Saturday, January 12, 2013

UFC: Both In The Flesh & Not

Because of the NHL lockout, I have changed my stubborn ways with the sports I like and become genuinely interested in other ones, namely the UFC. I always enjoyed a good knockout as much as the next guy, but never actually sat down and watched the sport and kept up with it. Saw a few highlights here and there.

It was the UFC on Fox that aired in December where Rory Macdonald beat the ever living shit out of B.J. Penn that made me think twice about the sport. The main event was Benson Henderson mugging Nick Diaz. Both fights were simply fantastically entertaining bouts between two men laying it all out on the line with mind and body. Who cares if you don’t understand the nuances of full guard or Ju Jitsu arm locks. All that techno-jargon doesn’t matter. You have to love the brute simplicity of the sport: knock the other muffa-fuffa out. That’s what you gotta do. And in fifty years it’ll be the same damn thing. How can you not love that? Sheer power and domination over another human being. Making him your bitch.

I had never heard of the Canadian fighter Rory Macdonald before the night. The TV played a clip of him walking through the bowels of the stadium in Seattle before the fight. He was immaculately doffed in an overcoat, neatly concealing a sharp suit and tie underneath. His hair was slicked back a la Patrick Bateman. Here was a legit Canadian Psycho! An absolute fucking death squad killer.

In the ring against Penn, a guaranteed future hall of famer MMA fighter lured out of the doldrums of retirement, he faked kicks to the chest and with a snap of the ankle hit Penn right in the face. Granted I’m new to the sport but I’ve never seen kicks like that before. He pummelled Penn with unpredictable, unique combinations, and Penn never even had a taste; only landed a few nice rights which Macdonald easily ate up. Too bad Rory didn’t finish him. Was damn close. Heard Penn had to go to the hospital after the fight with broken ribs. He visibly winced when Rory landed with a clean gut shot. Penn’s a tough guy, and the tough absorb so much punishment without being KO’d, and man, he looked fucked up at the end. A big bald bean of a man bruised and broken. Refried. He’s probably still limping around to the grocery store with a techno-coloured faced. Late in the fight with the only thing left to decide was whether Rory would put him to sleep, Macdonald did the Ali shuffle, a gesture not so much about taunting, it seemed to me, as rubbing it in the opponents face the fact that he’s beat and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s about humiliation. It was funny as all hell to me. The kind of guy you love to hate. Knee jerk boo’s immediately poured from the stands. But if any athlete can get away with obscene arrogance it’s MMA fighters. I can’t think of another sport where an inflated ego and confidence helps more so than the UFC. This ain’t curling.

Rory is one of the two archetypal types of fighters. There are those who mock and trivialize their opponents before a fight on social media, during the weigh-ins, and what have you. Rory even takes it so far, in a humorous twist on the arrogant archetype, to feel sorry for his opponent, as in, “Gee whiz, I wish the guy the best, but it’s just too darn bad that he chose me of all people to fight.” He’s goddamn funny. To add to his Canadian Psycho persona, he’s entirely flat and affect less in interviews and his general demeanour, and he drives around in Porches, and has an unusually strong interest in men’s fashion. I mean come on! He’s Bateman North for Chrissakes!

The other fighter archetype, of course, is the respectful warrior. The man who will always be quick to hug his opponent even in defeat, his face a rearranged bloody mess, barely conscious. Though he is engaged in a violent sport, there is absolutely no personal hatred towards the other fighter. It’s all about the craft, the art of martial arts. It’s a poetic dance of carnage.

You’ll find this type of respectful warrior/arrogant prick dichotomy in most other sports. There’s just something so visceral and raw about the dichotomy in the UFC. It’s more pronounced. The adrenaline pumped through my body as I sat up on the couch, back arched and leaning into the TV and yelled, my teeth gnashed and snarling, “Fucking knock ‘em out!” Rory had Penn stumbling against the ropes. Penn was peering into the abyss, only half there, somehow hanging in there and hobbling around the octagon. The clock must have been ticking in slow motion.

