My Time on Set with Daniel Cormier and the CF Athletic Team Commercial Shoot

November 15th, 2014 by Tony Reid

It was a late start for us as we hit the road headed for Columbus, OH Wednesday afternoon. We made it to our lovely room at the Red Roof Inn and got settled. A few hours later we went to Yogi’s a favorite spot of the man behind Cage Fighter, CF Athletic and the founder of MMA Elite, Michael DiSabato. We had great conversation there for a few hours, talking about the sport of wrestling, the pimps and prostitutes of the NCAA, some of the down and dirty secrets of the wrestling world and so much more. Mike D. is a whirling dervish, a ball of excitement, energy and attitude. If he is one thing it’s passionate about wrestling and changing the sport for the better. If you talk to him for more than five minutes that enthusiasm and passion has to rub off on you. You may not agree with his delivery but it is nearly impossible to argue with the message.

 

Thursday morning we met in the parking lot of Hilliard Davidson High School in Dublin. It is a very nice town outside of Columbus. There was an early morning session with Angelo DiSabato, Michael’s nephew as the star of the show, wrestling and grappling with another unnamed wrestler for specific shots for the upcoming commercial. The production level was first class, top notch all the way. I felt like I was on the set of a Nike or Under Armour commercial. There was a large crew filming as well as a few separate photographers capturing images as well. The day went great and a lot of powerful images were captured for the commercial for the upcoming release of CF Athletic’s first wrestling shoe.

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We were invited to dinner at Michael’s beautiful house in a wonderful neighborhood later that evening. The dinner, baked ziti, was cooked by a friend of the family and probably the best I have ever had. I had a great time meeting and getting to know Michael’s family. We came to find out that DC’s flight was delayed and now he wouldn’t be in town until Friday morning and we would begin shooting bright and early.

After flying cross country on a plane held together by tape, after numerous delays and a late baby sitter. Cormier and his fiancé made it to Columbus, (more specifically the suburb of Dublin) Ohio for the CF Athletic photo and commercial shoot for the launch of the new wrestling shoe and clothing line again at Hilliard Davidson High School.

He was there bright and early, shortly after 7am on a very chilly day, with little to no sleep. We were outside near the track and field area and he was carrying logs, flipping tires, shadow boxing, doing dips, running and everything else you could imagine in nearly freezing weather with numerous videographers and cameramen making request after request and wardrobe change after wardrobe change, which he did all with a smile on his face and a quick witted joke or aside, even joking to the photographer to hurry up and take the picture because he had to suck in his gut and could only do it for so long. Mike D. joked that we were doing an interview for a cover story for FO and DC in all seriousness said “I was just on the cover last month, right?” He said that it wouldn’t be necessary to have another cover that a feature would do just fine. He also made it known that he saw the issue the following month and that Jon Jones was the cover boy of that particular issue.

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He was wearing his brand new orange and black signature CF Athletic wrestling shoe. He joked that the shoes need to be redesigned because his actual signature on the shoe was too small. Mike D. assured him the signature was not too small…and also that the shoes would not be redesigned. As he was repeatedly pulling compression shirts and windbreakers over his head and switching out board shorts, track suits and all kinds of other great CF gear DC made note at one point during the wardrobe change that so many guys at light heavyweight, including Jon Jones, are skinny. DC will never be confused with a skinny guy. He is thick, he looks like a throwback to an old 1970’s fullback in the NFL. I stood next to him for most of the day and on a good day I’m 5’10”. DC is no taller than me. He’s an absolute tank of a man. And every ounce of that tank is utilized and used to demolish whoever is standing across from him in an Octagon or on a wrestling mat.

