Going into the weekend, Coach Kiser and I had 4 fights on the docket. 2 on Friday night in Salt Lake City at the Ultimate Combat Experience and 2 on Saturday night in Wendover at the Gladiator Challenge.
Preparations for these fights began over 2 months ago as Fighters Jake Paul, Paul Roberts, Johnny Miller and Aaron Okura began to ramp up their conditioning and put together game plans for their respective opponents.
As training progressed, the opponents began to shuffle and add the usual X factor to the challenge of preparing these guys for fights. Originally Jake was to fight Brad Johnson, and Aaron Okura was to fight Paris Swain. Jake’s opponent declined the fight half way through preparations and Lee Doss out of Jeremy Horn’s Elite Performance gym stepped up to take his place. Paris stepped down the week of the fight and Zack Wojcheck, a very seasoned and hearty opponent took the fight last minute.
The training camp was solid as both Team Bernales and the Mushin Fighter Corps banded together in usual fashion to show each other and their teammates a huge level of support. Kensei Sato, Konrad Jones, John Mckean, Jeremy Sullivan and Ultimate Fighter Brandon Melendez, among many others offered themselves as consistent sparring partners and moral support for their fight family.
There are particulars that are important to consider when preping guys for fights, Lee Doss has a striking game as opposed to Johnson’s wrestling based style. Paris Swain is a left handed fighter as opposed to Wojcheck’s orthodox stance. But again, throught he power of TEAM, we were able to create drills that mimiced the tendencies and energy of the various opponents.
Khuen Khru Will and I worked the corner for Paul Roberts who dispatched an undefeated Kevin Hanby :30 seconds into round one. After delivering a punishing flurry of punches and knees and stringing together a 3 sub combination lock flow, Kevin tapped out to a Triangle. Like a true gentleman, Kevin was graceful in defeat and wished Paul good luck on his UCE title bout vs. Daniel Grass.
Aaron had an altogether different experience against his opponent, Zack Wojcheck. None of us expected him to be able to keep up with the pace that Aaron put forth. Especially after taking the fight with such late notice. Not only did Wojcheck go all three rounds and put together a steely performance, he concussed Aaron with his heavy handed punching. But after 3 rounds of non st0p action, the judges saw it a split decision in Aaron’s favor.
After celebrating late into the evening, Kiser and I retired to our homes and prepared for the trip out to Wendover the next morning. At the weigh ins on Thursday night, Johnny Miller’s opponent Chris Julkenun showed up 20 lbs. over weight and as a result the fight was canceled. We were all disappointed but, sometimes that’s how it goes in the fight game.
At any rate, Kiser and I loaded up into the Honda Civic with Kade Anderson and Brittany in tow and headed off to Wendover. Little did we know of the adventure that lay before us.
Shortly after passing the airport, traffic came to a dead halt. I-80 West had been shut down due to a freight crash which involved live ammunition that had ignited and begun to go off.
Generally, the trip takes about 2 hours. It took us about that long to get to a point where we could turn around and try another route.
Next up was I-215 and it looked pretty promising at first. But shortly after reaching Kennecott, we found that that route had been shut down as well.
We were told of some secret back road passage around the crash, through Lehi and Grantsville down route SR 73 or something like that so we headed off. Once to Lehi, the traffic there was too intimidating and so we headed back to Kiser’s abode to use the bathroom, and re-think our options.
At that point I-80 was re-opened and we started back down the original route, determined to make it to Wendover, despite the one lane closure and awful delay. 5 hours into the drive I started to get nervous about our fuel situation and was feeling the effects of being pent up in a sub compact so we decided to shut the engine off, stick her in neutral and push the Civic for the occasional 10 to 20 feet move forward. We ended up getting a decent little workout amidst cheers and cat calls from our gridlocked audience.
After seven hours of driving, we finally arrived at the Gladiator Challenge hosted by the Wendover Nugget. Kiser and I literally ran from the car to the warm up area.
Konrad and Melendez had Jake taped up and sweating. 5 minutes later, we were ringside watching Jake put the hurt on Jeremy Horn’s Lee Doss. Round 1 began with Jake pressing Doss into the cage and delivering a stylish Spinning Elbow from a Single Leg before taking Lee down and dominating the action. Round 2 had Jake taking Lee down with a Blast Double and eventually taking mount to finish the fight by GNP.
It was a long trip but the journey and the 2 months of grueling training to prepare these warriors for their bouts made the weekend of victories all the more sweet.
Congratulations to all the fighters for their successes and a special thanks to the Bernales Team and Mushin Self Defense Student Bodies for helping our boys prepare for their bouts.