Meeting my hero (then him kicking the shit out of me)

This was originally meant for the book I’m writing titled Gym tales and COLOSSAL adventures.
But seeing that I’ve got so many exciting, action packed, fun filled tales I thought- what the hell I’d throw out a bit of a free taster for you guys. Why? Well that’s just the kind of guy I am. So join me as I take a trip down memory lane and recall what it was like to meet my hero, Randy Couture, then have him kick the shit out of me.

So, I had been fighting mma for just over two years. I’d had two fights in pride and the daunting task at hand was starting to dawn on me. You’d think it would have hit me before this but a mixture of ego and the fact that I’m a slow learner delayed this process. I started to realise that if I wanted to improve- which I did- I needed to be pushed. Even though I was by no means the most skilled person at Trojan mma club where I was training at the time, I was the biggest and I’d muscled my way out of trouble thus far. I realised when I fought some one that was my own weight I wouldn’t be able to do this and there wasn’t anyone my size to spar with at Trojan either.

It became clear I was going to have to travel to get the things I needed from training. Where to go, where to go?

I decided on team quest in Portland, Oregon. I knew I was fighting in two months for Pride FC and since it was in Pride I was getting used to the fact that I had no idea who my opponent might be so I opted for team quest. Home of such greats like Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. How could I go wrong training with guys like that!? Whoever the’ Pride powers that be’ saw fit to pit me against… I’d be ready.

So I made a phone call to Team Quest. They told me there was a motel I could stay at that was literally across the road from the gym and that I’d be welcome to train there so I told them when I’d be over, put the phone down, booked my flight and counted down the weeks till I’d be there.

I can’t remember that much of Oregon. I think it’s because for the most part of the eight weeks I trained there I was literally on the same road that had my motel on. The super market was just across the road from Quest and that was all good for me.

I arrived late, around ten pm. I checked into my motel and said hello to my crack head neighbours. They seemed nice enough, a bit twitchy but all was good. I settled into the room, got my training kit ready for the next day and resisted the great temptation to buy the ‘miracle knife’ which was a on an infomercial I found strangely entertaining.

The next day I was up early. I found a nearby restaurant and had breakfast then made the short walk to Team Quest. I was an hour early but whatever; I could get a feel of the place and warm up a bit.

I entered the gym from a side entrance. There was a small room with mats and bags then the reception in the middle then the main room which had a huge matted area. I approached the reception area and introduced myself to a lady called Willow. Willow looked a hippie but strangely for hippie she was in shape. A ‘high performance hippie’ if you will. I half expected her to try and sell me a dream catcher as I explained who I was and why I was standing in front of her. She was as nice and welcoming as could be and showed me to the changing rooms.

I got myself ready and made my way to the main room to start warming up. Half way through my third round of shadow boxing a voice said “Hi buddy do you want to spar?” I ceased my devastating combo of punches and I can tell you my imaginary opponent was VERY relieved. I turned round to see the voice belonged to Mr Randy Couture. His back was towards me and he was rummaging in his training bag. I don’t know why I was so shocked to see him standing in front of me, I mean this was his gym after all, but I was.

Even though I had heard him my response was “eh??” I don’t know why I said this. Was I buying time while the reality of the situation absorbed into my frontal lobe? I immediately thought this sounded rude when Randy said “Sparing, would you like to spar?”

This was unreal. Would I like to spar with Randy Couture? This was too much, of course I would!

I said yes, well I actually said “aye” (Which is a northern way of saying ‘yes’).

A puzzled looked came across Randy’s face and he said “your eye?” in a somewhat puzzled tone of voice.

This wasn’t the first time an American had trouble making out what I was saying, in fact Americans on the whole have enormous difficulty in trying to understand what I’m trying to convey. That is until I teach them the Queen’s English.

“Of course Mr Couture I would be honoured to part take in the said duel” I said like a character out of Pride and Prejudice…

I’m only kidding I think I said something like “aye, I mean yeah I’d love to have a spar”

I’m not sure how much Randy understood me as he said “Oh you mean yes”. He must have been thinking – fucking hell this simple question is a workout in itself!

I again responded with “aye”. It was an automatic response. If I would’ve had a miracle knife to hand I would’ve willingly fallen on it.

I quickly followed with “I mean yes, great of course”.

He smiled and carried on putting on his training kit. This whole conversation must have lasted all of thirty seconds but it felt like a lifetime. I suddenly realised my mouth was so dry that my tongue seemed to be welded to the top of my mouth. I went to get a drink of water, then stopped and went to put on my gloves then tripled back as I realised it would be easier to drink water without having boxing gloves on!