As we walked back indoors for the next session of the commercial shoot DC’s wife showed us all her very nice engagement ring. She mentioned that recently she lost a diamond out of the ring as she was cleaning and doing laundry. She told her soon to be husband the bad news but he took it in stride, knowing the issue would be covered by insurance. A tell that story to tell this one…As we made it indoors we had some down time and I had a nice conversation with DC and I was struck by how mindful he is that this ride doesn’t last forever. “This thing (MMA) will end for me as fast as it stared and I will be back to my regular life and no one will care (about me).” When speaking about Jon Jones he states “I think Jon got too much too soon, he was too young. He was a college dropout. All of a sudden you have everyone telling you that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread… and I’m sure he never dreamed he would be in the position he is in today. Look at guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. They have been groomed from a very young age on how to handle success and attention as they grow and mature. Jon didn’t have anything like that. On top of that I think he is just a weird individual. If you talk to him outside of an interview setting for a few minutes you see how weird he can be. I have known him to go to nice, high end clubs in gym shorts and people let him in! He’s Jon Jones!” I gathered that with all Daniel has been through in his life he feels like he is more mature and much more-well positioned to take the belt and the responsibilities that come with it early next year. He is taking this ride in stride as well.

I showed him pictures of the recent interviews we have done with him for FO and the Latin American version of the magazine. He was very excited to get copies of each, which I promised him. “There was a time when we would try to keep all of the magazines I was on or in. It got to the point where it was too much and too fast to keep up.”

It was great watching him interact will all of the CF guys in attendance. He was goofing around like the guys were all back in high school or college locker room again. He made sure to tell Mike D. that he had gained a lot of weight since he saw him last and he was cracking jokes with all of the filming crew in attendance.

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Once the on the mat filming stared DC flat out put on a show. He was shadow wrestling to start to the point if working up a sweat. A wrestler near his size was brought in to go live with him to film segments of the commercial. DC was executing takedowns and throws at will and right on cue, in the direction of the cameras just as he was directed. On the set we would stop every so often to check out the recently captured footage, at one point DC’s wife caught a glimpse and her reaction to the slow-mo shots was great. She mentioned how Cormier wants to show their son exactly what daddy does and also how Daniel is already teaching him certain wrestling techniques.

As there was a short break in the action when the guys went to get lunch, we were sitting by the set and DC began talking about his children and raising them in sunny California and how tough and hard kids can be in Louisiana. He said he would much rather raise his kids in California and give them a better upbringing than he had rather than raise them in the more rough area and neighborhoods he grew up in, saying that the kids down south are pretty hard. He mentioned details of his ambitions to further his media career after his fighting career is over. He is one of the few mixed martial artists that realize this ride of being an active fighter is extremely short and he is getting his ducks in a row for his post-fight life.

DC headed into the weight room for the next round of the photo shoot but more importantly, maybe, he was hoping to get a legit workout in. He went hard and again didn’t disappoint. He was doing some bench press work, curls, 21’s, squats, medicine ball pushups and anything else that he could manage with the space allotted and with so many people in attendance in the weight room. He was literally dripping with sweat by the time the workout was over. He made sure to make it a point that he wanted a rematch with Mike D.’s son in a previous football video game that DC lost. He wanted to guys to go buy the new UFC game so he could play with the kids and get his revenge later that day.

We broke for lunch and the man himself the Godfather of Ground and Pound, UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman made an appearance for a later scheduled interview with me. Mark was very talkative and even went so far to pose with the kids that approached him for pictures and he made sure to show them how to properly do the all-important post weigh in stare down.

Then we headed upstairs to the mat room for another round of the photo shoot. After spending most of the day with DC I could see he was dragging. He said that last Red Bull didn’t do the trick. He was running on fumes. He swung ropes, ran at a camera as if he was executing a takedown and a number of other shots and poses. Toward the end of the shoot Mark Coleman began yelling words of encouragement to DC, and make no mistake about it, he was the only person in the room that had the right to do so.

After the session Coleman and Cormier sat with me for more than 30 minutes to talk about a wide array of topics. Even after that interview DC sat with me for another 20 minutes to do a follow up of sorts. I couldn’t help but be impressed with how professional he was in every way throughout the entire day. I must have tanked him ten times and hugged him a few more as we parted ways for the day.

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From there we went indoors and he spent at least an hour (probably two) wrestling hard while putting on a great show for all in attendance. He was just as entertaining off the mats while interacting the friends, crew members and fans. I think it was about this time when he first stopped for as much as a drink of water all morning.

