Editors Note: Mike Reilly is the owner and head instructor of Ambition MMA, located in Eagan, Minnesota. Ambition MMA is home to many of the Twin Cities’ top fighters, including Brett Rogers and Kelly Kobold. Reilly has agreed to join FiveOuncesofPain.com as an occasional contributor in order to provide our readers with an inside perspective of a respected MMA trainer.
When your buried in seven feet of snow and the thermometer reads “bring me inside”, things can get a little bleak. I love Minnesota as much as the next idiot who lives here, but lets get serious; The winters are long, brutal and rob one of their sanity as much as their warmth. So truth be told, I would take any excuse to hit Southern Florida; but you throw in sitting cageside at Strikeforce and color me gone.
I have said 2010 will be the year of Strikeforce; the year Scott Coker and Co become the big dogs on the block. There guys are proving they know how to run a show. They are putting together cards with great fights; but also personality. Some have been critical of fights with “personality”. Purists do not like to see outsiders get a shot based more on their celebrity then their track record in the sport. I personally have been critical of this in the Kimbo case. It never bothered me that Kimbo got to fight; but rather that he was given main event status and opponents that caved to phantom punches.
The Walker case is about as different a scenario as you can get from Kimbo. For starters, Walker gained his fame as a world class, one in a million athlete; Kimbo by beating up hobo’s in the back yard. Walker’s background is football, Olympics and the world of business; Kimbo’s is porn. Imagine your five your old son looks up at you and says “Daddy, one day I want to grow up to be Hershel Walker”. ou would beam with pride as you ran right out and buy him some shoulder pads and a helmet. If your son came to you and said Daddy I want to grow up to be Kimbo Slice you would spend the money on a shrink, a priest and a helmet.
I rarely get geeked out by celebrities, but I will admit the first time I saw Herschel at a show I was star struck. I nervous to approach the guy. Here was Herschel Walker; the guy who ran a TD on his first play as a Viking; running right out of his own shoes! And what is the first thing he says to me? “I’d really like to meet Brett”. This wasn’t some Celib-Jock looking for some camera time; this was a real fan of the sport. Someone who really respected the game and the athletes. He wasn’t surrounded by a posse of thugs; rather one of the classiest ladies you would ever want to meet and his friend/manager who sincerely loves the game, and his client. No ego, no arrogance; just real, down to earth people.
Strikeforce also did justice to the Walker story by giving him an opponent who cared. I drove to the Airport with Greg Nagy and I was very impressed with the young man. In only his third pro fight and the first on a national stage Greg presented himself well. Even more important than this fight is the fact that he now has the opportunity to become a true pro fighter. He told me how this was now his full time job. He has the support of a lovely women who was so proud of his courage and effort that it made me a Greg Nagy fan. Those of us who have been around the game for a long time know that there is often victories to be found in defeat. I believe Greg will find many victories from Saturdays showing and I personally wish him the best.
The champions who fought on Saturday evening showed the world once again why they have the gold. Coenen fought a smart and determined fight. She set up her hands brilliantly, but Cyborg is Cyborg. She may well be the most dominate champion in the game right now as her personal landscape is void of serious challengers. Nick Diaz also proved worthy of the title “World Champion” as he used his unique style to dispatch on of the world’s most dangerous strikers. Former champion Robbie Lawler also proved he is still a force to be reckoned with a shot heard around the world against Melvin Manhoef.
For me this event was a healing experience. A few days in the sunshine surrounded by amazing fighters and people. While fans often only get to see the action in the cage I can tell you that Strikeforce is way more then what happens behind the fence. Behind every show is an amazing cast of people working to perfect every detail. Every fighter is greeted with love and respect by every member of the team. Scott, Bob, Rich, Carrie, Shannon, Jeff, Jorden and so many others do more then just put the pieces in place; they make every individual feel like they are part of the family. Two days of sunshine, handshakes and hugs; that was just what I needed.