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In a Flyover State: How I (Barely) Survived My Day With MMA Fighters

When HDNet's 'Inside MMA' asked me to come on the show to break down the massive new UFC television deal with News Corp., the idea seemed like a lot of fun, except that it lead me to almost get my butt kicked 9/05/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

When the folks at HDNet’s Inside MMA asked me to come on the show
to break down the massive new Ultimate Fighting Championship television
deal with News Corp., the idea seemed like a lot of fun. Little
did I know it would “ultimately” lead to me almost getting my butt
kicked on multiple occasions by people who get paid to dole out pain.

It all began a few days before the show, when I did
some back-and-forth with producers, discussing what
we were going to talk about. One question that arose
concerned the fate of a UFC rival called Strikeforce,
which airs fights on CBS and Showtime and was recently
bought out by UFC. After doing a little homework, I
formulated my hunch that sometime in 2012, the UFC
would write a check and make Strikeforce go away in
its current form, the check being necessary since CBS/
Showtime apparently has options to keep it going.

That was fine and dandy until I saw the guest list for
the show. Joining me on the panel would be a guy named
Fabricio Verdum. Mr. Verdum is a heavyweight mixed
martial arts fighter. Mr. Verdum goes about 6’4”, 250
pounds. Mr. Verdum has three black belts. I go about 5’8”,
and my only black belt is the one I grabbed at Nordstrom
last week when I realized I forgot to pack one for my trip.

Why the tale of the tape? Because Mr. Verdum happens
to be employed by Strikeforce. Yup, I was being asked
to sit on-camera next to this killing machine and say out
loud his company was probably going to get KO’d.

Panicked, I emailed a buddy of mine who is tied to
the MMA world, explained the situation and asked
what the hell I was supposed to do. His response was
that Verdum’s punching is weak, but not to let him take
me down to the floor.

Ironically, getting to the ground was going to be my
exact strategy. That’s where I was planning to head right
after my on-camera prediction, to assume the fetal position
and start crying in hopes he’d either show mercy or
perhaps pull a back muscle from laughing at me.

So, I got my affairs in order and headed to the studio,
where I was greeted with the news that Verdum had
cancelled. You heard all those reports about the Libyan
rebels marching on Tripoli prepared for a massive battle
with Qaddafi’s troops, only to find no one there to fight
them? Suddenly, that story hit home.

I was alive. I was going to see my kids again. And my
wife. And my in-laws…well, you can’t win ’em all.

I felt like I had a new lease on life. I was feeling strong
and confident heading into the show, where I would be
joined by MMA fighters Michael Bisping and Marloes
Coenen. And that was my next mistake.

I realized I was playing in a very different world when
I almost got accidentally killed during a commercial
break. I was sitting next to Coenen—an accomplished
female fighter who looks badass when she’s beating people
up but looked fantastic on-set, all made up. The
show went to break and Coenen said something about
her outfit and a potential wardrobe malfunction. Apparently
giving in to some death wish, I made a typical
smartass comment without thinking about it. Luckily,
she laughed and pushed me on the arm in a joking
manner. That’s when I almost went flying off my chair
and into the stairwell off to my side. Yeah, these MMA
fighters are just a bit stronger than you and me.

You’d think I would have learned something right
then. But when we were live on camera, I was sitting
just a left hook away from Bisping, a tough-as-nails
fighter who is also a star of Spike TV’s (and soon to be
FX’s) The Ultimate Fighter. Bisping had just been grilled
by hosts Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten about an incident
in which he allegedly spit at another fighter. When UFC
host Joe Rogan’s name came up, I couldn’t resist…and
I announced that at least Rogan didn’t spit at people.

You never know why you do certain things, I pondered,
as Bisping raised up his arm while I quietly said
my goodbyes to this world. He pointed to the door
and said it was time to take things outside. Turns out I
would get to use that fetal position after all.

Luckily, Bisping has a sense of humor. In fact, the
worst beating I took was when HDNet put up the video
of my appearance afterwards online, and someone
commented that I have an alien-sized head (which I
don’t refute, by the way).

After we wrapped the show and took some publicity
photos, host Kenny Rice said he’d love to have me back on.

I didn’t want to break the news to him, but since he
went the entire hour without mentioning that network
owner Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title,
I was pretty sure he’d be getting fired before the weekend.

I still haven’t seen the press release on Rice’s sacking,
but I’m expecting it any minute now. I may or may not
get an invite back from the new host, and that’s probably
for the best. My teeth may be a little crooked and
not the brightest shade of white, but at least they are all
there, and given my big mouth, avoiding MMA fighters
is probably the best way to keep them that way.

E-mail comments to bgrossman@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman

 

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