Then we went into the weight room where he got a legitimate workout in all while being photographed and recorded for the commercial. His workout was inspiring and left the adults and especially the young men in the room in awe.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then right back at it. We went upstairs to the wrestling room and DC proceeded to run, jump, swing ropes and do everything else that was asked of him. It was clear after spending most of the day with him that he was running on empty but he didn’t show it or slow down for a minute.

After that session, by then he was going on, I don’t know how long with no sleep, he sat down for an interview with Mark Coleman and myself. After that 30 minute session he sat with me as long as I needed him to for another interview.

I must have thanked him ten times because I could see how much he needed food and sleep but he fulfilled his obligations and carried himself in a manner that calling him a professional would be an understatement.

So often we hear all the negative stories and the negative side of athletes and sports so I feel like I needed to share this positive story of a guy who deserves your applause. Nothing but respect for DC.

tarted bright and early in nearly freezing weather throwing logs, flipping tires, running, shadowboxing, doing dips and anything else a number of cameramen and photographers asked him to do all while doing a number of wardrobe changes.I’m pretty sure he would never share this story or say this himself so I will. After a few delays and a baby sitter back out, Daniel Cormier flew cross country on a plane that was basically held together with masking tape, arrived a day later than expected and with little to no sleep got out to an early morning photo shoot and grinded through an entire days work with a smile on his face, great stories, quick wit and a level of professionalism that you had to appreciate.

He started bright and early in nearly freezing weather throwing logs, flipping tires, running, shadowboxing, doing dips and anything else a number of cameramen and photographers asked him to do all while doing a number of wardrobe changes.

From there we went indoors and he spent at least an hour (probably two) wrestling hard while putting on a great show for all in attendance. He was just as entertaining off the mats while interacting the friends, crew members and fans. I think it was about this time when he first stopped for as much as a drink of water all morning.

Then we went into the weight room where he got a legitimate workout in all while being photographed and recorded for the commercial. His workout was inspiring and left the adults and especially the young men in the room in awe.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then right back at it. We went upstairs to the wrestling room and DC proceeded to run, jump, swing ropes and do everything else that was asked of him. It was clear after spending most of the day with him that he was running on empty but he didn’t show it or slow down for a minute.

After that session, by then he was going on, I don’t know how long with no sleep, he sat down for an interview with Mark Coleman and myself. After that 30 minute session he sat with me as long as I needed him to for another interview.

I must have thanked him ten times because I could see how much he needed food and sleep but he fulfilled his obligations and carried himself in a manner that calling him a professional would be an understatement.

So often we hear all the negative stories and the negative side of athletes and sports so I feel like I needed to share this positive story of a guy who deserves your applause. Nothing but respect for DC.

Rattling the Cage Book Review: “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It”

August 22nd, 2014 by Tony Reid

untitled (18)As a huge fan of the early days of NHB, (pre) MMA and the UFC I was very much looking forward to reading “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It” by one of the founders of the UFC himself, Mr. Art Davie.

The book is a great nuts and bolts, blow by blow of the day to day trials and tribulations leading up to the historical night of November 12, 1993 when the world changed forever as UFC 1 was held in the McNichols Area in Denver Colorado. Davie shares in great detail the contract snafus, the back and forth with Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) and of course his ever growing relationships with Campbell McLaren, Rorion Grace and other members of the Gracie Family.

The story Davie tells is as much of an idea coming to fruition (one that just may have started when the young boxer Davie was first in a scrap and taken down by a thick necked wrestler so many years ago) through hard work, dedication and a never say die attitude.

As with any great idea comes great pushback from those with short sight and other hang-ups and many of these oppositions are detailed in the book as well, including the great pushback from members of the traditional martial arts community as they were quick to shoot down the idea of mixed fights, generally for business related reasons and egotistical concerns.

Davie takes us behind the scenes and behind closed doors as he touches on the Gracie Family beef between the eldest son Rorion and the brother who was seemingly in line to take the reins of the Gracie Family into the next generation, Rickson.  Davie sheds some light on just how much Rorion wanted to please his father and family patriarch Helio as well as honor the Gracie name, Gracie Jiu Jitsu and the Gracie Diet.

