I witnessed the MMA debut of celebrated wrestler Henry Cejudo this past Saturday. It was my first experience with local MMA, and probably my last. Here's what transpired ...
When I attended the fourth installment of Pasqua Yaqui Fights this past Saturday, I had rather lofty aspirations of writing a huge article. After all, I had never attended a local MMA show, or even seen an amateur MMA bout before. In fact, the only MMA show I had ever attended was way back in 2006, when I went to Vegas to see PRIDE’s first show stateside.
There were to be 8 amateur bouts, followed by a featherweight title fight that featured a guy who came in with a 2-14 record (conveniently changed to “6-6″). So I figured I’d leave the Casino Del Sol with pages and pages of snarky remarks, thoughtful insights, and most of all, comedic fodder.
This didn’t happen. If anything, I found the amateur bouts to be relatively fair fights. Lots of bad takedown defense, lots of playing it safe, lots of blah. Sure, the ring announcer was predictably terrible, but this was nothing to write home about, and definitely nothing to write blogs about.
Then it came time for Olympic wrestler Henry Cejudo to make his much anticipated MMA debut. The lights dimmed. The spotlight shone where he would supposedly walk out. His music started. And out stepped … a guy in a white linen jacket. With sunglasses and a microphone (What the hell is going on?). This man began rapping into the microphone. God help us.
He proceeded to rap roughly 354 written bars as Cejudo walked, nay, swaggered towards the cage. Every single bar was terrible. Stuff like “I got more bars than a prison” (I swear). Henry Cejudo had gone to the trouble of hiring his own D-level hype man. Worse, he seemed to be getting inspiration from him.
I immediately decided to root against Cejudo for this. What kind of narcissistic lunatic comes out with his own hype man, one who wasn’t even remotely good at being a hype man? It made me embarrassed for him.
He entered the cage (finally) and stared across at his opponent, Michael Poe. Michael Poe looks like someone took Miguel Torres and poured Vernors all over him. He was 0-4 coming into this fight, and this was clearly supposed to be an easy tune up for Henry.
The fight started. Poe landed two punches right off the bat that seemed to hurt Henry, but Henry got a big double leg takedown and started to punch Poe. He pressed Poe against the cage and kept punching, but the punches didn’t have much velocity behind them, and Poe was wing-blocking them for the most part.
The ref pretty much immediately stopped the fight. At first, I thought “Is he checking a cut?” Nope. Fight over. Huh? Poe popped right up and began to protest. The crowd even booed the stoppage, which was weird because this was the same group of people who had responded positively to Cejudo’s hype man imploring them to “wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care” just minutes before. Not a MENSA-heavy crowd at the Casino Del Sol. I couldn’t help but sit there and think to myself “I have to be the only person here who listens to ‘The Dana Gould Hour’.”
Would Poe have done anything had the fight not been stopped? Probably not. But still. You know it’s a bad stoppage when the ref steps in and you don’t even think he’s stepping in to stop the fight.
The rest of the event was pretty, well … uneventful. There were a couple of spirited amateur fights, particularly the one between Armando Rivas and Joel Champion, which ended in a controversial split decision victory for Rivas. Michael Parker triangled the aforementioned 2-14 grappling dummy to win the featherweight title. Edgar Garcia slapped a kimura on a guy who lives in his parents’ basement.
I left feeling vaguely dirty. Henry Cejudo is fighting again this month, on March 24, for Gladiator Challenge. I’m sure he’ll run right through his next tomato can, but I’m unsure how pure the fight will seem. Because being in that venue, watching how full of himself Cejudo seemed, watching his hype man say dumb things, watching that stoppage … it was dumbfounding. Is there a chance that the referee was simply incompetent? Absolutely. An excellent one. But it also seems like a convenient excuse to tag onto something that had people legitimately scratching their heads. Henry Cejudo might go on to be a good MMA fighter. In fact, he probably will. The credentials, athleticism, and talent are clearly there. But his first go-round inside a cage had “Kimbo Slice begins his career in professional boxing” written all over it. In black ink.
That last paragraph doesn’t read right, but I’m leaving it in because I wasn’t even thinking when I wrote it. I just moved my fingers, and that’s what suddenly appeared on my screen. Let me be clear: I don’t intend to imply foul play here. If anything, I’m just trying to convey that I don’t feel like Cejudo deserved to get that stoppage when he did, and that he seemed far too happy about getting it. It was, for lack of a better word, weird. I felt weird about it. And I still do.