Category Archives: Roy Nelson

Roy Nelson Punches Me in the Face

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  During our pre-fight interviews before the IFL’s show in Las Vegas, we asked some fighters to demonstrate their favorite moves.  After a brief discussion, it was decided that I would the demonstration dummy for these.  It made for an interesting day, especially when Matt Horwich put me in something called a “ninjaplata”, which I suspect he made it up on the spot.

I wasn’t crazy about Roy Nelson’s idea to demonstrate an overhand right on me, but it worked out okay.  He stopped just short of hitting me, though just hearing him describe how he liked to target his punch on the back corner of a man’s jaw made me a little uneasy.  I mean, that just sounds unpleasant.

Anyway, here’s the video demonstration of “Big Country” doing the overhand right, plus a look at how he put it to work against Antoine Jaoude.

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Filed under IFL, MMA, Roy Nelson, Sports

The Enigma of Ben Rothwell

Ben RothwellYesterday I learned that due to a biceps injury to Tom Sauer, former UFC heavyweight champ Ricco Rodriguez has been named as a replacement opponent for Ben Rothwell in the IFL Finals this Thursday. At first I was very excited, but now I’m just very nervous.

Having gotten to know Rothwell on a personal basis this past year, it’s often hard for me to set aside my personal feelings about the guy like a good sports writer ought to be able to do. But since this is my blog and not the IFL site, I’m just going to admit it: I like Ben Rothwell.

He’s a good fighter who doesn’t get the respect he deserves from a lot of hardcore MMA fans who feel he’s somehow being propped up by the IFL. He trains hard, he puts everything he has into his fights, and he wants to entertain the crowd rather than win a boring fight at any cost.

But beyond his abilities in the ring, I think Rothwell is a very genuine and good person. If I were forced to level one criticism against him, it’s that he’s a bit too sensitive.

The first time I realized this was soon after the Roy Nelson fight, which Rothwell won via a very close decision. I called him the following week for something pretty innocuous, probably to get a quick quote from him on an unrelated topic, and the next thing I knew we were talking for an hour.

At first he was almost hostile, as many of the Miletich fighters can be with the media, complaining about something I’d written. When I pointed out that I was just quoting Ken Shamrock, who had made a disparaging remark about the decision, his tone became suddenly vulnerable, like a hurt child.

“Why does he have to talk about people like that?” he said. “Why does one person have to get disrespected in order for someone else to get respect?”

Here I tried to explain what I took to be the Ken Shamrock world view, wherein every day is a constant battle for respect, but I don’t know how effective I was at communicating this. We kept talking and I began to see Rothwell as a regular guy under a lot of pressure, wondering if he was as good as people (like me) said he was, wondering if he could shoulder the weight he was being asked to carry.

I found this very refreshing. Most fighters want you to think that they believe themselves to be indestructible. They never seem to even consider the possibility of defeat. But Rothwell was more honest than that. If anything, he was a little too concerned about his own image, not wanting to seem overly confident.

Now when I write about Ben, it’s extremely difficult. In a way I consider us friends, as much as two people in our respective positions can ever be friends, and I know that he reads everything I write and probably over-analyzes it if it’s about him.

When we didn’t get a chance to talk much at the IFL Semifinals (which were in New Jersey and thus allowed me to spend more time at home in Queens instead of hanging around the hotel lobby for three days like at away events), he called me up the following weekend to make sure we were still on good terms. I told him we were, and I was glad to be able to say so.

This is one of the more surprising side effects of my job with the IFL. It’s hard not to like certain fighters and become emotionally involved with their careers and the outcomes of their fights.

For instance, I have a great deal of respect and affection for Bryan Vetell. I remember sitting ringside in Connecticut the night he got knocked out by Devin Cole, and seeing him lying there unconscious, his mouth piece on the mat next to his head, I got a sad, sinking feeling in my stomach.

That’s why I’m somewhat conflicted about Ben’s fight with Ricco Rodriguez, who is a very capable and dangerous fighter when he wants to be. I’m trying to be impartial, telling myself that I just want to see a good fight, but that’s not true.

I want Ben to win. I want him to win big. And I feel bad about feeling this way, about rooting for one guy over another just because I like him as a person. But I can’t help it. So I might as well own up to it.

