Warning: The following topic is not for everyone. Several readers will groan and turn the page. Others will e-protest with snarky e-comments. Several will go back to reading about boxing or horse racing while reminiscing about archaic sports popular during their youth.
This topic is no different than politics, only less violent. Believe it or not many Tulsans find the political atmosphere seedy and ripe with scoundrels. To each his own we say. We don't judge.
There is a large contingent who will soak up all combat sports coverage in T-Town. Do you want to know why? It is simple.
People love combat sports. It is relatable. Mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai and even WWE-style sports entertainment all fit the bill.
Fans get almost as bad a rap as the sport itself from the uninformed. It is easy to stereotype, but be careful. Sure, as with any sport, you will have some obnoxious followers. They may or may not have a TapouT sticker on the back window of their trucks. They may or may not wear T-shirts two sizes too small.
Fans typically fall into one of the following categories: Competitors, friends and family of competitors, training partners or former WWE fans who wanted something a little more real. Adults, kids and grandparents gravitate to the sports sweeping the globe.
It is a close-knit group of fans. They follow the sport the best they can without much help from the mainstream (old school) media. They turn to web sites and wade through fact and fiction much like hitting Wikipedia for answers. Some good, some bad and a lot of bizarre.
They will consume information on the Tulsa fight scene because of a shared passion. Solid debates range from best local promotion to best venue to best fighter in each weight class.
Can the exchange of ideas get heated? Absolutely. No different from a Dallas Cowboys fan arguing with a San Francisco 49ers fan in the '90s. Think Sooner and Cowboy fans debating football sans the high school humor.
It is hard to imagine why every media outlet is scared to shine a light on a sport not only dominating the Tulsa sports scene but the global sports scene as well.
Starting the Party
The unquestioned top promotion in the MMA world is the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The Ultimate Fighter is their reality show. It attempts to unearth the next big talent as well as entertain a ravenous fan base.
Last season they broadcast in Brazil. The inaugural show in Brazil featured an all-Brazilian cast and drew 12 million viewers. But the sport is not popular enough in Oklahoma? Pfft.
Three years ago the UFC visited Oklahoma City and sold more than 9,000 tickets. Oklahoma is routinely one of the top markets for UFC Pay-Per-View buys in the United States. Like dandelions in your neighbor's yard, the fan base keeps growing.
Somehow this is not common knowledge. We are going to change that starting today. With the grace of the powers that be you can now turn to your unquestioned leader in alternative news for any and all fight-related information in Tulsa.
Tulsa's favorite fighters, coaches, gyms, promotions and events now have a home in T-Town. Join me in this journey as we bring recognition to those who deserve it while also peaking behind the curtain at bad things we need to rid ourselves of in the sport.
Let's start this party with a Boom. Did you know Tulsa recently crowned a World Kickboxing Champion in our backyard?
"I saw it," said Randy Blake of the blood spewing from his opponent Mike Sheppard's nose.
Owasso's Randy "Boom Boom" Blake captured the ISKA World Heavyweight Kickboxing Title on June 1 at Xtreme Fight Night inside The Joint.
The 25-year-old kickboxing phenom wowed another boisterous crowd in route to a brutal stoppage. Mike Sheppard was his toughest, most experienced opposition to date and Blake showed dominance inside the ring.
"When you get a knock out," Blake said, "not that you want to hurt the guy because he has family, you want to knock him out but not kill the guy. When the ref waived it off I was like -- Wow, I just beat a four-time world champion."
How many interview requests did Blake receive from our local media following his world title? Aside from this one? Zero. Not a single outlet deemed a world championship belt awarded to one of the most physically gifted athletes in the state worthy of a blurb, mention or nod.
Is it because Blake is a bad kid? Maybe his arrogance or ego frightened potential publicity?
"I play the piano," said Blake. "That is something I like to do to keep my stress levels down."
Maybe if he wore a football helmet he would garner some positive attention. Next time he should dribble a basketball to the ring to trick old timers into giving him props.
Blake instructs youths and adults at Apollo's Martial Arts in Tulsa. He is one of the most down-to-earth, good-natured people you will find in T-Town.
Maybe our media outlets will wait until one of our combatants earns a trip to the NBA Finals before giving him or her just coverage.
Blake plays the piano by ear. He can play most Michael Jackson tunes. If you have been lucky enough to see him in action you know why.
"His clothing attire is where I get my style from," said Blake. "That is what you see in the trunks a little bit."
His role models are Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson. Both were determined competitors during their ascension to the top of the world. Blake shows characteristics of each including Jordan's freakish leaping ability.
He may seem sick or even distant on fight day. It is mental preparation. Everything is routine including going over techniques he will employee in the first round.
