steph


Main EventAs a chick who is somewhat attractive and very “womanly” in most facets of her life, it is oftentimes difficult for men to understand my love of mixed martial arts. Blood and sweat isn’t something you would associate with a girl who gets her hair blown out every week and has an acute lip gloss addiction. “I wouldn’t have pictured that” [puzzled face] is what I get most….but you couldn’t be more wrong: I love to train (currently in Muay Thai) and most of all, I love to attend and cover MMA fights. Luckily Texas has fight promotions such as Legacy (the third largest in the world), Garcia Promotions, and Immortal Kombat to keep me busy the majority of the time.

However, in this particular month, I was craving something more.

February 23, 2013, will go down in history as the day that women were first allowed to compete in the UFC. As most MMA fans know, Dana White, UFC President, was quoted as saying, “women will never fight in the UFC.” So what changed his mind? By now, we all know the answer: Ronda Rousey. You think I would miss this sh*t? Not likely.

Ronda at the HondaSo I buy my tickets. Best available was section 106, row 8. Eight rows from the octagon. Eight rows from watching a stacked card that included some of my favorite mixed martial artists: Chad Mendes (later removed after his opponent, Manny Gamburyan, was injured while training), Michael Chiesa, Urijah Faber, Dan Henderson and of course, “Rowdy” Ronda. The entire card was jam packed with great fights, including a masterful FOTN from Dennis Bermudez (W) and Matt Grice.

Leading up to that weekend, I had never watched so much media coverage for just one fight card. In fact, at the pre-fight press conference, White confirmed that they had never received so much coverage prior to 157: “This is without a doubt, the most media attention we’ve ever had leading up to a fight. And when I talk about media attention, I’m talking about big time media.”

Bleacher Report

Despite all of this evident support for women’s MMA, I had quite a bit of opposition from my peers as they questioned Dana’s decision, and my own decision to attend this fight. I would like to emphasize once again that although feminine, I am a long way’s off from what you might call “the typical girl.” I don’t watch The Bachelor, and if I do my best friend and I text about what idiots these girls are for boning a dude in hopes that he will pick them out of 20 other hopefuls. I don’t have “girls’ nights out” nor do I participate in “girls’ trips”, and I certainly don’t enjoy attending dildo-filled bachelorette parties or missing football for a Sunday bridal shower. What I am trying to say is, I do not look at WMMA as being “girly” in any form; it is simply not another annoying “girly” habit at which men should be rolling their eyes. Women have a lot more to prove these days in this particular sport, and they are all well-aware of the hard road that lies ahead for them.

Signed ShirtMany comments I received included thoughts that this was the “wrong move” for the UFC, and that it would essentially “destroy” the organization and all that it stood for. (Which is absolute garbage.) Clearly, Dana White knows what he is doing. He is a businessman, and a smart one at that. Dana and his team have spent years and years building the UFC to what it is now: the biggest fighting promotion on the planet, times ten, and there is just no way he would jeopardize that purposefully. And let me tell you, when the women did their walk outs that night, it was vastly evident that nearly all the UFC fans in attendance were waiting for that moment. 15,125 tickets, completely sold out. One might argue that the main draw was Henderson-Machida, but I can tell you right now that their cheers were no match for the main event. The abysmal performance only added to the excitement of the fast-paced women’s bout.

Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports expert, wrote a great article the day after the fight in which he explained, “…[WMMA skeptics] simply showed themselves as clueless bigots because there was no doubt who everybody had come to see Saturday.” He went on, “The reception [of Liz & Ronda’s walkouts] made those who had angrily said they wouldn’t buy a ticket or watch the show because the UFC was somehow disrespecting Machida and Henderson look awfully small.”

UFC 157: Rousey v CarmouchePost fight, Dana also addressed rumors that Liz had been brought on as a sacrificial lamb to Ronda’s sharp wolfy chompers, calling it “goofy backlash.” (There’s a joke in there somewhere about Rousey’s mouthguard and teeth marks on Liz’s arm…) I was, as I mentioned, eight rows away and was actually screaming “OH MY G-D OH MY G-D OH MY G-D” out loud when Carmouche backpacked and was pursuing the neck crank. As Rousey said, “There is nothing predictable about Liz Carmouche.” And she was right.

Up next for Rousey will most likely be the winner of Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano‘s bout on the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 17. With all the sh*t talking that Tate has been doing after 157, I am surprised she has any energy left to train at all….but that’s a discussion and a blog post for another day.

But to the fans of MMA, I pose to you this question (in Gladiator fashion): “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? IS THIS NOT WHY YOU ARE HERE?” I just don’t know how you could not root for these human beings, these two women, who trained hard and fought so valiantly for our entertainment. So, despite the oh-so crushing blow to old schooler egos everywhere, and with Rousey/Carmouche at the helm, the women are undoubtedly here to stay. Tough sh*t, man.

