Strikeforce “Young Guns”

By Steven M. Ledbetter (

When you get involved in any sport, it would make sense that the first impression of that sport is going to come from its highest profile events. I’m sure when we are young we think that every football game is going to look like the NFL. But it is not very long before we realize that that every pool does not look like the one Michael Phelps broke all those world records in. It was at Civic Auditorium in San Jose that I realized not every professional fight is DREAM.

I have been to one other event, in San Jose no less. I went to the very well produced “Strikeforce Melendez vs. Thompson” event in June, and it was one of the reasons that I started doing the sport myself. So this weekend I wanted to introduce my father to the sport, and to cheer on a member of my gym who was to be fight #9 on the ìYoung Guns IIIî card. My father had never seen a fight (any fight, not even boxing), so I thought this would be a good event for him to see. Fighters with less experience tend to be more aggressive, their tactics are usually less subtle, and I thought this combination would prove to be more palatable for the novice viewer like my Dad, who bores easily. Of course, I had no idea that the promoters of inexperienced fighters also share the same faults.

I can imagine the mental state of young fighters to be a fairly unique mess. Someone with only a few fights on his or her record can’t afford win ratios below 50%; they’ll never get on another card. An inexperienced promoter is going to be in the same boat. Smaller promotions need to make enough cash at the door to cover their expenses and set them up for the next event, unlike larger promotions which can float a failure on credit. A young fighter might pick the wrong corner man, much like a promoter who picks an announcer who declares wins by “reverse naked chokeî. And I know that every person who has taken more than a single Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu class has thought about what song they would enter the ring to, but I bet they wouldn’t expect it to be played by a DJ set up on card tables.

Young Guns III suffered these problems, but all of them are forgivable if there is action in the ring. Without question, Young Guns delivered some great fights. Predictably aggressive, the young fighters provided a great showcase for the various kinds of matchups that the MMA world enjoys. There were two submission victories, a technical knockout, and 4 decisions. There was even a 265-pound matchup that ended in 19 seconds with a floor-shaking knockout. My father was impressed by the various styles and got to see a good mix of standup fighters, ground and pound, with a lot of great jiu-jitsu (which he liked best). But after 8 match-ups, we were excited to see my friend fight next, only to be confused by an impromptu intermission.

ìLadies and Gentlemen, we are going to take a 10 minute intermission to repair some damage to the cage door.” My friend could see the ring from when he heard that announcement. “Stay warm. Kick some bags. You’re up as soon as we get this fixed,” the promoter told him as the crew scrambled to find people to fix the cage Strikeforce had rented from another promotion, WarGods. My friend and his team also had to scramble to get back to the warm up area, but were at a loss on how hard to push. It could be another 10 minutes, or 30óthere was no way to prepare. The number of confused fighters in the back began to grow as more people crowded around the cage door to offer advice on its repair or to just figure out if anything was going to happen. I’m sure no one liked the idea of canceling the rest of the card, but it had to be pretty obvious pretty quickly that the requisite skills to fix that rented cage were not in Civic Auditorium that Saturday night. As it turns out, the audience found out before the fighters did.

“Yeah, we heard the announcer guy talking and people booing, and it took a second to register,” the fighter and his coaches told me. The announcer told me that our stubs would be good for the next Young Guns show. We were bummed, but my Dad and I got 8 great fights, out of 13ó61% of our ticket value. That, it turns out, is a better deal than the preempted fighters or the promoter. “He paid us 20% and told us that he would put on a fight just for us in 3 or 4 weeks that all of the original ticket holders would get to see free, but that doesn’t make sense. He’ll lose $15,000 on that show.”

The world of professional fighting is a stranger place than the one I knew before Young Guns III. Or rather, my perception of that world is clearer. Every sport has its fringes, but those are also the entry point for all the great talent we end up seeing on Pay-Per-View. It’s a little bit wild out there, but that’s because there is more risk in doing anything you aren’t experienced at yet. The same is true for promoters, but you have to wonder what the likelihood is that this one will get a second fight, especially at those odds.

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