The Evolve MMA Chronicles – Part Two

Read the first part of ‘The Evolve MMA Chronicles’ by clicking here. The following is part two of MiddleEasy’s exclusive feature.

Before I flew to Singapore, I knew at some point I would be asked to train with the potpourri of world champions at Evolve MMA. Unfortunately due to some laundry vandal that resides in my apartment, I was unable to locate my Jaco fight shorts. My assumption is that someone grabbed them while I was doing my laundry and tried to sell them on the MMA clothing black market. I hope they got a lot for it — because I got them for free. I decided to go with a pair of board shorts, which served me well in my impromptu crash-course into the world of training at Evolve MMA.

If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance that you’ve already read the first part of my voyage into Singapore and Evolve MMA. As mentioned an innumerable amount of times in the past, the gym is incredibly luxurious. You almost want to take a shower to disinfect yourself before entering the facility. What I didn’t know is that there is a second Evolve MMA just a few minutes from the first Evolve MMA. It’s somewhat hidden away in a secluded place in downtown Singapore. I guess the way to describe it would be if the first Evolve MMA center is ‘X-Mansion‘, then this second Evolve MMA center is the ‘Danger Room.’ In the X-Men comic, the Danger Room becomes self-aware and turns into a Terminator-like creature who convinces other superheroes to kill themselves. Let’s not hope the same scenario happens in Singapore. Besides, being a self-aware, murderous computer is illegal in Singapore and punishable by death (and if you’re a drug-trafficking, self-aware, murderous computer — then you’re really screwed).

When I first entered the facility, I was greeted by a couple of guys that follow me on Twitter. It was as if we already knew each other, despite the fact that we’ve been living on complete opposite ends of the planet for the better part of our lives. I looked around and I noticed Shinya Aoki sitting down at a table with a middle-aged woman whom I later found out was his mother. I reached in my bag for my video camera to document this epic pairing, but I quickly realized that I just didn’t want to be ‘that guy.’ You guys know who ‘that guy’ is. ‘That guy’ would interrupt someone’s dinner just to ask for an autograph or take an unsolicited snapshot of a person without any form of consent. I have a complex about this, so I decided to pretend like my mind wasn’t blown and conduct my interaction like a normal human being. I walked up to the table and politely bowed. Shinya Aoki stood up, grabbed my hand and shook it as if to say ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ In my attempt to fit in with Asian culture, I completely alienated myself — but leave it to Aoki to remind me just how much of a westernized American I truly am. We sat down and discussed an array of MMA topics, in the best possible way we could. The extent of my Japanese is what I learned in a semester of a college course that I eventually dropped out of, and Aoki doesn’t speak that much English. However, we found a way to communicate through the use of hand gestures with a few words sprinkled throughout. In fact, that’s how we conducted most of our communication in our duration of Singapore. It’s amazing what you can convey when all you have is your hands and a few keywords. For some reason I felt the need to pull out my camera and just record a little bit of it, and here’s what I managed to grab.

As Shinya and I were talking, the team at Evolve MMA were steadily coming in the facility. Within minutes, a crew of fighters were casually stretching next to the boxing ring. An unopened Renzo Gracie labeled gi was placed in front of Shinya Aoki and as he opened it, I knew that I would somehow be involved in getting my ass handed to me while I trained with these champions. It was cool. ‘Bring it on’ I quietly told myself as I wore my LRG board shorts. I was unprepared in every way imaginable. I ate something ridiculous the night before, my brain was still jet-lagged and my apparel was highly inadequate. Perfect. This is the way I’ve always envisioned training with eleven world champions in one room.

Just hours before I visited the gym, I caught myself watching highlights of Lumpini World Champion, Yoddecha Sityodtong, specifically his Sydney fight a few years ago in which he caught his opponent with a spinning back-elbow that was executed so quickly, even in the slo-mo replay my eyes still can’t discern how Yoddecha pulled it off. I was just seconds away from training with a guy that has an entire highlight reel of himself just knocking out other people with his foot. Yoddecha threw a pile of industrial-sized jump ropes near all of us and then pointed at me to take one and start jumping. As other fighters grabbed a rope and started effortlessly skipping, I pulled off the whole ‘Look, I’m just a journalist here to observe you’. It wouldn’t fly with Yoddecha. He pointed to the rope, then pointed to me and I knew I had to step up to the challenge.

Before I started training at Evolve MMA, I was under the illusion that I was a healthy human being in top physical shape. The 24-Hour Fitness center on Sunset and Ivar in Hollywood, California had me deceived. Apparently working out an hour every other day just doesn’t cut it. As I begin to swing this massive, neon-colored jump rope, I instantaneously became gassed. Perhaps it was my technique or I had the jitters from Shinya Aoki training directly in front of me. Regardless of what exactly happened, one thing was very evident: gallons of liquid rushing from my body at an incredible speed. The sweat that collected was unbelievable. I sat down in order to catch my breath, but Yoddecha kicked the rope towards me and insisted that I finish ‘warming-up.’ Of course, calling it ‘warming-up’ was an understatement. As I continued to jump rope, I noticed that fatigue greatly impaired my skipping rhythm. Every time I missed a jump, I would feel the blunt force of industrial piping slam into the front of my toes. It was like automatic toe-stub punishment for screwing up. Maybe I’m going a little bit overboard on such a menial task as jumping rope, but my God that rope hurt. As I write this, I can feel my toes curling as if they’re individually reliving some nefarious nightmare.

