A Lesson in Self Control
by Michelle D. Drake, special guest contributor, July 3rd, 2012
“Ok gentlemen (women if they’re present), we’re all adults here. We’re all martial artists too. You’re being watched by everyone: kids, promoters, coaches, teammates, spouses and anyone with a camera phone. Let’s keep all that in mind tonight and let your actions reflect those qualities of an adult and a martial artist.”
That is my spiel in the very beginning of my rule’s meeting when I’m reffing a mma event, it never changes; it’s always the same. I follow it up by telling them when they win or KO their opponent, don’t act like a douche and do things that will later embarrass themselves, teammates, or family. I then make sure they understand by asking them, “Do you understand? Are there any questions?!” I have yet to have a fighter ask what I meant by those instructions. They’re pretty self explanatory.
All that being said, I was witness to events this past Saturday that made me sick to my stomach as a martial artist, adult and referee. I was embarrassed for the sport that I love so much. The very arguments that opponents of our sport give for not approving of it, happened. Funny thing is, it all took place in the crowd, which was fueled by a fighter’s actions.
To start from the beginning: There were 11 bouts on the card but two were scratched for whatever reason. So the nine fights that made it to the cage were great. Action was non-stop. Great decisions by the judges. My co-ref, Frank, and I worked very well together and all our calls were right on. In one of my fights there were some boo’s and chants from the crowd for me to stand them up. The crowd wasn’t happy with the art of jiu jitsu and didn’t like the intricate details that were unfolding before them. Poor babies. They also weren’t aware of the fact I hate to be told what to do so I let the half-guard to full-guard back to half-guard game go a little bit longer than they liked; but whatever! All went great until the main event…
It was local kid vs. non-local kid. Before non-local kid’s music even started the crowd was booing him. Needless to say the boo’s got louder as he walked up the aisle and it was deafening as he got into the cage. Then the local kid gets introduced. As you can imagine the crowd went wild and cheered, clapped and chanted his name. When I gave the final instructions, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear what I was saying. I know the fighters didn’t hear me either, much less the crowd!
A bit of the back story. Local kid is known as a shit-talker. He’s been known to drop his hands and taunt his opponents to hit him then he swings back. He was called by some that night as the Nate Diaz of Odessa. He lived up to his reputation! From what I hear there were a few words exchanged at the weigh-ins. Now back to the events that unfolded and caused my locking myself in the cage.
The fight was a back and forth war. I can’t tell you who won because it was so close, fast and action packed. I was doing good to keep up with them! There were several stand-ups as they were both pretty tired after the first round so there was a lot of “laying and praying.” Overall they kept it clean throughout the fight. At the end they hugged it out and all was cool. They were both being good sports as were their corners. I had no reason to worry about either guy. Until…
The split decision. Local guy lost. He ran out of the cage. The crowd goes ballistic. No joke. Next thing I know, I’m seeing cups full of beer going over my head into the cage. I stayed cool and raised the non-local kid’s hand. Then the announcer gets hit, he turns around to face the side of the crowd that’s throwing cups of beer and addresses them. They let him know how little they appreciated his words by throwing more cups, of which a full one pegs me in the back of my head. I turn around and tell that side to stop because I didn’t want to get wet! More cups. More anger. More yelling. More middle fingers. More beer wasted.
I made the decision to clear the cage of everyone except for the fighter and one coach. But the non-local guy had something else in mind… he jumped on top of the cage and taunted the crowd. Threw several middle fingers, flexed his muscles, cussed them out and called them a few choice names. Oh shit… here we go. I pulled him down with the help of two of his coaches. I start to try to throw people out… camera men, announcer, fans, anyone that was in there in an effort to have only me, non-local guy and one of his coaches in the cage. I was told by my lead inspector through my co-ref to get out of the cage. I don’t know why, but I obliged. As I was picking up my back pack, a few girls started yelling at me and announcing how badly my ass was about to get kicked. I looked at them said I was right in front of them and to go ahead with my ass kicking. Needless to say no one stepped up. I usually am not a hot head and I walk away from shit like that but after getting pegged in the back of the head with a full beer and the 10 minutes of chaos before I was pretty hot… loss of self control? Maybe…
Out of the corner of my eye, I see something flying through the air. I caught a glimpse of what it was before it hit a crowd of people. It was a metal folding chair! What the fuck is going on?! I proceed to walk over to the side that I saw the chair flying and gathered crowd to see what was happening; call it grotesque curiosity for I already knew what was about to take place. As you can imagine a fight with about 10 people broke out. A guy picked up a chair and WWE style hit the back of another dude. Just as that fight was being broken up two more started in other areas of the venue. My co-ref pulled me back closer to the cage in an effort to protect me. I could hear him saying, “Michelle, Michelle, come here. Stay with me.” Insert “Awes” <here>! I turned and looked at the cage; it was empty. I remember in one of my referee training courses our teacher (Kevin MacDonald) told us sometimes the safest place to be is IN the cage. Taking those words to heart, I grabbed Frank and told him to get in the cage. I then grabbed the announcer (who was yelling over the mic to security about who threw what chair and punched what person) and told him to take shelter in the cage with us.
As I was scanning the place I noticed the non-local kid still running around. I called to him to get in the cage. I believe my exact words were, “<fighter’s name> get your fucking ass in here and stop acting like a jackass.” He and one of his coaches came in and non-local kid proceeded to throw up. I don’t recall what I said to him, if I said anything at all. By that time I was in such shock from what was taking place.
The place emptied out almost instantaneously. Frank and I decided to hang inside for awhile until the parking lot cleared out and also our car was parked in the center of the lot! I didn’t want to have to walk through a crowd or face the group of chicks that wanted to kick my ass. Not to say I couldn’t handle myself, but I really don’t ever want to have to!
After about 20 minutes we left the venue. Checks in hand, shock in our faces and a shit-ton of adrenaline left behind. We had a few beers with our conversation about what happened and how it was handled. I’ve spent the last two days thinking about the whole thing and wondering how stupid I looked yelling at the crowd and when I’ll show up on YouTube. Self control had escaped me in that moment, however, I regained it pretty quick and went back to my job of securing my cage.
While I don’t blame the non-local kid completely, I do hold him responsible for his share of riling up the crowd with his top of the cage taunts. That being said, there were kids in the crowd. Kids that look up to adults for guidance of how to act as an adult. Moreover, I whole-heartedly hold the crowd responsible and think their actions were classless, pathetic and childish.
If you want to fight… train, get in the cage… Otherwise, sit back, drink your beer and watch these kids do what you won’t. That’s it. I’m done.
Your shadow in the cage,