Sydney, Australia's VT1 Academy Owner owner Liam Resnekov (Lemons on the UG) concludes his guest blog for Invicta.
Part 4. Victory for VT1, Astro Girl’s afterparty and the big apple.
The final leg of our journey before our 33 hour journey home.
Prelude: Mexican Coke.
So you may have been unfortunate enough to catch a hipster; a mangy looking thing wearing tight jeans, buddy holly glasses and toting a new mac book air, talking about the new Mexican Coca cola movement. You see American soft drinks are sweetened with something called High Fructose corn syrup. An unaware Aussie normally discovers this after a series of headaches that team up with an anxiety attack. Some of the drinks are starting to boldly state that they have “real sugar”. Guess what ? All Australian drinks have REAL sugar (or Cane sugar) and it’s a point of shame back home!
Mexican coke DOES taste better, the Emo-lites are actually correct in this instance, but that’s ALL soft drinks in Australia. What a strange world.
Chapter 1: The Fight
When staying in the same hotel as your opponent, it is impossible to avoid them. Even harder is to avoid her giant, albeit super friendly, boyfriend Keith Jardine who you have watched fight for years. Even stranger is sitting in the opposite corner to the guys you have studied for years; guys like Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn.
We always make the habit of changing the fighters rooms, taking the phone off of the hook and putting it under a fake name. Needless to say Jackson’s MMA are very professional but some of our past opponents have not been. Never hurts to be cautious!
Even more surreal is that the change-rooms were in the back of a BBQ restaurant in the casino. As our poor undernourished fighter is warming up, she is smelling the delicious sauce of Arthur Bryants, which by the way received a 6/10 on the Glen BBQ rating system.
A fighter still doesn’t think you are ready for the big-league even when you are there. Pat Barry told us: “If you ever lose that sense of wonder its time to quit”. I know Alex kept talking about all these other fighters like she wasn’t one of them, even after her fight.
The fight happened so fast it’s hard to even recall. Alex came out and the girls didn’t touch hands. Jodie came forward fast and we knew she was an excellent striker. Alex has very elusive footwork so the plan was to outdistance her, strike and take her down. Jodie landed a huge leg kick that unbalanced Astro Girl but made the mistake of throwing a second one. Alex was ready this time and was on her like white on rice; taking the single, chaining together a back-take trip and straight to the hooks.
Weeks before the fight we decided to go back to some basics for the fight, emphasizing things that seem to be lost in modern MMA, things like flattening people out on the back. As soon as she got the back she went straight to work breaking her posture, something that I’m not sure people expected to see. A week later at Marcelo Garcia’s New York Academy, one of the most underrated coaches I’ve had the pleasure of training with, Paul Schreiner, showed us some solutions for why Alex had difficulty finishing it initially.
You see what makes Invicta different from other large organizations is that they have purposefully kept the “Indie” feel; they are genuinely passionate about developing not only women’s MMA but also the female fighters. They happily made some changes to our ticket and sent us over to New York so Alex could train with the back attack master himself, Marcelo Garcia.
Jodie was tough as nails and fought hard but Alex had been working a switch combo on the choke to combat the hand fighting; it was a downhill battle and Alex secured the choke for the finish. The audience was stunned, partly because Alex looks like a small child and secondly because I think they just took for granted that the Jackson fighter would win. Glen and I were elated and whipped the audience into a frenzy, screaming: Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie…Oi Oi Oi. They responded with vigor, which pleased Alex immensely. She’d bought a bag of Australian chocolates called “Caramelo Koalas” and she threw them out to the audience.
Astro Girl also forgot her walkout shirt in the corner so Glen was forced to strip in front of the entire audience. Now I’ve said it before, Glen might not look like much, but he’s Sydney’s best kept secret. In fantastic shape for a male in his mid forties, he is covered in a thick mane not unlike a young chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. A heckler managed to scream “Hey man, you sure work out!”. Glen covered himself like a hobo in our fight poster and ran in to congratulate his best buddy.
For those who saw the fight and wondered why her celebratory dance was lackluster, Alex has a bad history with victory dances. In her fight with one of Australia’s toughest girls, Claire Fryer, she sustained no injury during the fight… but blew her ACL out jumping up to celebrate. No kidding. Six months no training, operation etc, just because of her celebratory jump. Her trademark Crane Kick pose off was done out of necessity rather than choice. So this time she went for a little jog around the ring to walk the adrenaline off.
The after party was surreal to say the least. Most of the fighters went straight to grab some awesome Kansas BBQ.
Tito and Cyborg were the centerpiece of the party. Tito is a genuinely nice guy, but meeting him, you know he’s a real celebrity. Guys like Mark Munoz and Roger Huerta are not at all like you would expect, they are laid back and cool as hell. Tito is too, but we were polite to, cracked a joke or two but we were never under any illusions we were going to be pals. He was super courteous back and told us to stop apologizing to him. Seeing him, Cyborg and their crew coming bursting out of a lift dancing is not something we will ever forget.
It was also great to see a relaxed Shannon Knapp looking satisfied that she had really done something special that night…nobody can deny…the show was simply awesome. I mean; Rose’s Arm bar, the Kaufman – Smith War, the Waterson armbar and Fiona Muxlow’s huge heart against the Spartan Cyborg. Not a dull moment. Oh and Alex’s awesome choke ?
