I, Fan

January 6th, 2007  |  Published in etc

I am not going to try to kick it old school, as the children are fond of calling it, and claim that Al and I have been fans of Randy “The Natural” Couture since back in the day. In fact, as Ultimate Fighter 3 johnny-come-latelies, we didn’t really know who he was until he got inducted into the UFC hall of fame.

In the few months since then, the UFC’s become something of a family obsession — parental obsession, anyhow, since Ben doesn’t need to see that yet — and we’ve gotten up to speed on Randy, his career, and what a generally affable persona he presents now that he’s more of an entrepreneur and goodwill ambassador for mixed martial arts. We like the guy and we like his laconic approach to ringside commentary when he’s pulled in as the third man for Rogan and Goldberg.

So out of some back and forth between Al & I, I learned that his promotion, SportFight, has an event in Portland this weekend, and that he was in town with Matt Lindland and would be signing copies of a SportFight “best-of” compilation DVD. We kind of had to go.

Randy Couture, Me, Al and Matt LindlandThe signing was being held at the Hollywood Video up on Sandy & Fremont. We got a babysitter (Kim, who has a pair of dachshunds named Oscar and Frank Ben really digs) and drove up. It was sort of crowded, with a few dozen people milling around, some of them wearing MMA hats that had been signed with silver marker. We picked out a SportFight DVD, bought it, and took it up to the table.

It was a little odd, frankly. Randy and Matt were both really nice, but we weren’t sure what to say to them in that context. Most of our questions probably wouldn’t have been considered polite or friendly since Randy occupies a place in our mental map of the UFC on the side of the “good ones,” and we’d want him to dish on the ones we think of as the bad ones, and maybe validate our belief that Mike Goldberg, while a fine professional announcer, probably ought to be quiet a little more often. It’s not Mike’s fault he’s that way … they pay him. But just once we’d like the simmering tension between him and Joe Rogan to finally boil over … for the cards to be put on the table … for someone to say “Damnit, Mike … a loud smacking sound does not a good kick make.” Alternately, we’d like someone like Randy Couture to say “It’d be nice if he’d tone it down a little and maybe not get so pissy when Joe corrects him.”

So, that line of interrogation was ruled out. Besides … what if Mike and Randy are friends? I settled for a “nice to meet you.” Then after a few seconds of gaping and staring I asked if we could get a picture.

Matt called a guy over who grabbed my camera. We lined up. Matt sort of lunged at Al and the camera guy yelled “she looked like she was gonna sprawl right there!” (A “sprawl,” for the record and because I don’t think anyone reading this is ever going to share this particular interest with us, is a way to avoid a takedown by straightening the legs to put them out of the reach of a grasping opponent and getting control of his upper body to keep him from “shooting” deeper. He was implying that Al was defensive and perhaps prepared to go to the floor over the violation of her boundaries. She was not but did allow as how she’s learned a lot from watching Randy and the others fight. I enjoyed the gym language and am still, hours later, trying to shake the image he put in my head of Al stuffing a takedown with a rigid sprawl.)

Picture taken, there was some more joshing by the photographer about how he was a younger brother and periodically drug behind snowmobiles by the others while riding a car door.

And that’s that, really. Sort of anti-climactic, but exciting at the same time because … hey! Randy Couture! The Natural!

It seems like there’s a lot more to say about MMA in general. I’ve been meaning to write something but haven’t really pulled it all together. I was looking through some scraps I tucked away a few months ago, though, and I guess this bit I found describes the appeal for both of us:

As with boxing, there are moments of ugly brutality … but there are also moments where some sort of wizardry involving the human body and will manifests in a tangle of limbs. You realize you’re seeing an intersection of strength, psychology and skill … a magic trick performed on an unwilling assistant who vowed to thwart the magician.

A lot of fans like the spectacular knockouts and bloody slugfests. We’re much more fond of a good submission … something you simply can’t get in boxing.

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