By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA
There are few things that capture my eye more than an MMA fight. I’m a self-proclaimed MMA rubbernecker; I see a cage, a ref, and fighters in action, and the world passes me by until the round ends or the referee has halted action. With my years of fanaticism, hours of screen time, and thousand and thousands of Internet clicks and searches, I agree with Sam Sheridan in his book A Fighter’s Heart (2010) when he postulated why fight fans have such a tight connection to their sport,
“You can learn so much about a person by watching him fight that you feel you know him.” (p. 130)
MMA surrounds my being: there are MMA events calendared on my phone; gridlocks in traffic blare my favorite MMA podcasts; I read books about the history and people of MMA; the DVR’s memory is on limited life because so many MMA events are broadcasted, and apparently, I am expected to share the TV. As I’m watching warriors collide, I wonder what it’s like to engage in war wrapped in wire fencing. On Cage Side Submission Radio (CSSR) Episode: 71, Alex “The Executioner” Reyes (11-2-0) compared his processing of a fight to that of skydiving.
Reyes is the King of the Cage (KOTC) champion, dual-division champion: lightweight (146-155 lbs) and junior welterweight (156-160 lbs). Those on top in the MMA world want to stay on top, except in the case of skydiving, and Reyes has done both:
“I went skydiving last year. It’s very similar to that feeling you get before you get inside the cage.”
Stepping into the cage begins long before the approval of any Federal Aviation Associations’ (FAA) or Athletic Commissions’ clearance. Reyes is “The Executioner” because of his ability to game plan and prepare, and his training at Pinnacle MMA in Redlands, Drysdale’s Jiu-Jitsu in Las Vegas, and Cage Combat Academy, his own gym in Victorville, California secured Reyes’ footing by cage’s canvas or air. Those who may never leap from a perfectly functional aircraft or stand across a fenced enclosure from an opponent may not know what to expect. The thought of actually going through with a fight or a jump, Reyes admitted,
“There’s nerves; it’s scary. You think, ‘Oh yeah, this is happening right now.’ You’ve always thought about it, and it’s actually happening.”
The logical side of some fans may scream, “Cut away!” while the carnal side of others care about what’s forthcoming on the canopy between the cage’s walls.
The love Reyes beholds for competition pushes aside any nerves and powers his walk to the cage:
“You walk up to the cage, all the anxiety and pressure. You get there, and you let everything go.”
Over the screaming wind at a free fall of about 120 miles per hour or the screaming fans contending the seconds tick off the round’s clock at a comparable speed, Reyes implements the directives of those who are there to support him, whether it’s his cornermen or, in this case, his skydiving instructor,
“You have to follow the commands that the skydive instructor gives you to do. He’ll tap your shoulder to put your arms out, or you have to keep yourself closed in tight when you first jump out.”
MMA isn’t tandem, but the instructions from Reyes’ corner may be similar: Keep your arms out, pawing that jab and measuring distance, but don’t forget to bring your hands in tight to protect yourself when their strikes come jumping out at you. Reyes understands that they all have his best interest at heart,
“As long as you trust your training and your coaches, let everything go and you’ll be fine.”
Maybe because he’s the champ and has handily dispatched of some tough opponents, he finds ease in directing the path of his fight or chute using steering lines-intentional directionality, reaping the rewards. Reyes concluded the experience with the rush that proceeds landing-victory:
“Then, usually for me, you walk away with the victory and the feeling of relief. Then, you say, ‘That was fun; let’s do it again.’”
I can verify without a doubt that I’m not slated to compete on an MMA fight card any time soon, nor do I plan on exiting the tail end of a plane while in operation. In any case, I appreciated Reyes’ insight as to what is running through his mind before, during, and after his fights.
Check out this episode of Cage Side Submission Radio and others at
Sheridan, Sam. A Fighter’s Mind. 2010. Grove/Atlantic Inc.
Photo by J-One Munar Pascual