The night in Honolulu Joe Riggs no showed a fight

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From: Santino DeFranco
Edited: 08/21/13 2:38 PM
Member Since: 3/9/03
Posts: 1723

Here’s a re-write of a story I wrote about fighting in Hawaii with Joe Riggs and coming back after my fight to be told that he had jumped off of the roof of the Blaisdell arena.

I never had a fear of flying until I flew with Joe Riggs. I figured the pilot and co-pilot weren’t in that cockpit napping the entire flight and the flight attendants and any other workers on the plane would all know their respective roles and would perform their jobs accordingly. We’d take off, fly for a while, then land. I actually even used to get a kick out of turbulence while flying. Ah, how I miss the blissful naivety youth cloaks our vision with.

Joe Riggs has a way of giving people a different perspective on things though. Mundane daily tasks that one would have never considered to be anything more than that can become the focal point of Joe’s eye and, therefore, will become the focal point of any eye close enough for Joe to gain the attention of.

While we were at 30,000 feet above the earth Joe leans over to me and says, “Hey, Frank, if we go down right now, there’s nothing but a sea of water to drown in. We’re done friend. The wings of this plane could tear off right now and down we go.”

“What the hell’s wrong with you, Joe? What would possess you to say something like that to me?” I replied.

“Just telling ya how it is, friend. Just telling ya how it is.”

Well, a few years and a few flights later, Riggs and I were set to land in Honolulu, Hawaii, where we were to compete in a Rumble on the Rock event. And, once again, Joe was going off on rants that made me question my sanity.

Most people love Hawaii. Most people enjoy the relaxing scenery or the beach or whale watching or whatever it is that most people do to relax while vacationing in Hawaii. But, most people aren’t traveling with Joe Riggs.

After we landed at the airport in Waikiki, Alexander Oxendine was waiting for us at the baggage claim. Alexander worked for BJ Penn Enterprises and was also the MC/announcer for the Rumble shows. In addition to his roles in the fight business he also has the deepest f—ing voice I have ever heard. And, at no point in my life would I be surprised if I were to find out he does voice over work for bad guys in cartoons or is a demon. After both Joe and I were thoroughly frightened by the deep-talker we grabbed our bags and he showed us to the van where our driver waited to take us to our hotel.

We were sharing a room (fortunately not a bed, like we had to in Amsterdam, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!) and after we put our things away were laying on our respective beds.

“You’re out of your mind, aren’t ya, Frank?”

“Nah. I’m feeling pretty good about this fight.”

“Really? You’re telling me you aren’t scared at all? You’re a better man than I. A better man, indeed, Frank.”

After a few moments pause, and apparently unsettled by the fact that I seemed somewhat more sane than he was hoping, he felt the need to continue his infiltration of my psyche. He stood up off of his bed and asked, “What happens if you go out there and BAM! one punch to the jaw and down you go?” then he made a squealing noise, like a pig, and fell face down on his bed. We laughed and decided we’d be better off perusing the beach and everything in our vicinity that wasn’t the inside of our heads, and into the Hawaiian sun we went.

We spent the next couple of days holed up in our room and occasionally walked the streets of “paradise” in the evenings to watch the angry Hawaiians yell how they’d “false crack” someone or “give ’em licks, bra” which made little sense to us haole boys at the time. Then there were the hookers. There were always plenty of hookers meandering the streets the second the sun slid out of sight. They’d walk up to potential Johns in front of the police without batting an eye, but would make sure their chests were as plump and visible as could be. Joe and I looked on at these street walkers with a sense of disgust mixed with a lot of curiosity, but that fire was stamped out after Alexander told us there was a high rate of transsexual prostitutes, and that “you couldn’t tell the difference a lot of the trannies and real women.” We were as scared straight as kids going to jail for an afternoon when they regularly got in trouble at school in hopes to turn them around. No one else did that? Just me? Well then, I digress…

As we ran into any of the locals that were somehow involved with the MMA scene we’d always get asked whom we were fighting. I was fighting Deshaun Johnson, and Joe was fighting David “Kawika” Pa’aluhi (pronounced Kavika.)

It seemed our friend, Kawika, was a goddamn legend on the islands, as whenever the name was mentioned the “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” were spewed out in full force. “You’re fighting Kawika? You’re crazy, bra. Kawika throws cracks, brah!” One group of guys said in the hotel lobby as they looked Joe up and down.