Another facet to his fight day preparation is deciding which Michael Jackson song to use for his entrance. He starts a training camp six to eight weeks prior to a fight. At that time he has 50 or so possible "King of Pop" songs to choose from.
As the training narrows down and gets into specific game planning for an opponent, he might trim the list to 25 possible walkout tunes.
By the time he tips the scale for weigh-ins, it will be whittled down to two or three. "I never really know until fight night," Blake said.
What he does know is that he will be prepared. He credits not only Dale "Apollo" Cook, but also his litany of trainers. Head Coach Mike Egan, who also trained Dale Cook back in the day, leads the way. Brett Richardson is his Muay Thai coach. BJ McGee works on his boxing, and Coach Lynn Stringfellow is involved as well.
"What you guys see during the fight is what those guys instill in me," Blake said.
The 6-foot-3 205-pound wrecking machine hopes to accomplish more than just the championship belt.
"I want to do all of it," said Blake, "to get the experience of fighting overseas and fighting an international guy."
K-1 was the premier fighting league for years in the realm of kickboxing, but financial troubles caused the prestigious K-1 World Grand Prix to crown their final champion in 2010. Rumors of a re-birth are surfacing, and the promotion has reached out to Blake for his involvement on the U.S. qualifier circuit.
"I want people to know I was a great fighter," Blake said. "Anybody can be good, but the people that are good are the people you don't really remember. The good guy is the guy you have to ask somebody 'What was that guy's name?'"
He references his mentor, Dale "Apollo" Cook, whose history is well known. Many will remember his name from his fighting days as well as his action movie roles.
"This guy kicked some butt and was a great fighter," Blake said. "That's what I want for myself. So when someone talks about that Randy Blake kid, I want them to say he is an awesome world champion trained by Dale "Apollo" Cook. That is what I want at the end of this. I know I am a long ways away, but I am knocking at the door."
He is knocking hard.
It is not all double rainbows and sunshine pumping. Bad shit happens too. Unfortunately the traditional media's collective heads are buried so deep in the red clay they are playing catch-up instead of covering the stories.
Former Golden Hurricane football player George Clinkscale paid the ultimate price during a non-sanctioned event last September. His death occurred at a GUTS Church Fight Night event. The referee assigned to the bout was an inexperienced local Muay Thai coach.
Rather than investigate and get to the bottom of the tragic event, many were left searching for simple answers. Was the event sanctioned? Was it legal? Who to blame?
Instead of unearthing answers, we decided to give the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission more platforms to deny culpability.
The reports trickled out. Finally ESPN covered the story in terrific fashion via their E:60 show. No one believes the local media should be able to outmaneuver ESPN in these instances. But how did the World Wide Leader obtain exclusive fight footage? Was there an orange cone update more important than a young man dying at a charity church boxing event?
Another issue facing Tulsa is gym stability. Due in large part to the popularity of the UFC and local fight cards, gyms pop up left and right.
This affects a large number of Tulsans outside the fight community. Many gyms mask themselves as fitness centers. They cater to fighters as well as people looking to lose weight, defend themselves or just form camaraderie with like-minded individuals.
There have been instances of gyms going out of business and members being out hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Who is looking out for the citizens? Would you like somewhere to turn and find out if an owner and his or her operation were legit? Thought so.
If a restaurant in Tulsa took people's reservations and unscrupulously charged their credit card then closed the doors when the patron showed up for dinner, how fast would a TV reporter be standing in front of the business looking for answers? Who works for you?
How about the black eye Tulsa MMA suffered nationally two years ago? A promotion no longer doing business in Oklahoma put on a grand show. Big time fighters converged on Oklahoma for a mega-fight card. The nation was watching.
Only one problem. The promoters did not clear enough money to cover their expenses. Fighters, especially those from out of town, were left dangling in the wind having fought and not gotten paid. Did you hear about this? Of course not.
The fight scene needs to be held accountable in all these instances. If no one is shining the light on the good, how can they possibly flush out the bad?
If Jason White held an autograph session in the mall hundreds of little Sooner fans would line up. Media members would shove microphones and cameras in his face probing him for info on latest business ventures.
Maybe he will give an opinion on the upcoming OU season if we are lucky. White never played a down in the National Football League.
On the other end of the spectrum, MMA and boxing royalty visit Tulsa on a regular basis. Most recently the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon "Bones" Jones visited town. He did autograph sessions at Reasor's in Broken Arrow as well as Xtreme Fight Night at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa.
A couple of radio stations (97.5 KMOD and 1430AM KBEZ) scored interviews with the world champ. He was introspective and entertaining. He was down-to-earth and up for the questions. FOX 23 did a sit down interview as well.
