Eye of The Tiger # 2

The Sweet Science

UFC Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans spars with UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges St-Pierre.
UFC Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans spars with UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges St-Pierre.

Ahead of my upcoming feature story on cage fighting in Albuquerque, I’ll be training at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts gym. This the second installment of my training blog, as I learn the art of whoop-ass from some of the world’s finest instructors.

In my second kickboxing class, I sparred for the first time, and learned the importance of defense.

Derek Begley, a Canadian working in Japan as a wrestling coach, has been kickboxing for about three years. At 210 lbs, he’s about 35 lbs heavier than me, and roughly the same height. He’s in Albuquerque for a month, learning how to fly hot air balloons. While here, he’s training at Jackson’s Submission Mixed Martial Art gym.

“You passed your first test,” he told me, after we sparred. “You got your bell rung and got back up.”

“Thanks,” I said. “What exactly happened there?”

“You kind of bopped me on the nose, so I gave you one to straighten you out.”

“Was that the one that knocked me down?”

“No,” he said, “That was the next one.”

“Every time you throw a punch you’re opening yourself,” he said. “The trick is to not give openings to your opponent when you attack. That’s why they call it the Sweet Science.”

Judging by the way I went down after his 1-2 combo, I’m thinking maybe I should change my fighting nickname to “Sweet Spot.”

Then Begley said something that could kind of be construed as constructive, by way of explaining how I popped him in the nose.

“Your style is kind of erratic and unpredictable. It’s tough to defend because you don’t know where the punches are coming from.”

Yeah, alright. Now I’m thinking maybe my fight nickname should be “Spaz.”

Begley advised me to “put some ice on the back of your neck tonight, because it’s going to be stiff tomorrow.” My neck was, in fact, sore the next day. I also had a black eye and a strange red mark on my forehead.

“You did good,” he said, shaking my hand.

On my way out I popped into coach Greg Jackson’s office. He was meeting with two Hollywood actors: Frank Grillo (of Pride and Glory fame), and Joel Edgerton (King Arthur, Star Wars II and III). These two are starring in an upcoming movie about MMA. Grillo will be playing the role of coach Jackson, the winning-est coach in UFC history (83%). Edgerton, who is also learning how to be a fighter, took particular interest in my story about being knocked down for the first time.

“What did you do,” asked Greg, “pop him in the nose?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Oooh,” he said, sympathetically. “I’m sorry to hear that. That really pisses people off.”