MILWAUKEE -- With their customary open workouts a little more “open” even than usual, the main card fighters from this weekend’s UFC Live 5 show did their best to entertain fans who showed up to watch them “train.”
Open workouts are almost entirely ceremonial affairs, with most fighters barely breaking a sweat as they cruise through 15-30 minute sessions designed just to let the media (and in this case, the masses) get a look at them. Two days before Sunday night’s fights, a couple hundred people filed through the Harley Davidson Museum’s “Rumble Room” -- a large exhibition and performance center with 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows and carpet like the acoustic wrap on the outside of audio speakers -- during the hour and a half long performance. It was only right the people of Milwaukee got a little something extra.
Brazilian lightweight phenom Charles Oliveira greeted fans with a bow and mustered the English to make the announcement, “Hello, Milwaukee. Thank you for coming. I love you all,” before popping the crowd with some slick jiu-jitsu demonstrations with his training partner/interpreter. Ben Henderson lectured the audience on the importance of stretching before a workout, then took a couple questions from fans while skipping rope for 10-15 minutes. Dan Hardy did a few jumping, spinning kicks, a little bit of tai chi and even showed off how serious he is about his wrestling these days with a few comically slow double leg shots.
Afterward, he sat cross-legged on the mat -- stretching, ostensibly -- and shouted his own questions at the crowd.
“Who’s your pick for the fight?” Hardy asked. “I don’t mind if you pick against me, I won’t be offended. I’m on the fence about it myself.”
Chris Lytle may have stolen the show however, when he obliged requests from fans to do a cartwheel and then a hands-free back flip. Lytle stuck the landing, but then hobbled around the workout mats pretending like he’d twisted an ankle and might be out of Sunday night’s main event fight against Hardy.
“Nobody do that again, please,” shouted UFC live event coordinator Burt Watson, who walked through the room clutching his chest at the horror of even thinking about it.
Hardy not your average fighter
Despite an 0-3 record in his last trio of appearances in the Octagon, Hardy has arguably garnered the most attention from fans and media this week leading up to his main event fight against Lytle.
With his trademark Mohawk dyed day-glo orange, Hardy has pontificated during the last few days on everything from his own current rough skid in the cage to his philosophies on the meaning of mixed martial arts to the rioting that currently grips parts of his native England, all the while exhibiting a kind of levelheadedness and cool that seems hard to come by in fight circles. If not for the occasional sly asides about how badly he plans to beat up Lytle this weekend, you might even begin to wonder what a smart and thoroughly unassuming dude like Hardy is doing in this sport, anyway.
At least some of that can be explained by his background. Unlike a lot of fighters, Hardy came to the UFC not from a highly regarded jiu-jitsu camp or an elite NCAA wrestling factory, but from art school. In fact, Hardy had almost completed his degree in art and design at Nottingham Trent University when he decided to leave school behind to indulge his first love -- punching people in the face.
“It kind of got to the stage where I’d done two years of the course, I was headed into the final year and I was spending a lot more time in the gym than I was in the studio ...,” Hardy told ESPN.com. “But I did sculpture, I did installations and live performance, even painting and photography and sound work. I tried a little bit of everything while I was there. I still take a lot of photographs and I carry a sketch book around with me a lot of the time, so I’m still scribbling and drawing and stuff. It’s definitely something that I’ll get back into, but right now I’d need to be in a completely different place mentally to be an artist. Right now, I need to be an athlete.”
No study sessions for Cerrone
Don’t expect Donald Cerrone to come out with a unique, well-tailored game plan for opponent Oliveira this Sunday. After both guys accepted this fight as short-notice injury replacements, Cerrone admitted Friday he hasn’t watched any tape on Oliveira. In fact, Cerrone said he never watches film on his opponents. Citing his self-described “busy life” running the ranch he recently bought in the Albuquerque area, Cerrone said he prefers to focus on his own talents and leaves the meticulous tedium of stop, fast-forward, rewind to his coaches at Greg Jackson’s MMA.
“I don’t watch any footage on the people [I’m going to fight]. I just don’t care,” Cerrone said. “I know [Oliveira is] 14-1. I don’t know how he kicks, how he throws, I don’t know anything about him … Zero interest. My game plan is just to go out there and let it go, do what I do and I’m not worried about what he’s going to do.”
Cerrone said the one time he made an exception to this rule was after his particularly tough loss in a lightweight title match at WEC 48. It sounds as if he did it just to torture himself.
“The only time I watched tape was after Ben Henderson choked me out,” he said. “I went home and watched me sitting there like an idiot. That’s about it.”
Lytle serious about politics
The long-time UFC welterweight contender turns 37 years old next week, but even though he admitted on Friday he’s feeling his age -- “Shoot, I feel like I’m 46,” Lytle said -- he doesn’t view his budding political career as the end of his fighting days. He recently announced he’s considering running for the state house as a Republican back home in Indiana, but dismissed any notion that it means he’ll call it quits in the UFC. He just said the current political climate demands he get involved right now.
“It’s definitely not an exit strategy,” he told ESPN. “It’s something I’ve felt kind of passionately about for a while now. I’ve been in some political circles for awhile and people have been encouraging me to run. If I wait any longer, the way things are going it’ll be too late.”
Miller celebrates birth of son … with facial hair?
It’s no accident Jim Miller has been sporting a shaggy fu manchu around Milwaukee this week. The goatee wasn’t brought on a bout of laziness or as some way to psyche himself up for his upcoming fight against Henderson either, Miller said. Instead, Miller and his wife are expecting their second child soon and he explained facial hair is his traditional way of welcoming new additions to the family.
“I’m having a little boy in September and his first name is going to be Wyatt, so I wanted to greet him with a nice, Wyatt Earp curled mustache when he came into the world,” Miller said. “For my daughter, I grew a nice thick beard … and then once she was born, I shaved it into a celebration mustache. I had this huge, thick, big red mustache. It was pretty bad.”
Here's hoping the “celebration mustache” becomes the next big thing in child rearing.