There is a 50/50 chance you knew about this. The diehard fans knew, but what about the casual fans who enjoy the main fight cards both locally and nationally? Who relayed this information to them?
A chance to meet Jon Jones and have a picture with him might turn out to be the equivalent of having your grandparents showing you a black and white with Muhammad Ali.
Jones was not the first and certainly will not be the last major player in the fight world to visit Tulsa. Xtreme Fight Night, along with the Hard Rock, brings in high profile personalities several times a year.
In the past we have seen bona fide superstars come and go. The impressive list includes but is not limited to: Bill Goldberg, Sugar Ray Leonard, Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell, Irish Mickey Ward, Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez, Royce Gracie and Big John McCarthy.
They are not alone. Local gyms bring in experts for seminars all the time. Now thanks to UTW you can find out who, what, when and where to meet or train with top talents across the globe in our backyard.
Tulsa's fight scene is rich with talent. Several fighters based out of Tulsa have competed at the highest level around the world. It should come as no surprise.
Look down the road at Stillwater as an example. The Oklahoma State University collegiate wrestling pedigree is unmatched. For amateur wrestlers the pickings are slim after college: Quit competing, hope it is an Olympic year, attempt WWE-style rasslin' or train in the striking game and give MMA a go.
Canada, Japan and Finland are just a few of the countries Tulsa fighters have competed in the past few years. Every time their names are announced in the ring or cage, the precursor is "fighting out of Tulsa, Oklahoma."
We are a prideful city and state. Look no further than the abundance of Thunder gear purchased in the past few months. Let's support those who brand our city in a positive light.
Many consider Mikey Burnett the godfather of Tulsa MMA. He was the first but not the last fighter to represent our city in the UFC.
The retired fighter had a hand in bringing in a whole new generation of fighters such as David Heath, Matt Wiman and many others. These guys paved the way for others in our area to get a shot.
Josh Bryant, Gerald Harris and Trey Houston are just a few of the top names currently training and fighting out of Tulsa. We can include a couple of guys down the turnpike like Matt Grice and suddenly our foothold in the fight world just grew exponentially.
What makes the success of San Diego Chargers wide receiver Robert Meachem different than the success of former UFC contender Gerald Harris? Both grew up in Tulsa. They attended local high schools. Each made it to the highest possible level of their sport.
Violence? It is 2012. If you truly believe football is a safer sport than mixed martial arts then you should read Malcolm Gladwell's pieces in The New Yorker from 2009. Or better yet Google "football players' concussions" and look at the litany of lawsuits being filed by former players against the league.
Admitting to watching pro wrestling is akin to playing Celine Dion in front of friends. You will either be made fun of the rest of your life or earn a new buddy who secretly shares your guilty pleasure.
On Sunday, August 5, the WWE's only mainstream competition comes to town, when TNA Impact Wrestling will take over the Tulsa Convention Center.
The TNA stands for Total Nonstop Action. When former WWE superstar Jeff Jarrett launched the Orlando-based promotion in 2004, their product was the anti-WWE. Mostly rasslin' with little shenanigans. Today they have returned to those roots and decided to take the show on the road.
If you thirst for rasslin' but want to watch the biggest, baddest, McMahonish product, then Tulsa has you covered.
The WWE included Tulsa once again on their nationwide tour this year. Tuesday, October 2, their Smackdown product infiltrates the BOK Center. Maybe one day the capacity crowds in the BOK Center will earn Tulsans a Pay-Per-View quality card.
Wrestling fans flock to these events. Even if the sports entertainment genre has passed you by in life perhaps a figure-four leglock down memory lane will rekindle those Hogan leg drops from your youth.
Also, the American Grappling Federation holds a Brazilian Jui Jitsu (Gi and No Gi) event in Tulsa on Saturday, July 28. The tournament takes place at Soccer City Tulsa, 5817 S. 118th E. Ave.
These local tournaments allow potential fighters to gain competition experience without risk of diminishing their MMA record. It also provides stiff tests to those who simply enjoy the Jui Jitsu game without eating punches and kicks for their trouble.
Xtreme Fight Night returns to The Joint on Friday, July 27. Big fights and larger than life personalities are the trademark.
It will be no different this time as former Pride FC and UFC superstar Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is the special guest. Non-fight fans may remember Jackson from his role as B.A. Baracus in the A-Team remake two years ago.
On Friday, September 21, King of the Cage returns to the River Spirit Event Center. This will mark their third show in south Tulsa since March.
King of the Cage is a national promotion holding events throughout the Midwest and as far west as Hawaii. They feature local fighters as well as importing opponents from across the nation.
We are just getting started. You have a fight game itch? We have the back scratcher. You have the fight game fever? We have the prescription.
Let's do this.
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