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Filed under Ben Rothwell, IFL, MMA, Ricco Rodriguez, Roy Nelson, Sports

Bashing Bisping, and Other Judging Woes

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t think Michael Bisping deserved a split decision victory over Matt Hamill at UFC 75. Hamill looked strong from start to finish, winning every round in my book, and he surprised a lot of people in doing so. But the bigger surprise came when the judges’ scores were announced and Bisping was somehow awarded two of the three rounds by two of the three judges (one of whom was Cecil Peoples, but what’s the other guy’s excuse?).

But a recent Yahoo! Sports article by Kevin Iole made a big deal over Bisping’s perceived lack of class after the match. In the post-fight press conference he was asked by a man who Dana White later claimed to be a Hamill cornerman whether he felt he truly won the fight. When Bisping responded that he did, the faux-journalist asked, “Seriously?”

Anyone who’s ever been in a post-fight press conference can tell you there’s only one reason a reporter (or cornerman) would ask that question. He was trying to get a rise out of Bisping, trying to prod him into action under the guise of asking a real question. Unfortunately, he got what he wanted.

According to Iole, Bisping responded by saying, “”What do you mean, seriously? Do you want to go three rounds? … Of course I won the decision. Get the (expletive) out of here. Get that smile off your face.”

Then, reports Iole, Bisping made an obscene gesture.

So this is where everyone piles on Bisping, criticizing him for his lack of grace when just a few hours earlier he was the media darling. I understand the sentiment, but Bisping deserves a break.

What people are upset about to begin with is the bad decision. I agree it was the wrong call, but it’s not Bisping’s fault. He fought his heart out. Unless he got absolutely pummeled a fighter will almost always feel that he won. It’s like when a bad call works in favor of your favorite sports team. You immediately want to believe it was the right call, even if some part of you knows it wasn’t.

Now just imagine how that feeling would be amplified if you were on the team, the only one on the team, and if your paycheck was riding on the call.

It’s reasonable for Bisping to have blinders on here, and it’s also reasonable for him to react angrily to someone hiding among the press corps and trying to tear him down in front of international media.

But the bigger problem that people are struggling with is the judging, especially since the UFC had to select their own judges due to the lack of MMA regulation in the U.K. From my experiences with the IFL, I know how quick people are to blame the organization for a bad call, even though it’s completely absurd.

Whatever I may think of Dana White, I do not believe he would instruct the judges to give a fight to a particular fighter. He may be crude and brash, but he respects fair competition and, as an astute businessman, would realize he has far more to lose than gain by putting the UFC’s credibility on the line like that.

The IFL stills gets emails from people who are upset about the decision in the Ben Rothwell-Roy Nelson fight. They claim we’re trying to prop Rothwell up, that the fight was a farce, that Jimmy Hoffa’s body was hidden under the ring. You name it. Nelson even appealed the decision, and for some reason he genuinely thought it might get overturned, despite the fact that this almost never happens.

The Rothwell-Nelson fight was closer than Bisping-Hamill. And I’ve talked to both Rothwell and Nelson several times since that fight and both are absolutely convinced that they won, so much so that they can’t even comprehend how anyone could disagree with them. They’re fighters, and that mindset comes with the territory.

But one thing all fighters know is that as soon as you allow a fight to go to a decision, you’ve already placed yourself at risk. The only way to be certain of the outcome is to finish the fight. Judges have done some crazy things, and they will continue to do more crazy things in the future. It doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy at work. It just means that judges are people, and sometimes people make mistakes (especially those who have the word ‘people’ embedded in their last name, for instance).

It’s understandable to be upset about a bad decision, but there’s no reason to jump all over Bisping or the UFC for it, just like there’s no reason to keep sending crazy emails to the IFL about fights that happened six months ago.

The best way to deal with it is to do what the IFL’s John Gunderson did, when he was absolutely robbed of a win over Bart Palaszewski on the same card as Rothwell-Nelson. In the post-fight press conference, as well as in the post-press conference bar conference that has become my favorite ritual while on the road with the IFL, he allowed that, yes, he believed he should have won, but it was his own fault for not making that more evident. That’s class.

As for Palaszewski, he admitted that it wasn’t his best performance and that he was surprised to have gotten the decision. He did not make any obscene gestures or swear at anyone, but then again nobody in the press conference was enough of a jerk to try and get him to.

Class is something we have a right to expect from everyone, after all, not just the fighters.

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Filed under Bart Palaszewski, Ben Rothwell, Cecil Peoples, Dana White, IFL, John Gunderson, Matt Hamill, Michael Bisping, Roy Nelson, UFC 75