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The Cornerman: What didn’t kill Kimbo will make him a real mixed martial artist

Mike Reilly is the owner and head instructor of Team Bison MMA in St. Paul, Minnesota. Team Bison is the home to many competitive mixed martial artists such as Brett Rogers, Sammy Morgan, and Kelly Kobold. Mike was cageside working Kobold’s corner during her Oct. 4 fight against Gina Carano on CBS’ Saturday Night Fights. In Mike’s latest column for Five Ounces of Pain, he provides our readers with a unique look into the event.

You can judge a sport by how bad it hurts when you lose.

In MMA losing is devastating. Physically, the pain inflicted by the victors is meaningless. MMA fighters are used to physical pain. Injuries and blood are part of the game. After the fight, the pain of a loss remains not only in the days after, but the weeks that follow it as well. A loss effects not only your most recent fight, but the very next one as well. Your pay will be less; your spot on the card drop; and sponsors dry up.

Winning doesn’t mean doubling a fighter’s pay day; it means quadrupling their money and moving them one step further towards the top. Making matters worse is that your next opportunity to redeem yourself will not present itself for months. Yet it is in the dust of defeat that we still find greatness. The lessons learned in victory do not rival the magnitude of the ones you learn in defeat.

EliteXC’s Oct. 4 show on CBS was one of the best cards I have ever been part of. While Elite remains the favorite target of the Internet fanboiz, this show had everything. Fighters showed amazing heart, skill and spirit. We saw massive upsets coupled with back and forth battles that kept fans on the edge of the seats.

Then came the main event.

The intrigue was amusing. More theories have sprouted up than compared to the Kennedy Assassination. In fact, the next day at the Flagler Dog Track I was playing poker with a guy who knew “for a fact” the entire thing had been rigged by the mob. Just for that, I had to crack his Jacks and send him to the rail.

People saw what they wanted to see in Kimbo Slice and they saw what they wanted to see in Kimbo going down. Now if Kimbo has had a harsher, more dogged critic than me, then I don’t know who that person might be. Remember, I’m the same guy who helped author an open statement to Kimbo that became quite the talk a few months back. However, Kimbo did not get exposed in that fight vs. Seth Petruzelli; he did not get embarrassed; and he certainly didn’t get paid off by some shadowy figure on the grassy knoll.

On October 4, 2008, Kimbo Slice became a fighter; a real, full-fledged, dangerous mixed martial arts fighter.
We watched the fight from the locker room cheering for Seth. I have been a fan of Seth’s for many years and hoped he’d make the most of this amazing opportunity. In a flash, Seth had jumped from an also-ran with potential to being a superstar. But we saw something else. In defeat, that horrible pain, that gut wrenching, soul ripping feeling that the fight is lost. The moment gone. That pain was in Kimbo’s eyes and that pain will make him dangerous.

Kimbo had a tough night. The guy carries the show on his back and then gets put on his back with a lightning strike no one saw coming. But fighters are not measured in how they fall; but rather in how they get up. In this game everything can turn on a second. One mistake, one misstep at any time and it can be over. No one gets out unbloodied, unmarked. No one leaves the field without wounds. But how will that warrior come back?

For all my poking, prodding and provoking Kimbo, I believe the man will come back better, stronger and more focused than before. Kimbo’s next opponent had better come ready for war because they won’t be fighting Kimbo the sideshow or Kimbo the “YouTube Legend”. They will be fighting Kevin Ferguson: MMA fighter; and a hell of a good one at that!

Our game is great because it hurts so bad to lose that you have no choice but to come back better. Glory to the victors and congratulations to Seth, Gina, Arlovski and the rest. But take heart those who stood to watch the other warrior’s hand raised; those whose dreams lay shattered in the dust. Take heart and stand tall for you are no less the warrior. The next time you walk through the door to risk it all you will come through better.

I have stood with my fighters hundreds of times. I have raised them up in victory and helped them up in defeat. Win, lose or draw I have looked in their eyes and never been less then awed at the greatness they behold. I hope every camp can look at their fighters in victory or defeat and see the same thing. We have a great sport, because even in defeat there is honor, glory and a reason to dare once more.

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