be fighting Roxanne Modaferri who is one of the veterans of women's MMA. She was on the ultimate fighter and is currently signed with Invicta (I think). 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Size Matters: From 100st Rio to 11th St D.C.

3 years ago 

In the courts at the entrance of Pavao... 
Outside of the first place I used to live in the favela 
On the way home after post training food at Bil's <3

Some weird shit happened Saturday night at the place I was living in the Cantagalo favela which led me to the decision to find a new place to call home. As soon as fucking possible. I had been in the favela for about 4 months and in Brazil for about 7 months, but it would be the first time that I had ventured to live on my own.

The main vein of Galo

One of the friendly favela residents introduced to me to a guy that sat on a couch surrounded by a rampant pack of children. She introduced him by one name and he gave me another. It was shady as hell, but whatever, I need a place to live and he had a room for rent. A day later I called him up, met him on a corner, and replaced the wad of cash in my sports bra with the keys to my freedom.

The place was a piece of shit, tiny as hell, and had a wall that was perpetually damp.

Daily Occurrences. 
Corner boys are friendly, familiar 
faces. Cops not so much. 

On the bright side, it came with an armed doorman
(I’m being facetious. I mean there was a dealer outside). 

I didn’t realize until a couple of months later that it was located in one of the most dangerous parts of my side of the neighborhood. A place called the Gaza Strip. I probably should'a gathered as much after hearing a crackhead get nearly stoned to death in front of my door.

The room was tiny as hell. There was only enough space for fridge, a sink, my two plastic drawer sets, and then there was a small area for me to throw down a mattress to sleep at night. During the day, I had to throw the mattress up against the wall. It was that tiny.

But the room had a small balcony attached to it which was hands down the best part. I’d sit out there after training looking at the ocean and talking to the lookout. He had really good stories. He told me about how my house used to be nothing but a shack made out of wood, that my landlord, who had just recently been released from prison, had built up on his own. He told me about how my house, located at the top of 26 flights of stairs was one of the main entrances to the favelas. Crackhead and cops would ascend the stairs in search of the boys with backpacks at the tops and apparently, my new landlord was known for having some crazy shootouts with the police.

When I moved back to D.C. I found myself in a similar predicament (I minus the guns and drugs). I found myself needing a place to live, and since I didn’t have a car, my options were limited to the city. I had a choice between two small rooms or moving back to Philly to my father’s house (which was not really an option!). One of the rooms was located right across from the perfect parking lot for interrogating and murdering someone… so yeah, that mean I was pretty much left with only one viable option.

Luckily it worked out and here I am. I managed to find the perfect living situation… and then the perfect job.

On the perfect living situation

If I finesse it, there’s kind of enough space for me to lay on my floor in between the door to the hallway and the door to the balcony. It’s that tiny.
I’m reluctant to let people into my personal life, let alone my personal space and the one time I did, they were….

They were curious.

Curious to know why, If I now had a job, would I not look for a better living situation. Americans love to supersize everything.

But riddle me this?

Why the hell would I increase my expense by $300 for more space at home if I wake up at 5:30 in the morning and go to the gym, train, sleep on a crash pad, then go to work to teach till 9 P.M.?

I’m never home, so the fact that my room is smaller than a jail cell is really irrelevant, expect when it comes to acquiring a lot of useless shit… then it becomes highly relevant because I don’t have any space for all that nonsense.

I mean I could TOTALLY spend 300 dollars more money every month on rent so I could have a bigger room but I would prefer to spend 25 bucks on a bus ticket to NY and go lay down in the Bronx or spend 500 on a ticket to the west coast so I could visit Cali, Colorado, and Oregon.

Moral of the story: Perfection is Relative & Size only Matters in Some Situations (to some people). 

This was my first front yard in the favela. 
The Entrance to Pavao or the Left side of the hood

Favela Tour Fridays with the Connection Rio Guests.
Proceeds from the tour went to helping fund miscellaneous projects
at the Project. I'd take them around to Terere's house and show them 
where kids from the project play soccer. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Grappling Industries: Making Jiu Jitsu Great Again


The night before the competition it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it would have been a good idea to practice my shots (take down entrances) seeing as that’s my preferred method get to the “jiu-jitsu” part of the fight. There are some people that spend a good portion of their fights holding on to each other’s gis and staring longingly into each other’s eyes as they vie vainly for takedowns or throws but I’m not about that life. My game plan is always to get to the ground as quickly as possible whether it be pulling guard or shooting in for the takedown.

Things not to practice before (or after)
a competition. 

So since I haven't competed in awhile, it occurred to me that I should have probably drilled  a little bit more before my next competitions (which is this Saturday in Virginia beach).

Pre-competition training didn’t end up at all like I planned. I’ve recently taken a job teaching at a night school, which leaves me free to spend my morning's training, writing, and subbing at two different GED programs in the city. I unexpectedly ended up working all day week, so I missed out on a considerable amount of training and countless hours of drilling. A couple of years ago I might have been concerned about the lack of preparation since these damn competitions are so expensive and I’m out of glutamine, the money I got from working was more than welcome.

They say jiu jitsu is about technique over power, but it’s actually the philosophy that has saved my tiny ass on multiple occasions. This being one of them.

When I went to interview Vedha Toscano, Erin Herle, and Dominyka Obelentye in New York about dealing with the pressures of competition. There was one thing they said that made sense. “Don’t worry you do this every day”

So anytime I worried about anything leading up to the competition I just thought about that. Even though I wasn’t able to train during the week and had to work late the night of the tournament, I didn't need to worry. I do this every day, I've done these everyday for a lot of years now. Their advice has turned into a kind of calming mantra for me any time I worry about whether I should be training enough or not.  A few days off wasn’t going to make me any less lethal (plus I was doing a lot of pushups at 5 a.m. before work).

