<p><p>Saturday I had the honor of cornering Roxanne Modafferi at Strikeforce in Chicago. The winner would challenge for the most prestigious title in women’s MMA. Fight ended in 62 seconds, via an armbar so definitive it necessitated a trip to the ER.</p>
Wednesday Oct 28, in Tokyo, Japan where Roxy lives and trains, she awoke at 2:00 am to her cell phone ringing – her manager Shu Hirata was calling from New York to see if she would take a rematch against Marloes Coenen the following Saturday. They often say a fighter is game like a pit bull; pit bulls are actually game like Roxy. She said some equivalent to Oh Delicious and danced around her tiny apartment.
She had already called up Berlitz where she works teaching English to take off the end of the week as she was sick, but then had to take off the following week too. Her boss is a fight fan, and said OK.
By Sunday she was in the USA playing video games, buying gifts for friends, vlogging, running into Fedor at Sports Authority, being a little bored. Thursday I showed up, took a cab to the hotel, saw Fedor, and jumped like a teenage girl seeing Edward Cullen. I had not felt the same way since seeing Renzo for the first time in 1995; he was washing mats, had a blue bucket.
For the next couple of days I accompanied Roxy to media interviews, lost at every board game, held pads, took walks, and ate too much. One of the least pleasant things pre fight is cutting weight. I have cornered over 100 fights; for the first time we had to do the Upper Cut.
The fight was at 145 (with a one pound allowance as it was non title), Roxy walks around at 137 or so, can lose five pounds in a single workout, and the commission rule was there could be maximum five pounds difference. Marloes is usually listed at 70 kg (154 lbs) so we figured she would take the extra pound. To be safe Roxy had to make 141. The plan entailed a two-pronged approach, first, IHOP, second, water.
IHOP has made an international institution out of convincing soon to be fatter people that dessert is a meal. American’s don’t take that much convincing, but Pecan Pie Pancakes are not the right way to start the day, unless that is, you are about to fight Marloes Coenen. Other useful meals included the healthy sounding Country Omelet with 1343 calories and Country Sausage Loaded Hash Browns with 1700 calories.
The weight was edging up and the final push began with breakfast, first course cheesecake, and finally involved pounding water while waiting to be called out for the public weigh in. The only problem is that girl’s have a bladder the size of a mustard seed. First Roxy looked determined, then alarmed, then ashen, then she said I HAVE TO GO. Roxy is a warrior not a complainer; go means go.
I went over to Marloes’s trainer Martijn de Jong to ask whether she would be taking the extra one pound? He looked puzzled, said “For the catch weight? Of 150 pound?” I stopped breathing, he cocked his head, looked inquisitive, before finally breaking into a big smile. “Hahaha you got me” I replied while envisioning a stick of dynamite in his head, the burning fuse coming out of his nose.
The water pounding began anew. Weigh in was in jeans at 141.6. Marloes weighed in wearing pretty much nothing but a six pack at 145.2, commission took something off for the jeans, and another pre fight worry was over.
Earlier in the day we fixed a banner issue. Shu worked to secure sponsors on the shortest notice and late Friday night a courier dropped it off, from another State. Roxanne sounds like roku san (63) in Japanese, so her web site is 63fighter.com. When the banner unfurled, emblazoned across the top, there it was www.69fighter.com.
The hotel lobby printer was out of black ink, so the staff kindly printed out a number 3, in 450 point, reversed. Then I cut out the number with my medical scissors, got some glue from a store, and it was passable. Also a sponsor, the awesome fightlinker.com, was missing so we downloaded their logo to a memory stick, went back to the hotel staff, cut that out with scissors. Third grade arts and crafts class finally paid off; the banner was complete.
We were the swing bout, last prelim. Solid warm up, then wait, and planned a last warm up while the fifth fight was on. Deray Davis was completing the warm up for his bout with Mark Miller when someone came running in and said to Roxy “Can you go right now?” She replied with her usual complete honesty “I have to pee.”Guy complained and off she went. We went dashing out.
I asked where I was supposed to stand and the guy said I was walking out with her. I knew this was a filmed bout, and that only the fighter could stand in the designated area, as there were flames behind, and I did not want to become Johil De Oliveira with a spit bucket. I said I thought this was a TV bout and he ran off and came back and said “Yah you are right okay, okay you go around to her corner.”
I wade unaided through guards, fans, technicians, commentators and finally end up in the far corner only to have some official run over and yell that she doesn’t have her mouthpiece. I was doing exactly what I was told to do, and offered her mouthpiece. “I don’t want to touch it” he said. So I went to the other ramp, gave Roxy her mouthpiece, and went back to the other side.
We exchanged a couple of quiet words. And it was on.
In training the last few days, with every moment my confidence grew – Roxy had improved in every way. Her striking was a world better (now it hurt). Her submissions were smoother and faster, throwing gogos, triangles and leg locks with pain. And her wrestling was slick, bumping, pulling, switching off single, double, high crotch and back up to pummeling.
Moments in she took a teep, then landed a right, then ate a big right, and dropped for the first time, reaching for a single as he fell. Marloes was looking for her back and ended up on bottom. The big right was bad but this was where Roxy was great – I yelled to posture.
Roxy looks like a college kid, but can take a shot like any seasoned pro. She may not have realized that she was dazed, and moved immediately to pass from low. Coenen’s legs came up menacing like a giant squid, triangle was coming on. Again I shout to watch the triangle and posture.
Marloes beat Becky Levi with a flying armbar, in 2000. She improved hugely since then, and transitioned threatening an omoplata and then rolling for an arm bar, belly down. Roxy has great escapes but the elbow was popping one two three, and she tapped the mat hard, over and over. I saw the hand in slow motion.
It was over in 62 seconds. The flight from Japan. Ten years of hard training. The opportunity of a lifetime, over in 62 seconds.
I came over with her sponsor shirt and could barely get it over the injured arm. Coenen’s hand was raised, I congratulated her from the heart, said she was the best female fighter on the planet. Marloes was sweet, offered a
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