Though it was fun to watch my fellow countryman absolutely molest his opponent, it’s equally fun to watch a similarly arrogant fighter, Nick Diaz, absolutely humbled by Benson Henderson.

I’d never seen either of the two guys ever in my life. Nick Diaz, a scowling, swaggering lithe Latino bad boy from California versus “Smooth” Benson Henderson. Now this Henderson kid, his long curly black hair swaying with each attack, is a pure fucking warrior with legs like two trunks of mighty oak. He destroyed Nate Diaz. Made him his bitch. Even when Diaz was bloodied and on his back, Henderson measuring him out to slam a fist right into his face to end the contest, he was still taunting Henderson, gesturing as if to say, “Is that all you got?” Well . . . yeah, it is all he’s got, and he’s pummelling the shit out of you, kid. But at least Diaz stays in character until the bitter end. An arrogant fighter can never break character. The only way he’d stop being the hot shot is if he got K-the-fuck-O’d. There would be no Nate Diaz there to tell Nate Diaz to be a hard ass. Henderson was close but Diaz’s consciousness remained intact, albeit a bit wobbly; might not have known which planet he was from by the end. A solid victory.

There are secret places in our nature that are stimulated when a man is beating another man senseless. It’s some kind of primordial erogenous zone.

* * *

I was downtown Barrie recently, which is delightfully seedy and full of Southern Ontario scum. I was making my way back to my parked car, waiting for the light to change so I could cross the intersection. There was a Latino couple waiting alongside me. The female half was cradling a Chihuahua, the creatures’ tiny matchbox legs trembling in the cold.

I knew trouble was brewing, though. Up ahead on the other side of the street, some crazy guy was sitting on one of the benches and yelling horrifically racist epithets at no one in particular. People were staring at this guy, and it was just plainly obvious that there is a nut looking for trouble in our midst. He was just kind of yelling racist nonsense out to the heavens above and then singling out people who passed him by, repeating the same phrases over and over. “It’s these Paki’s coming in and ruining our country! They should get outta here!” You get the idea.

“Where you from buddy?” Crazy Guy picks out a hapless slender black man in glasses.

“I’m from Mississauga, buddy,” he replied, quietly defiant.

“You should go back to fucking Africa!”

The man continued down the street, unwilling to engage, walking ten paces and then unable to control the urge to look over his shoulder, he makes sure Crazy Guy is still sitting leisurely on the bench.

I imagined what would happen if Crazy Guy singled me out for derision? What would I do? Maul him like a tiger the second he engaged me, pummel him with deadly lefts and rights to the ribs--switch--then work on his face a little, then--switch--back to the ribs? In the Octagon they call me . . . The Surgeon--cause I do work on mothafuckas faces. Ahh, I’m only pulling your leg. I’d keep on walking--walk on home boy . . .

The three of us began crossing the street, me lagging comfortably behind the couple a few paces. I was the weatherman and I knew which way the wind was going to blow. I’d known since we were waiting on the other side of the street. The couple were too engrossed in their conversation to take much stock of Crazy Guy’s rantings back then. Now that we were destined for a head-on collision, the couple could see and hear that they were walking right into a shit storm and they stopped their conversation and stared at Crazy Guy. The three of us were now almost parallel with the small cluster of benches that Crazy Guy has been using as his makeshift pulpit. We are moving through the belly of the beast. It’s now or never for Crazy Guy to strike.

What did he think of when he awoke this morning? Did he have this outburst planned? Or was it spontaneous? Did he know this is how his day would turn out? The guy doesn’t look mentally ill--in fact he wasn’t bad looking at all for a man in his 40’s.

“I bet you’re fucking Mexican, right?” Crazy Guy yells right at the Boyfriend. Boyfriend, clearly the larger of the two, a thick Latino man who wouldn’t look out of place in Maplehurst, snickered at him dismissively, like he wasn’t worth his time, and kept walking down the street.