Dave also details the fighter’s colorful personalities, their actions and mindset leading up to the event. Great insights about just how batshit crazy Pat Smith really was (not surprising), how guarded the Gracie Family was of Royce leading up to the event (again not a shocker) and how much an out of shape and overweight Kevin Rosier enjoyed Snickers washed down with a Dr. Pepper as staples of his diet leading up to UFC 1.

Another great story shared in the book (and one Art had shared with me on my radio show) was that of Royce breaking down in the hours leading up to the event, right there in the center of the Octagon as Rickson cradled him and helped him through that impossible moment.

Davie details how he went from an advertising professional and a low level Gracie Jiu Jitsu student under Rorion to becoming one of his trusted partners, a confidant and co-creator of an entirely new sport, the sport of mixed martial arts in general and specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand.

I may be a bit partial, as I am one who can’t get enough information on the early days of the sport but I feel that this is a great (and quick) read for the hardcore fan (as some juicy information is shared about the Gracie Family and the early pioneers of UFC 1) to the casual observer that may not be aware of much of the information Davie shares in the pages of the book. Go out and pick this book up and get schooled on the early days and origin of the sport you watch today.

My Day in Columbus with The Immortal One

July 30th, 2014 by Tony Reid

Our trip started in eastern Pennsylvania Sunday night as we headed west slicing through West Virginia and finally to Ohio, specifically Columbus, Ohio. We made it just in time to crash for the night at the local Red Roof Inn before preparing for our full day with the Immortal one himself, Matt Brown.

We were up and out the door by 8am headed to Galloway, Ohio which is about 5 miles outside Columbus and where Matt, Colleen, Hunter and Connor Brown reside. We were greeted at the door by the kids, who informed Colleen that “Tony and a lady in a pink shirt were here.”

We were greeted by the Brown’s German Shepard Harley. It is well known that Matt is a Harley Davidson guy, even recently receiving a motorcycle of his own, and I joked that the dog Harley was big enough for the kids to have a Harley to ride around the house. Matt isn’t the only one on the house in training mode, the ten month old dog Harley is still being trained and is a big fan of sharing his enthusiasm (and fluids) with anyone that comes to visit.

As Colleen made breakfast for the kids and Matt pounded protein shakes I noticed a number of computer printouts hanging around the downstairs of the house intended to keep Matt in the right mindset and constantly focused on the task at hand. From “Fight Smart” to “Eat Clean” hanging on the cabinets in the kitchen to the picture of Robbie Lawler hanging on the back of the Brown’s front door that states “I Will Defeat Robbie Lawler on July 26th”.

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Matt also has an interesting and unique way of getting the ever elusive goal of a perfectly clean blender. He simply adds dish soap and hot water and literally blends it. I joked that we could do a special technique section in the magazine for blender cleaning with Matt Brown.

As we hopped in Matt’s big black Jeep Wrangler to get in his first workout of the day, a 9am strength and conditioning session at the legendary Westside Barbell, Matt told me that those little notes hanging around the house keep him focused and that they act as motivational tools, whether it’s consciously or even subconsciously. Colleen joked earlier that Matt is getting tired of seeing the same old played out phrases and is tempted to change them up a bit.

Matt had been a bit under the weather and had to pull back a bit as far as training was concerned. He was in the process of bringing his trusted coaches and allies in for the camp for the biggest fight of his professional life, the five round main event of the UFC Fight Night card on July 26th in San Jose California televised live on FOX against Robbie Lawler set as a title eliminator in the welterweight division.

We hit Westside Barbell at 9am and Matt wasted very little time in getting down to business. He began with some band resisted running on a treadmill, he added a number of intense ab work, and throw in some weighted walking around the parking lot of the entire facility, and a few special techniques and an hour and a half later the Immortal’s morning session is complete.

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Westside Barbell is the mecca for lifting heavy things and putting them down. They are the standard by which all others are measured in the field of power lifting. They hold countless national titles and world records, as well as housing and honing a number of high performance athletes in other sports. MMA legend Kevin Randleman spent time there and is still revered by many at the gym.

