I want to share one of the highlights of our trip to the Strikeforce – Fedor vs. Rogers event which took place this past Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, in Hoffman Estates, Ill., just outside Chicago. ProMMA.info VP Denny Hodge picked me up about 6:30 a.m. in Kentucky for the roughly nine hour drive to our destination.
First stop – check in at our hotel at the Candlewood Suites. This was the media hotel Strikeforce had recommended. I think there was a special media rate but the lady from the hotel who was in charge of special rates never seemed to be available.
We got to the hotel. I slept most of the way, while “The Mad One” did what he does best: text and drive. If you’ve never experienced riding with someone addicted to texting, let me tell you, you will not soon forget it. I truly believe his condition is worsening because we’ve gone on many of these trips to cover events and he was manifesting new signs of addiction I had not previously witnessed.
He was pulling off such maneuvers as “combination texting;” this is when you are having text conversations with more than one person at a time while driving. I saw the “talk – text combo;” this is when you talk on the phone with someone but can switch over and have a text conversation at the same time while driving. I witnessed the “talk – text – surf combo;” when a person is on the phone, texting, and surfing the Internet all at once.
If you suspect someone you know is text addicted but aren’t 100% sure, there is one true sign that gives it away without fail. It is known as “the text zone.” When a person goes into “the text zone” they become oblivious to the outside world and will text with a speed and fury only sometimes seen rarely in combat sports when one fighter goes in for the kill and throws a 12-15 punch combo. The person texting will always be using two hands to deliver this keystroke combination when in the “text zone,” and if they happen to be driving they will be using their knees.
“The Mad One” is notorious for going into “the text zone” especially at night.
OK, so by some miracle we arrived safely to our hotel, we check in, and get over to the Sears Centre Arena, which was only a couple of miles from where we were staying. It was very convenient.
They put Denny in a luxury suite with the guys from Middle Easy (very cool dudes) and that is where he did our ProMMA.info play by play. While he was busy with that, I wandered around the entire arena, snapping photos from different angles and view points to try to give a good overview of everything going on. Needless to say after a nine hour drive, then eight more hours walking around the arena I was beat.
We head back to the hotel, walk in, and standing next to the check in desk talking to the lady at the counter was none other than “Merciless” Ray Mercer. I did not immediately recognize him. He said, “Did your boy win?” I wasn’t sure who he was referring to so I said, “It was a great show.”
I took a closer look and said, “Ray?” Then as if he did not know already, I said, “You’re Ray Mercer.”
He smiled big and nodded in the affirmative.
We talked about the fights. He is a huge fan of MMA and has much respect for Fedor. He said, “Man this MMA is taking over boxing.”
He and his manager had been at the event. He said his manager had bought them tickets and had wanted Ray to go there and call out some of the fighters. He did not say which ones, but said his manager was pissed because he would not call out any of the Strikeforce fighters.
Ray is 48-years-old. He is a former WBO World Heavyweight boxing champion and a former Olympic gold medalist boxer. Most recently however, he fought an MMA match against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, and knocked him out with one punch in nine seconds flat.
We talked about his fight with Sylvia. I said, “Man what you did to Tim Sylvia was amazing.” He said, “Yeah, but he’s no Fedor.” I said, “That’s true, but Tim was a very big deal at one time. He’s a big guy.” Ray was very humble and as nice as could be. He seemed to have had a few drinks and looked like he was feeling fine.
Ray gave us his room number and agreed to an interview. I had planned to go wash up, then go knock on his door and do a nice late night interview with the one and only “Merciless” Ray Mercer. Instead, I went back to my room, took a hot bath and passed out. I felt terrible about that, but my body had shut down. Ray, if you happen to read this, sorry we didn’t make it man, but it was nice to meet you.
You may wonder why after taking over 2500 photos at the “Fedor vs. Rogers” event, I couldn’t snap one more of Ray. The truth is, between a combination of being so stoked, yet surprised to meet Ray and being dead tired, it completely slipped my mind. Go figure.
By: Jack Bratcher