I was glad Randy wasn’t paying me any attention as it looked like I’d decided to jack in Mma to start doing the robot.

Get a grip Thompson, I silently demanded to myself as I walked over to my water. I drank, put my shin pads and boxing gloves on and walked to where Randy was waiting for me. When I look back I didn’t feel nervous, I mean I’m sure I did but that emotion would have been further down the list of what I was feeling, after surrealness and just pure awe.

We touched gloves. Randy was circling out of distance and I was wondering how hard to go. I mean, I hadn’t sparred that much due to lack of training partners of my size and when I got in the ring/cage I tended to go for the ‘all out full psycho’ approach, which I would never do in training. As I was mulling over this delicate quandary, a stiff jab landed straight on my chin quickly followed by another.

I rushed forward; Randy got under hooks and took me down. I then spent a lot of time on my back being ground and pounded.

I can’t remember too much more about it as I was getting tired and hit a lot! Even through all this I am willing to bet there was no-one more happy to be punched in the face!! Other fighters started to come in to train at this point, so we called it a day.

As I was grabbing some water it suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t landed a punch or got a take down. I hadn’t done anything apart from be an ‘over happy punch bag’. My joy of being beat up dissipated and I started to feel embarrassed – When you’re a fighter of any age and you train somewhere else you always want to give a good account for yourself. I hadn’t done that and suddenly felt sick.

I introduced myself to Robert Follis, the head coach at Quest, there were a hell of a lot of fighters in the gym now. We all warmed up in the massive matted area before sparring with each other. I sparred with Matt Lindland first. I recall that I was very determined to give a good account for myself. I can’t remember much of the spar except that I got an arm bar right at the end of the round. I remember this as firstly it was Matt Lindland and secondly I never go to get arm bars.

I was feeling like I’d redeemed myself a little in this spar. We had a minutes rest and then went with someone else.

The next guy (I can’t remember his name) had only had a couple of fights and was a small, light heavy weight wrestler, but he guillotined me in the first 30 seconds. I was then arm barred by Dan Henderson from guard which I thought was out of order since I’ve never seen Dan do this. Then I got tapped out loads by Matt Horwich, who I thought was a little unorthodox in his methods, as he would tell me what he was going to do before he did it. He wasn’t actually saying his next move out loud for my benefit, he was obviously organising his moves in his own head and speaking them out loud, but it went a bit like this

“Horwich gets a under hook, takes the single leg, heel hook and then Horwich gets the tap” it just what he did sometime but it worked for him so fair play. (I’ve since met up with Horwich again when I fought in KSW and he’s a genuinely nice guy and I wish him well in multi universal life and in his Mma endeavours :)

Anyway back to Team Quest. I was exhausted by this point, when Lindland ask for another spar! My body cried out as I was tapped and pummelled relentlessly. It was a mad, painful first day but I really enjoyed it – apart from when Lindland’s glove caught my eye at the end of the last spar we had and it wouldn’t stop watering. It was painfully annoying and I couldn’t see out of my eye as it constantly streamed water.

At the end of the session Randy asked me if I wanted to get something to eat with him and Lindland which was great. I wasn’t nervous by then as I think my nerves had been beaten numb. Of course I got showered and took them up on their offer. I can’t remember much of the meal or the conversation as my eye was watering constantly and caused a massive distraction. Just my luck I thought, here I am sitting here with two Mma legends and all I can do is wince and dab my streaming eye with a napkin!

When I got back to my room I led on my bed and went through the events of the day. I started going over the mistakes I’d made while sparring then beating myself up over them which was easy as I was tired from everyone else giving me a beating. I started to feel down. I was letting my ego get the better of me. Instead of concentrating on the bad stuff which I’d been over analysing for the past hour I tried to look at the good stuff as well as the bad in order to help me improve. The things I had done at Quest, the fact I’d met so many Mma legends that were really nice people and the fact that I’d even eaten with Randy Couture and Matt Lindland… Jesus!! It had been a great day. What did I expect to come here and take over? Of course not. I realised that If I trained hard I could learn a lot from this whole experience and that’s what I intended to do.

Pride ended up giving me giant Silva to fight. A guy with not much skill but that posed a lot of difficult questions since well… he was a giant. I went into that fight feeling confident due to the fact that I’d had such a lot of help from Matt Follis (head coach at Quest) Mike Dolce who worked on my diet and strength and conditioning, and Jay White, my heavy weight sparring partner, not to mention all the legends I’ve mentioned before in this blog and a whole host of fighters I haven’t. Basically it was a great experience, one I’d recommend to any fighter to do. Get out of your comfort zone, leave your ego at home and go train.

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