Westside Barbell is to power lifting what the UFC is to MMA, Westside is a private “Invitation Only” elite training facility in Columbus, Ohio. It was created by world-renowned power lifter Louie Simmons. Louie is one of only five power lifters to total Elite in five different powerlifting weight classes. He has been a top 10 lifter for over 30 years. For the last 37 years Simmons has totalled Elite in various power-lifting organizations. He is one of two lifters over 50 years of age to squat 920 pounds, bench 600 pounds and dead lift 722 pounds and total 2100 pounds, and was ranked 4th nationally in 2000 in the open. In other words he is a total beast. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with the icon that is Simmons, and as he stood there post workout with fresh blood on his sneakers, he raved about Brown and what he is capable of currently and in future potential.

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As Matt’s training session was winding down I decided to hop in and get a crash course and some firsthand experience of what his training is all about. After a few ab exercises, a run on what Matt called a torture device and lastly a few go rounds on a device that was invented by Louie himself I found myself in the parking lot praying to all that is holy that I wouldn’t pass out in front of one of the toughest SOBs on the planet. My prayers were answered and after a cup or two of water I was good to go.

We left the gym and met up with Colleen and the boys for a much needed lunch at the local Applebee’s. It was great seeing Matt go from beast mode to daddy mode and interacting with the kids. Brown plays a fun little game with his son in which he asks the obviously cheery, happy, playful young Brown if he’s mad until well, the little one gets mad. Colleen jokes that Matt finds great pleasure in instigating the kids in this fashion and that it should be noted in the piece.

We finished lunch and Matt and I made a quick run to Lowe’s to in the attempt to find an outlet or cord that would do the trick and help to finish installing the recently purchased sauna in his basement. On the way to Lowe’s Matt made it a point to inform me that he enjoys making trips to the local Wal-Mart, which he calls the trashiest Wal-Mart on the planet, to people watch. The odds of seeing mullets and worse are very high at the Georgesville Wal-Mart in South Columbus according to the Immortal. Even during the trip to Lowe’s Matt was no nonsense. I doubt that any of the Lowe’s associates knew how close they were to greatness, or possibly death, if the part in question was not found. Luckily we got assistance from a friendly associate and headed back to the house to finish the job. This was the first time in a long time that Brown was unable to finish the job. Even the Immortal was not comfortable working with electricity, at least not outside the cage.

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I did inadvertently uncover the one weakness of the seemingly weakness-free Immortal. Matt is a complete impulse shopper. He jokingly said had I not been with him for the ride to the home improvement store he could have easily spent hours and hours looking around and eventually picking up unneeded goods. The need to shop applies not only to hardware but to speakers, headphones and anything else Brown feels the need to pick up in the moment.

Speaking of finances we visited on the day that Matt opened the mail to find his bonus check from his Fight of the Year performance against Erick Silva. We were all sitting around the table as he opened it and it became obvious what was inside the envelope. I purposely looked away until he put it in my hand, and in that moment I held in my hand the biggest check I had ever seen in my life. It was still a moment of joy yet reflection and introspection, the Browns were very happy to have the money but just as quickly to note that the next check is never promised and that God forbid, this could be a check that needs to last an extended period of time if an injury or unforeseen obstacle was to present itself.

Matt has had his eye on an RV type of luxury vehicle, (somewhat) joking that he might be able to finally make that purchase a reality. It was clear that a number of ideas, thoughts and concerns were running through his mind in the hours after opening the mail that day. Brown is a very well read, introspective, thoughtful man. We talked at length about politics, religion and finances. He is a deep thinker and it was obvious that he wanted to weigh all his options, do the right thing and make the most of this money and opportunity.

As our day with the family wound down we all sat in the living room and Matt proceeded to instigate his son into one more “Are you mad?” game. This time around the younger Brown go the last word, asking in an increasingly agitated voice “Do you think you are tough?” That great comeback wasn’t lost on anyone in the room as we all broke out in laughter. Connor and Hunter Brown are probably the only two people in the world that could get away with asking that question while being in the same room as Matt Brown.