“What? Is this guy spawned from Zeus himself?” I jokingly asked Joe when we got back to our room.

“Ah, Kawika Pa’aluhi! Joe squawked and lurched his head side to side as if taking a shot to the dome. “S—, Frank!”

With days of hooker watching, beach walking, and bento boxes behind us, the day finally came for us to fight, and seeing as that was what we were there to do, it seemed appropriate.

When we arrived at the arena we were shown to our warm-up room, which housed most of the non-Hawaiians. There was Antonio Banuelos, Dennis Hallman, Gil Castillo, the largest 145lber ever in Gil Melendez and a few others along with Joe and I. Takanori Gomi and his corner, Genki Sudo, as well as the rest of their entourage, were lucky enough to have negotiated a private room. Damn those main eventers!

After a quick warm up with Kai Kamaka, owner and trainer at 808 fight factory, I was ready to fight. While waiting for the Banuelos and his opponent to exit the cage from their fight, Genki Sudo saw me and walked up to me, offering me a handshake and wishing me luck, as we had trained together prior to that night. He assured me, “You win. You very good. You win,” and gave me an excited smile while he frantically shook his head up and down.

Genki Sudo doesn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Well, sort of. I did win–but only because I was kneed on the ground, shattering my orbital bone and split my face open, under my left eye. Deshaun was disqualified for the act, but I’m not so sure I would have won had that knee not put a “W” on the left side of my record for me. When it hit me, I didn’t know what the hell had happened, I just knew something bad occurred. After about a minute, I realized it was an illegal blow, and then, after about another minute, realized I got the win via DQ. Phil Baroni then interviewed me in front of a booing crowd and ridiculed me, “So, did that knee even cause any damage, or were you just looking for a way out or something?” he asked as the blood ran down my face. I don’t know what I said, but didn’t want to be in that cage anymore. As I exited, I went looking for Joe, who was set to fight soon.

I asked one of the workers at the show, “Where’s Joe? He’s up soon?”

“Hey, brah, Joe jump off da roof.”

“Huh?” I asked and leaned an ear in for a better catch of the response.

“Yeah, brah. He jump off da second floor onto the parking lot.”

“No f—ing way,” I said in disbelief.

I ran to the parking lot and saw a crowd of people huddled into a circle. There was an ambulance near them with its lights flashing. As I got closer I could see Joe lying on the ground in a small puddle of his own blood with a neck brace on. “Holy s—! He really did jump,” I thought.

“What the hell happened?” I asked Joe.

“Ah, dammit, Frank. I went down. Down like a plane in the sea.”

“Did you jump off the roof?”

“Huh? No I didn’t jump off the damn roof, friend, but now I wish I had. I was warming up doing wind sprints in my flip-flops and one of the edges caught and sent me down.”

“Why were you doing wind sprints in your sandals?” I asked.

“Ah, you know. Why do I do anything I do?” This is ridiculous, Frank.”

“What? Your neck or your life?”

“Both, friend. Both.” The EMTs then loaded him into the ambulance and off he went.

I went in and got stitched up by the oldest living medical practitioner I’d ever seen. His Parkinson hands shook like a 9.0 quake as he sewed my face up while my head rested on a focus mitt. There wasn’t any lidocaine (numbing agent), so I had to make do with a needle being woven in and out of my face with my senses in tact.

As I recovered from the geriatric doctor while sitting on a curb behind the Blaisdell Center I saw someone sprinting down the street, through traffic, and then into the parking lot, headed right for me. Barefoot, wearing only fight shorts, with blood streaks on his arm and face, Joe was back!

“Frank, I’m back. Tell them I’m back. I can fight,” he said, winded and looking like a total lunatic. His eyes were wide and his hands were trembling.

“Joe, I don’t think they’re going to let you fight.”

As one of the workers approached us asking how Joe was doing, Joe again blurted out–this time to the worker, “I’m back. Let me fight.”

“You can’t fight, you have a concussion. What the hell’s wrong with you?”

Other workers came up, and eventually JD Penn put the last nail in the coffin and told Joe he would not be fighting that night. Joe’s eyes drooped like a beaten dog, and he walked away.

Later that evening as we all waited to get paid, Joe convinced me to do his bidding for him.
I walked up to get my check and asked, “Joe was wondering if he’d get his show money?” They looked at each other and the group started violently laughing and looking at each other and JD said to me, “But he didn’t show!”