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Thrills, Spills and Bellyaches

This weekend I took a trip to Manchester; home of The Stone Roses, some Arab football team and Coronation Street. I was there to commentate on Cage Contender 6, the first Irish show to have a stab at organising an event in England. More on that later. Luckily for me, I got to take in a seminar with one of the greatest BJJ players on the last decade while I was over there.

Now I don’t want to call people tight, but budgeting for a fight show means that when you fly someone in, you usually bring them in on the cheapest flight available, in this case, the 6.30am flight out of Dublin. So up I got at 4.45am, jumped in the shower, parked the car, took the shuttle bus, drank a bucket of coffee, bought another one (Ryanair didn’t allow me to take it onboard the bastards) and read a few chapters of Chuck Palahniuk’s Pygmy until I got into Manchester.at 7.40. Then it was just a matter of wasting some time in the airport drinking another bucket of coffee before getting on the wrong bus to Manchester (it got me there, it just took me into probably every housing estate on the way) and meeting up with Foxy and Mick, who had both flown over the night before for the seminar. We took in some breakfast at a nice little place without a toilet called The Koffee Pot. I had a lovely Full British Isles breakfast and some coffee, but we felt a little out of place. It seems Saturday was the day of the Gay Pride Festival in Manchester, which meant that we were just about the only 3 lads not dressed up in a costume. One bunch of lads was dressed as British tourists abroad, complete with Speedos, whitewashed skin and sandals with socks. It was not a warm day, I felt for them. Still it was a strange experience being the only straights in the village. I suppose this is what gay men must feel like in public sometimes. But enough about the homo/hetro divide, let’s talk about how I went to a seminar and rolled around with other men.

Cobrinha is one of the last decade’s most decorated grapplers. He’s also exciting to watch and has been a real character on the mats. What I learned on Saturday is also that he’s a really nice guy too. Everything he showed was simple to follow, even when the technique was complicated. To be honest, I wasn’t convinced he would be able to speak English, as a lot of Brazilian guys who give seminars might require a translator or communicate in broken English, but his English is perfect, he may even speak it better than most native speakers I know. We started out with some sittin guard techniques, including a simple movement drill which switched into a nice single leg takedown and a between the legs variation of the same movement. That in turn gave us a method of establishing De la Riva guard if the takedown didn’t work. The De la Riva stuff was the highlight of the day for me. This is a guard I’ve been playing with on and off for the last 8 months or so and which, I think, has been pretty hit and miss in my application. So everyone I meet who plays this guard gets peppered with questions, and no one more so than Cobrinha on Saturday. Between me calling him over to ask how best to get this or that from the De la Riva position, he showed a really simple sweep where you turn the deep hook and catch the far wrist, a strange but effective De la Riva/Butterfly hook “arm switch” series of sweeps, and a roll through variation of the same. We took a break and myself Paul and Mick sat with him for a while having a yap about his plan for a new school in the US, his dog (which isn’t his dog but has become his dog, apparently) and his home life. He’s so relaxed that the seminar host had to tip him on the back to remind him to restart the seminar. We started into some good back control stuff straight away. What was gold dust here for me wasn’t the technique he was showing, but some of the back attacking concepts. I find this is often the case with seminars. You get taught some awesome sweeps or subs but the real genius is in the hidden details of how to finish something or other. Well I got my money’s worth with one seatbelt idea. Last but not least was rolling, and while I tried to get a round with the man, I couldn’t, but I did get to roll with some great guys over there.

And then it was goodbye to Mick and on to Atrincham for Cage Contender. After the high of the last show in Dublin this was always going to be a let- down and it was. Despite a strong card the night never really got going, due in part to the small and quiet crowd. I think this was also my worst commentary job yet, though we tried hard. It was actually very difficult to raise the enthusiasm when the fight was poor and the atmosphere matched it. Every show I do I find myself respecting TV guys more and more. Stuart McQuitty my co-commentator is a real pro, he sort of reminds me of the guy from Father Ted who presented the faux Eurovision. He’s all “oh shit that sounds crap” and then once the camera goes on him he changes totally. He’s good at it and I’m not. I can talk for Ireland about the fights and call the exchanges but when it comes to actually facing the camera, I stumble over my words and I seem to say a totally different thing every take. That being said we’ve done 5 shows now and I’ve felt that we’ve improved on every one except for Saturday, but maybe that’s indicative of the height we’ve raised the bar for ourselves. In any case, the fights are on Saturday night on Setanta so tune in. There are some good scraps and if the Damien Rooney fight gets shown, keep a mental score card for it and see what you think of the result at the end.

After that, it was back to the hotel for a kebab and a cup of tea. One last incident of note occurred mind you. I was wondering why the hotel clerk was giving me this weird smile when I checked into the hotel with Foxy. He was sharing my room as he didn’t fancy staying in the hostel all alone. Well when I opened the door and saw the room was a double and not a twin, I understood.

It was gay pride weekend after all.

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