Cyborg. She’s a fascinating topic. Firstly standing next to her is incredibly intimidating; she is a physical specimen, even more-so up close. I found myself wondering if even as a BJJ blackbelt, would I be able to take her. Glen seemed convinced I could, but I wasn’t so sure. Later that night I stepped into a lift with her in which a polite Kansas man had just left in a mist of methane and the ice was quickly broken as she blocked her nose and made a joke. She is almost exceptionally effeminate in her personality and a very sweet person, which is a serious contrast to her awesome physicality.
Chapter 2: New York City
BBQ, Hangover and poorly packed luggage were all features of the morning trip out to New York.
New York, the city that never sleeps; except apparently on a Sunday, the night we arrived ravenous to try the famous new york cuisine. Happy we survived the Taxi drive over and after a brief walk to Time Square (which by the way is something else at night!) we searched for food. “Sorry” we were told, “it all shuts down at ten”. After much debate we settled for MacDonalds and what followed was a feverish night of junk fueled nightmares of Renzo chasing me down and alley whilst twittering my demise.
The next morning was a different story, straight off to the famous Katz Deli for some matzahball soup and hot pastrami on rye and we were ready to hit the gyms. First off was Renzo Gracie’s awesome academy on 28th st. This is my fifth trip to New York and its been amazing watching it grow from the small academy near Queens where a wrong button push would end up with you in the basement battling crackheads, to the multi level centre they currently have.
The class we chose? The Jedi, John Danaher. I make it my mecca to visit every year now after my first amazing experience with him. I’d been warned he was weird but nothing could prepare me for what I found; the Jedi is weird for Americans, but for Aussies, he’s just a typical, dry humored Kiwi! He is a great guy on top of being a great coach. Watching the way he teaches is worth the price alone. Its not for everyone I must warn you though, he is VERY scientific about his approach to BJJ and MMA and his midday class ran a total of 3 hours. Privates with Mr Danaher are reasonably priced and an absolute must for any BJJ or MMA fan, just be warned he books out quick!
We lapped up every second of it and were treated to something that really made my trip; an MMA coaching session with Title Contender Chris Weidman. What impressed me the most, and I made sure to photo it for my own fighters as proof, was that a guy of his level was self motivated enough to get his ass into a normal class and ask questions, drill and train with everybody else. I am a huge Anderson Silva fan, but don’t be surprised if this guy shocks the world.
That was our daily routine on top of bagels, burgers and one of my favorite places to visit when in NYC, Athony Bourdaine’s Les Halles. It’s a dark, dingy throwback to the speak-easy’s of yonder and the food is meaty and delicious. Snails, bone marrow with fouie gras, tender steaks and French frites to die for. Oh and cheesecake. Did I mention cheesecake? His wife is actually a huge fan of MMA and dropped a line to Alex saying she watched her fight. We couldn’t decide if we met him who would have to drag who off of his leg.
Onto the disappointments! Shake Shack. New Yorkers…what the hell? We lined up for 45 minutes to make it to a tiny shed in the park filled with teenage street kids trying to stay afloat as the ravenous bellies of the NY elite ordered burgers numbering into the dozen. We heard from a reliable source that GSP ate 13 in one sitting! Now, it wasn’t bad. In fact it was quite good, but we are talking about a 7 out of 10. Nothing to write home about. In fact I preferred Five Guys with its foghorn lady server and bucket load of farm cut potato chips, washed down with a dozen flavors of coke or sprite.
After a quick donut it was time to visit my other favorite gym in NYC, Marcelo Garcia’s! Not only does it have a friendly atmosphere, a great mat space but it also boasts Marcelo on the mat everyday, the amazing Paul Schreiner and Half guard savant Bernardo Farias. The first thing you notice are all the smiles, Marcelo has truly rubbed off on everybody there and there is not a scowl in sight. There is however a very small change room with a lot of naked people bending, scratching and drying in. Aussies, perhaps because of our penal colony background, are evident in our shame when it comes to locker room nudity. Glen was less than impressed when I timed a door opening with his best pair of mother bought mighty whiteys.
People ask which is better, Marcelo’s or Renzo’s Academy and it’s a question that I really can’t answer. Renzo’s is packed full of UFC fighters, over a dozen black belts, half of which are Gracies. It has Mr Danaher himself, striking /MMA/BJJ classes and an awesome laundry service. Marcelo’s resembles the Mendes brothers Academy and is a different crowd all together with a completely different vibe and style. My suggestion is to try both and pick one based on YOUR needs. There are dozens of other awesome academies too but those are the ones we tend to visit as out of towners.
One thing is certainly true of NYC, it is intense. From the moment we got there to the moment we left it was GO GO GO. Donuts, bagels, training, shopping, sightseeing, catch up drinks with old friends from Oz; there is hardly a moment to rest. As my first coach and now NYC resident Chris Deweaver says, “the city is relentless and it will eat you up if you aren’t careful”.
Speaking of Chris, one of the greatest things about being a martial artist is that the world becomes a smaller place. He was my first teacher in Australia, an American born 6ft 6 giant with a NYC brain in his head. Over the past three years I’ve been able to catch up, train and bounce ideas off him after almost a decade of not seeing eachother. Everytime we pick up it’s like I saw him yesterday.
Onto our 34 hr trip home and hopefully we’ll see you guys on the next Invicta. Don’t forget the name Astro Girl, Alex Chambers!
USA it’s been a real treat, you are truly something special.
MMA gear now available at the UG Store