Pre fight 

When we showed up to the fight I discovered two things. The first being that there were a ton of other people there from Beta competing which was dope because its always better to have people from your team to support you.  The second was that I would have several more fights that I had expected adding up to a grand sum of 10 fights (6 in a gi and 4 nogi). I’ve never fought so many times in one day but again, I just have to revert back to the first mantra. I do this every day!

When you have 10 fights with only a couple of minutes in between fights there is no time to worry.

 I try to get all my worrying out of the way a day or two before the tournament. Seriously, I try to visualize and feel just how nervous I’m going to be. The feeling of looking around a room at every person that is your size and wondering if you going to fight them, the nervousness of not know how to get to the ground, worrying about my grips or my sweeps. I think of any and everything that might potentially go wrong beforehand so that, on competition day I can be confident, worry about warming up, and just go with the flow instead of stressing about the “what ifs”.

Through competing and training you find your weaknesses (if your paying attention) and I’ve become familiar and started working on each one of mine. I know where I like to be and I know where I don’t like to be. I know where I can sweep from and I know where I can pass from. I know where I can finish from and I know where I’m going to just be fucked and fumbling around… like with the stupid collar choke that everyone learns day 1 of jiu-jitsu. I try it every competition and it never works (except to tire out my fingers and forearms). So real talk, if I’m trying to collar choke you, I’m just stalling for time.

When we finished taking pictures and realized we 
had no medals! 

Stalling for time is somewhat an important strategy I use as well. 

It’s VERY HARD to fight 10, 5-minute rounds. That like almost an hour of fighting. But chilling… anyone can chill for an hour, so it’s important to learn to chill during rolls. Your ability to chill during a roll is generally contingent on your willingness to sacrifice chill time during the week and actually take your ass to the gym and train… better yet, DRILL!

I’ve spent what has to be at the very minimum 5 hours drilling passes from half guard thanks to Isaak. There was a point where my face was rubbed so raw from having someone’s kimono grinding across my face as they pressured down with their shoulder on across the bottom of my chin and forcing me to look away and then we'd start the next class and he would teach THE SAME DAMN PASS.I got sick of it, I wanted to cry in a corner, or better yet, chuck something at Isaaks's bearded head because apparently the extra layer of hair was protecting his face from the same torture that I was being subjected to.

Couldn't find Isaak for a pic but I did score 
one with Master Nak. I have gotten 
substantially better since I started training with these guys! 

In the end, it was worth it. Ain’t nobody bout to keep me in half guard. No way no how. And if they try, well, instead of fighting,  I’m just chilling, applying the right pressure, and focusing on getting my breathing back to normal and my nerves calm while waiting for the right opening.

Tthe time I spend in top half guard I consider to be chill time. It’s the best time to feel your opponent out… literally… because generally they are trying to wiggle out and will wiggle open the perfect attack, BUT if you’re going bat shit crazy trying to rip your foot out of half guard you miss the perfect kill and end up in a sloppy scramble.

Rules are Meant to be Broken (by athletes not refs)

No matter how well you prepare. A bad ref will make or break you! 

Apparently, if you’re not fighting IBJJF people give zero fucks about the rules... They vary substantial depending on who you ask, to say the least. There were several discrepancies between athletes, coaches, and refs when it came to scoring. Luckily part of “Favela Jiu Jitu” means making sure that you don’t get robbed, so I definitely have the habit of getting my points, securing the positions, and then waiting for the ref to make the call. When your mid fight and you have the time to look a mofo dead in the eyes, for 3 seconds until he holds your points up, they generally get the message that you’re not fucking around and are quick to start giving you the rest of your points in a more timely fashion.

This tournament was so bad that I had to stop and actually talk to the ref. I got my pass he didn’t give me the points so I looked up and asked about it. No points for passing half guard?!?!?! Ok but what about knee on belly I said (literally I was having this conversation with him during the fight) nope not that either! WTF! Had I not been paying attention to the score and time I would have thought I was up by a lot when I was winning by a lot more than I actually was.

In another match, due to the ref’s randomness, I was down on points in the last 10 seconds attempting to push the girl from turtle to side control. I heard a combination of things from my coaches which caused me to look up and see the score and the time. When I saw I was down with barely anytime I stopped pushing and jumped for her back and won the fight.

Make friends don’t break them 

I won all my fights except one in NoGi. I lost to a girl from MD who was running through her gi division submitting everyone. I knew she was going to be strong so I went in quick and hit her with some kind of twisted nogi freak variation (safadinho variation/ one of Terere’s takedowns). From there she was able to get guard (I believe) and ended up twerking my arm from a triangle.

It was a good fight. It was actually a fight. The other 9 fights were me meticulously working through what I wanted to do. There is a point with each opponent where I established control and kept it, even when my opponent was able to get to a more advantageous position I was able to protect myself, and mentally work my way out without feeling too threatened.

With Johanna, it was just a whirlwind. We went at it and there was no mental calculations, just pure intuition. The ref said we had one of the best fights of the day (she ran through her opponents just like I did expect she was finishing them and I was winning on points) and most definitely the best bracket.

Several people came up to me and told me my takedowns were beautifully terrifying! My wrestling ability is based solely on some highly ridiculous but super productive privates that I took with at Torryn and his wifey at Connection Rio almost 2 years ago.

There is probably a pretty way to end this blog. But i'm currently on a bus on my way to Virginia Beach to compete again tomorrow so....

The End.