Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all these MMA fight cards every week? Isn’t it so hard to keep track of all the changes, between the injuries and failed drug tests cutting deep into promotional rosters? Don’t you sometimes yearn for simpler times? You’re not alone son. There are times when I look at my cable bill and have to double-check to make sure it’s not my mortgage bill. I take it all in stride though, because there was a time when we didn’t know when, or even if, there would be another pay-per-view. Back then, cable providers thought No-Holds-Barred fights were decaying the moral fiber of America. This never seemed to stop them from running Double Anal Adventure Whores day and night, but to hell if they were going to let some barbaric prick watch UFC 22.
Some of us have been following this sport since the beginning, through the good and bad, and some amazing fighters have been winning this whole time. I’m not talking about those guys today though, as they get more than enough credit elsewhere. Today I’m going to talk with you about the journeymen of MMA: Guys who have never seen the inside of the Octagon, but they’ve sure been used as a stepping stone to get into it. The time, the place or the opponent were never relevant, so long as there was a face to punch on the other side of that cage. As the kids say, these guys were DTF. Down To Fight. At least that’s what I gather that means.
MMA Campfire Tales Presents: Always a Journeyman, Never a Gate Keeper.
The Man: Jonathan “Big John” Ivey
The Record: 30 Wins – 46 Losses
World Champions Fought: 2
UFC Veterans Fought: 13
You know those fighters that were formerly 300lbs, but through hard work and dedication find their way down to Welterweight? Ivey has a name for those guys: Quitters. It’s not easy being a 5’9″ man pushing into Super Heavyweight territory, but Ivey has been doing it for fourteen years and doesn’t appear to be seeking out Jenny Craig anytime soon. Fighting inside an under armour shirt that holds a Guinness world record for “Strongest Known Stitching”, Ivey has been a go-to fighter for up-and-coming MMA elite or big fight veterans on the down swing. Despite the fact he looks like a natural casing hotdog about to explode in your microwave, Ivey is actually a stone-cold son of a bitch to finish in a fight, putting it three solid rounds every time. That’s not to say he’s going to win a decision mind you, but he’ll sure as fuck make you work for it.
Against the hobby fighters and dregs of Mid-western MMA, Ivey is a god-damned nightmare. It turns out that when you’ve been fighting for over a decade, you have a pretty good idea how to yank a man’s foot off if he’s stupid enough to leave it out there. I’m sure more than a few man have found themselves being mauled by Ivey and realized chugging a sixer of Xyience and jogging on a treadmill for seven minutes wasn’t even “throwing it in your wife” cardio, never mind “MMA Elite” endurance. Sucks to find out the hard way I bet.
The Man: Shannon “The Cannon” Ritch
The Record: 48 Wins – 75 Losses
World Champions Fought: 3
UFC Veterans Fought: 19
There are plenty of people who fight for a living, but Shannon”The Cannon” Ritch has this shit down to a science. I’m not saying he’s an amazing fighter, although he is much better than his record would ever indicate, but Ritch is one of the most business-savvy guys you’ll find in the entire sport. Why? Because this dude knows he’s not getting paid by the hour out there. Packing hundreds of MMA and assorted combat sports bout into a twenty year career is impressive enough, but winning or losing all but FOUR inside the first round is astounding. In the state of California, writing “Shannon Ritch” on a score card is actually considered littering.
Ritch brings a wealth of martial arts knowledge into the cage and isn’t afraid to use it, unless you happen to get the upper hand at any given moment. When compromised in a fight, Ritch isn’t about to power through jack shit, and will tap out to any amount of violence cast in his direction. While the MMA purist might not like it, the businessman in me can appreciate someone who has a fight lined up every other day and can’t be bothered to fight his way out of your lame-ass omaplata.
If you think Ritch is a pussy, here’s a little gem for you. Back in 2001, he broke his arm in training, yet was already scheduled to face Frank Shamrock in a kickboxing bout in a couple of weeks. So, Ritch went to the fight, cut his cast off in the locker room, and fought the greatest fighter of his era with a broken arm. One blocked head kick later and Ritch was on the mat with a very re-broken arm. No biggie, he fought five weeks later. Remember that next time you call out of work because your tummy hurts.
The Man: Dennis Reed
The Record: 44 Wins – 53 Losses
World Champions Fought: 5
UFC Veterans Fought: 16
You’ve never heard of Dennis Reed? Then allow me to paint you a picture: Take Anderson Silva’s reflexes, Johny Hendrick’s punching power, Ben Askren’s wrestling skills, Jacare’s submission savvy, Machida’s timing and place this all inside Alistair Overeem. When you’ve created this combat sports super mutant, Dennis Reed will fight him with absolutely no hesitation, and probably for free.
Dennis Reed is the guy every drunken man thinks he is, sober. If you threw Reed into a pit of lions, he would be ripped to pieces while double ankle locking a lion, and his ghost would remain and chant “USA! USA! USA!” forever. If he fingers a girl, a grizzly bear with a leather jacket on will drive a bulldozer out of her birth canal nine months later.
You might be asking “If this guy is such a bad ass, how did he lose 53 times?” Well, it’s because he starts every fight by walking straight ahead and throwing at many punches as possible.
Fighting a Lightweight in his first pro bout? Walk straight ahead and throw as many punches as possible.
Fighting a world champion in a tune-up fight? Walk straight ahead and throw as many punches as possible.
Fighting a dinosaur with chain saws for arms and Sherman tanks for legs? Walk straight ahead and throw as many punches as possible.
Predictable, but you know what else is predictable? A freight train, motherfucker.
Well, those are the greatest stepping-stones this sport has ever seen. Sure, plenty of men have beaten them, but that’s not what matters. While other men in this sport fake injuries or play up friendships to avoid tough fights, these guys sign on the dotted line without knowing or caring who the opponent is. Makes you wonder why we call both sorts of men “fighters” huh? That’s all I’ve got for today, but feel free to come back if you’re looking for an education on MMA lore. I’ll be right here brushing up on my judo and sumo.