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Silva was on the mat with Bobby Lashley, a former college wrestler who was a champion World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestler before coming to MMA. Lashley is huge, in flawless shape, and looks more like a champion bodybuilder than a fighter. He's scheduled for his first MMA fight in December.
It's not just monsters like Silva and Lashley in the sport; there are numerous weight divisions, including featherweights. Guerriero pointed out one of the smaller fighters and said, "That's Mike Brown, the best grappler in the world."
Brown, who weighs 145 pounds, is a 33-year-old former high school wrestling champion from Maine who has compiled a 19-4 record since turning pro in 2001. It earned him a shot at the World Extreme Cagefighting championship against Urijah Faber on November 5 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.
"It's a big one," says Brown, still dripping with sweat from the training. "I'm just going to try to hit him hard and submit him if I get a chance."
Brown's body is a battered testament to the violence in the game. During his fighting career, he's had to undergo four knee surgeries, two on each leg. In a fight in Tokyo in 2006, Japanese fighter Masakazu Imanari, one of the world's great leg-lock experts, destroyed his left knee, requiring him to get surgery to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament.
His left biceps "tore off" during one fight, prompting another surgery. He also had to have a disc removed from his neck after it ruptured, causing his left arm to become partially paralyzed.
Never had a broken bone, but he's had plenty of chips, cracks, and evulsions. I asked him why he keeps fighting.
"I started wrestling when I was a kid, and I fell in love with it," he told me as he took out his mouthpiece. "I never thought I could make a living out of it."
He didn't tell me his purse for the Faber fight, but rest assured it's a fraction of the $500,000 Kimbo Slice made in the 14-second debacle. Brown hoped to win the fight and make some big money, but for now, he works part-time every Saturday at the training facility to help pay his bills. He's a working-class pro, the guts of the sport.
The YouTube video of the Imanari fight (in which Brown seems to have the upper hand before Imanari strikes with his devastating leg lock) had 37,120 views. It's a respectable number but not close to the millions that Slice's street-fighting videos average.
I asked Brown about Kimbo Slice.
"He's nowhere near the best in the world. He's not even in the top 30 or 40," Brown said. "But he's exciting, and he sells a lot of tickets. I was even excited to see him fight."
Does Brown think Slice threw the fight?
"No way," he said.
Guerriero calls the notion "ridiculous."
"That's just an ignorant idea," he said. "He just got caught and fell."
Watching the fight video, it seems feasible that Guerriero is right. Slice was coming at Petruzelli when the smaller fighter landed a jarring right hand. It's probably one of those fights that will forever be debated — and derided.
In the end, though, those 14 seconds of infamy have already prompted a necessary cleansing of the sport, which is now in post-Kimbo limbo. Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, has largely been disgraced; it's unlikely anyone will ever try to pretend he's a great martial arts fighter again. And EliteXC, its reputation wounded and finances in tatters, is, of course, belly up.
But guys like Mike Brown, the guts of MMA, are here to stay. And there's nothing wrong with that.
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