***

Bonuses of $50K were distributed as follows for UFC157:

Submission of the Night: Brock Jardine vs. Kenny Robertson

Knockout of the Night: Robbie Lawler vs. Josh Koscheck

Fight of the Night: Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice

 

Photo Credits: nypost.com instagram.com/stephaniejoplin bleacherreport.com

shivers

As we sat down on that late January afternoon, I knew there was something different about Ricky Shivers. As he thoughtfully sipped on his smoothie, I could tell that his mind was elsewhere. I make small talk; ask him how training went earlier that day, how he’s feeling. He answers as if he has the responses memorized, like it’s clockwork.

Ricky lives his life by that clock. He has a routine that mimics even the greatest of mixed martial artists and, for Ricky, it’s all about the end goal: fighting in the UFC.

Shivers spends a minimum of four to six hours a day at the gym. When he’s not training, he is teaching. BJJ, Muay Thai, boxing, you name it. Ricky is truly a mixed martial artist. “I live in the gym,” explains Shivers. “Every time I train, I train to fight whoever is holding the UFC Heavyweight belt.” Master Carlos Gracie Jr., founder of Gracie Barra MMA Champions, the place Ricky calls home, once said, “If everything seems under control, you are not moving fast enough.” It is abundantly evident that Shivers lives by these words.

Most mixed martial artists have the opportunity to hone their skills as an amateur fighter prior to taking to the cage as a pro, but not Ricky. In August 2004, after only a few months of kickboxing training, he made his pro debut, defeating Luke Pierce by TKO in the second round. Quite an achievement for any man, let alone one of nineteen years of age. What’s more, Ricky had no formal BJJ training whatsoever before that first bout. “The guy almost arm-barred me…I didn’t know I was in an arm bar; I just pulled my arm out of a tight spot!”

Now with a 12-6-1 record under his belt, “Ice Cold” Ricky heads into fight number 20, his first fight as a Houstonian, against Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis who boasts an 8-2 record, and has a reputation for being less than forgiving in the cage. Ricky, an Alaska native, is still fairly unknown to many Houston MMA veterans. Lewis supporters believe that Shivers has no chance to take on the current Legacy Fighting Championships Heavyweight Champ: “[Derrick’s] on a seven fight win streak; he’s knocked everybody out. But if you look at the guys that he fought, I am ten times a better fighter [than any of them]. He doesn’t have the Jiu Jitsu skills that I do. And my cardio is excellent for a heavyweight.” I ask how he plans to beat Derrick, to which he simply replies, “He’s going to get tired of seeing my left hand in his face.

GrapplingI ask Ricky how he would reply to those who say the same about him: that his past opponents were “nobodies.” “Look on Sherdog. That’s what I would tell them.” He continues, “Go call [two-time Division 1 National Champion Wrestler] Eric Smith. He was 6-0 before I fought him. Alistair Overeem brought him in [to be his wrestling coach] before he fought Brock Lesnar. I fought [Eric] in Detroit and he beat my ass for three rounds before I took him out in the fourth. He had never [had to go] past the first round before.” Ricky later tells me that after sparring a few rounds with Dan Henderson, (who at the time was training for his fight opposite Jon Jones) Henderson expressed to him that he didn’t know why Ricky wasn’t in the UFC already. Pretty badass compliment.

Ricky’s journey, as aforementioned, began in Alaska, but spans nine years of blood, sweat, and tears, along with a lot of moving and travelling. Sustaining the roll of doting husband and loving dad is extremely important to Ricky. Keri, his wife of nearly nine years, and mother to his two boys, James and Levi, has been with him through thick and thin. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” he tells me, a bit misty-eyed. “She pushes me more than anyone to succeed.” You can tell there is a lot of respect there. Keri uprooted their family to move to Reno, after all, and Texas thereafter, all for Ricky’s career. “She’s let me pursue my dream.” Keri and Ricky

Since his arrival in Texas, Ricky has dominated NAGA Grappling Championship tournaments both in Houston and in Dallas, and has competed in both State and World Championships in No-Gi BJJ as a Black Belt. After winning four of four No-Gi NAGA tournaments, he is now ranked number one in the nation in his weight class and number three in the nation in the adult division. “I’m by far the best grappler in the state that competes actively,” he tells me. [Numbers one and two live in New Jersey].

Despite his successes in Texas, Ricky craves one thing more: camaraderie with his fellow Houston martial artists.  “I want to let Houston know that I am a talented guy…I am really excited for this new chapter in my life, and new adventure. [I would like to] make friends and make fans… to mix and mingle with…athletes and fighters and really train and make some relationships happen.”

Rick Sr., Ricky's Mentor“I’m excited for this fight,” Shivers says after some reflection. “I’m happy that Mick [Maynard] has recognized what I am worth and what my value is as a fighter…” I see Ricky’s mind start to wander again, and before I could even ask what he was thinking, I find out why his mind will always be in two places at once. “My father died back in October. I wanted him to see me get to the UFC…that is what drives me most. Winning it for him.”

Well, Ricky…when that time comes, I can assure you that your dad will have a front row seat.

***

Watch Ricky and Derrick battle for Legacy’s Heavyweight Belt on Friday, March 1, 2013, at Arena Theater. Tickets on sale at cagetix.com

 

Photo Credits: The Shivers family.

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