“You fucking spic!” Crazy Guy ratcheted up his game a notch, getting bolder, going for the kill shot. “Get outta my country motherfucker! And take that fucking faggot little dog, too!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle about the dog. I knew it was going to factor in there somewhere. Put this man on a stage!

Other pedestrians were starting to really take notice, milling about in small groups trying to decide what to do, like office workers suddenly left without a boss.

We are now so close that Crazy Guy could lash out and, who knows, pry the Chihuahua out of the girlfriends hands and kick a forty yard punt down Bayfield Avenue.

The boyfriend is now getting visibly aggravated, and had to say something, perhaps to save face in front of his woman, perhaps because of the last comment. “Yo man, shut the fuck up or I’ll knock you the fuck out,” the Boyfriend said firmly.

Oooohhh, no he di’in’t.

Oh no, Crazy Guy is going to go for the invitation to rumble and what am I gonna do? Break it up? Hang by the sidelines with the girlfriend? I’m no hero. I mean, I am, in my head, until a situation that requires heroism actually unfolds. Crazy guy stands up and the Boyfriend stops walking and in turn, the Girlfriend stops too. Boyfriend turns to face Crazy Guy directly. At my close vantage point, I could tell that Boyfriend was very angry, not a man to be fucked with, and his words were merely vocalized vehicles for the sole purpose of inflicting damage. It didn’t matter so much what he said as how he said it. “You better sit the fuck back down you retard,” the Latino man says, letting the insults fly. No forethought whatsoever about what was coming out of his mouth. Pure emotion spilling out of him, heart thumping in his throat.

“You should get the fuck out of my country!” Crazy Guy inches closer, yelling, spittle sprinkling Boyfriend’s face. That’s got to piss him off.

I’m stunned, stopped right in my tracks.

Out of nowhere, Crazy Guy fakes a punch, or appears to make a quick ambiguous, vaguely aggressive movement, maybe he even stumbled, and the Latino guy apparently hears a ding ding ding somewhere, so he approaches Crazy Guy in a fighters stance and clocks him with a strong punch right on the button, and Crazy Guy crumbles into a heap on the ground. Not much of a bout. I’m feeling like I have to do something, but really what the fuck am I supposed to do? I stay on the sidelines with the Girlfriend and listen to her scream and her little rodent dog yap away at Crazy Guy. That damn dog wanted so badly to get out of Girlfriend’s arms and have her turn at Crazy Guy but it was over. He is trying to get to his feet, but the minimum requirements of equilibrium have not yet been reinstalled. He staggers, groping for something solid to grab hold of and failing miserably, he gives up and face plants into the ground, moaning unintelligibly.

I finally opened my mouth for the first time, not really sure of what to say. “Well . . . he deserved it,” I said, looking at Girlfriend reassuringly while Boyfriend muttered about how crazy that muthafucka was--in English now--how he shoulda known what was coming to him if he kept talking shit. Blood was cascading out of Crazy Dude’s mouth. He was simply a broken shell of a man; looked like a cheap Halloween costume.

The three of us walked away, continuing down the street, the couple walked faster now, away from the scene before the law showed up. No one went to help Crazy Guy. What did it matter? Should he lay there and bleed awhile? Would that be punishment enough? Some time to let the unorthodox thoughts screaming in his skull die down? Who knows. I didn’t offer my help. What could I do? He’d probably tell me to get the fuck out of the country. So I kept on keeping on. Someone will sort it out. Sort him out. That’s how this whole trip works. All gets worked out in the wash. Or something like that. Diffusion of responsibility, right? Maybe I’ll be a warrior one day. I got to my car, and drove all the way home before realizing I had witnessed a real life UFC event, a KO at the ten second mark of the first round. Goddamn, there's just no trainers in some corners.

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