Chatri, the CEO of Evolve MMA, assigned Yoddecha Sityodtong to personally instruct me for the remainder of the training session. As Yoddecha wrapped my hands, I was in a complete state of disbelief. Those same hands that so carefully prepared my wraps severed the consciousness of hundreds of fighters over the years. My entire body was submerged in surrealism.

Yoddecha held the pads and I hit them in the only way that I knew how: like a friggin’ lunatic. I was all over the place. If striking technique was currency, then I wouldn’t even be able to pay attention. Eventually, Yoddecha told me to stop whatever I was doing and just follow his instruction. When I did, I physically felt my body regain balance and my kicks gained a pronounced ‘equilibrium’ to them. Yoddecha even taught me how to properly pull off a spinning back-elbow. The same one that he used to knock this guy out. By the time it came for me to practice my muay-thai clinch on the heavy bags, I was in ‘depleted energy zombie-mode’. I wasn’t even running on fumes. I was fueled entirely by the hope that if I dropped dead and was somehow revived, I could tell people that I died and came back to life in Singapore. The end of the training session finally arrived, and when it did, I collapsed on the floor like a newborn baby. Grappling was up next, but I either loss consciousness on the floor, or took an abrupt nap. I’m not sure what came first. All I remember was waking up and everyone was taking off their gis and hitting the showers.

I quickly scanned the facility and noticed Shinya Aoki and his mother calmly sitting down at the previous table where we had our initial conversation. My body was still drenched in sweat, but I managed to squeeze enough energy to walk towards Aoki to see what The Baka Survivor was up to. As I approached the table, Aoki’s mom uncapped a water bottle and handed it to me. For that split-second, she became my own mother. I happily took the bottle and downed it within seconds. As I began to regain my balance with the universe, I thought I would get an interview with Shinya. With the translation help of the head of Evolve MMA, Shinya Aoki and I finally had somewhat of an in-depth conversation which I recorded and transcribed for all of you to read. All questions were impromptu and off the top of my head.


Alright Shinya, so what is happening with FEG and K-1?Nothing is really happening, visibly, with FEG. Nothing is going to be happening with them.


Then what is the state of Japanese MMA right now?It’s dwindling. What I consider world-class MMA fighters from Japan are dwindling. For example, in the lightweight category there’s only Kawajiri and myself in the top ‘elite status.’ It’s going down.


Do you think Japanese MMA started to fall apart after ZUFFA purchased Pride FC?Yes, exactly. That’s right.


Do you think Japanese MMA will ever fully come back? It’s going to be very hard for Japanese MMA to comeback. It’s not just a sport, it’s an entire ecosystem.


So as of right now, Japanese MMA is virtually impossible to repair?It’s very difficult to recover. FEG owes people a lot of money, and they’re not paying. They don’t have money. So if that’s the top organization, then it will be hard to repair the culture of Japanese MMA.


Why are American fans so drawn to you?Because I finish fights. That makes me an exciting fighter. I feel very good that the American fans appreciate that.


You’ve grappled with Fedor before. Is he still the top heavyweight?He’s already achieved legendary status. You can’t talk about rankings for a legend.


What’s the deal with your glasses? Those things look wild.*Shinya takes off his glasses*
This is my model. It has a lot of colors, five colors. This is one color variation, but there’s four more.


How much are they?One hundred and fifteen dollars. US dollars.


Nice glasses. So who’s the top lightweight in the world?Gilbert Melendez.


Where would you rank? Do you not rank yourself?*Shinya thinks for a bit*
From the top: Gilbert Melendez, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Eddie Alvarez, BJ Penn, Kenny Florian then myself, Shinya Aoki. Kenny Florian is really good.


So back to FEG…I just want to apologize on behalf of Japanese MMA that FEG is not paying their foreign fighters. All these guys are not getting paid, and I’ve always been paid. It reflects poorly on the Japanese, and I’m sorry about that.


A few people have been comparing you to Nick Diaz.*Shinya laughs*
Nick Diaz has good jiu-jitsu and good boxing and most importantly, he’s a very intelligent fighter. He’s also a very good athlete.


Do you think Nick Diaz would be a good professional boxer?For an MMA fighter, he has very high-level boxing. For a professional boxer, I don’t really know. There’s a big difference between the two.


You read, what do you want to say to your fans on the site?Thank you MiddleEasy fans. I am very thankful and appreciative and I will keep on doing my best in the future.


There you have it. I never thought I would be able to actually visit the multi-million dollar MMA gym that I wrote about on MiddleEasy nearly two years ago. However, it happened and I was superbly pleased with the experience. Everyone at Evolve MMA treated me like some sort of MMA celebrity, and I’m eternally thankful for it. To everyone that I met in Singapore, I’ll see you guys again. Thanks for the memories and massive thanks to all of you for reading the Evolve MMA Chronicles.

Published on May 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm
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