by Hector Ramirez (Team Rampage), Special to MMAWeekly.com
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard Kimbo’s trademark proclamations, “I want my bread,” and “that’s how a (gentleman) eat!” And just as far removed should be the notions that he is merely a backyard brawler. If it wasn’t clear already, it should be indisputable now that Kimbo is a mixed martial arts fighter, both in skill and in spirit.
When the episode starts, we already know that Kimbo (Kevin Ferguson) is fighting Big Country (Roy Nelson), but before that goes on, we get to see Rampage (Quinton Jackson) and Rashad (Evans) exchange a few words. Rashad made some pretty bold and presumptuous accusations to Rampage about his jaw, and Rampage responded that I was the one who actually hurt him, not Keith Jardine. It wasn’t my proudest moment when it happened and I still feel uncomfortable being reminded of it.
That injury occurred just before Rampage’s fight with Wanderlei. We were sparring and preparing for the fight when I accidentally put a little too much force behind my uppercut. At the moment I connected, I felt like the blood just drained from my body and I wanted nothing more than to just get away. It was a terrible feeling, and when Rashad used it against Rampage, it made me feel even worse.
But Rampage is a warrior and went on to fight Wanderlei and when he reinjured his jaw before his fight with Jardine, Rampage stayed strong and went on to fight him anyway.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons Kimbo and Rampage bonded so well. There are some things that you simply can’t teach a fighter; there’s an element of rawness that differentiates those who know how to fight and those who actually do fight. Kimbo has that rawness, and it’s only a matter of time before he learns the techniques to make full use of it.
Prior to the fight, our primary focus was on takedown defense. We were only three weeks in and we had to prepare Kimbo, a 230-pound fighter with no wrestling experience, for Big Country, a 265-pound Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and favorite to win overall. We drilled takedown defense and getting out from bottom position tirelessly and Kimbo seemed to love every moment of it. He was like a sponge, always asking us to teach him different positions and different moves and always wanting to learn. But we knew that given the time constraints, the smartest thing to do would be to teach Kimbo a few things and get him as proficient as possible at those moves.
We were real proud of Kimbo. He did a great job of pushing away at the head and avoiding the takedown. The entire fight, Kimbo listened to us and used the moves we had been working on with considerable success. Big Country had to work very hard to get the takedown in the first round. As soon as he did, Kimbo did great of being able to nearly sweep the big man by being crafty and using the cage.
In the second round, Nelson basically sacrificed a punch to the head just to take Kimbo down. When it finally came down to it though, Nelson’s top control was just too stifling.
When you’re on the outside looking in, you might be able to say, “Kimbo should have done this” and “Kimbo should have done that,” but when you have Nelson’s big belly in your face, there just isn’t a whole lot that anyone can do.
0 and 3, we’re off to a slow start. By this time, the team is getting a bit discouraged, but as a coach, it’s my job to keep reminding these guys why they are here, to win. As Dana White alluded to earlier, TUF is unpredictable and it ain’t over till it’s over. Until then, everyone needs to train hard because we never know if a replacement will be needed.
Thank you to all my sponsors and management, Iridium Sports Agency, OC Fight Doc, Sparstar, Furious Fighters, Dog Pound MMA, Monarch Clothing, Tapout Radio, Unbreakable Mouthpieces, Mike Dolce, Dolce Diet, Team Rampage, MMAWeekly.com and everyone who is making this show a success.