Around five years ago, I was in a karate sparring class at the dojo, and there was a guy there who I had never seen before. We struck up a conversation (which is unusual for me), and he told me that he’d been in his first amateur MMA fight just the night before. I said “Well, you don’t look too beat up, so I guess you did alright”. He smiled and sheepishly said “Yeah, I won.”
He was mainly at the dojo to train Jiu-Jitsu, but he kept coming to sparring class occasionally, and he kept competing in amateur MMA matches. A couple of months or so later, the two of us finally sparred. During that bout he threw a kick that I caught, and I swept him to the floor (which totally surprised him). Then I retreated, because I hadn’t started training Jiu-Jitsu yet, and I knew I didn’t want to end up on the ground with him!
After we sparred I told him I liked his gloves, because they were silver, and he immediately took them off and gave them to me. He got new gloves every time he fought, and he had signed that pair to give away to his adoring fans (which he already had by then!). I’ve worn those gloves ever since, and his signature has all but faded away.
James Harrington has now been a professional MMA fighter for a couple of years, and watching him grow from an amateur to a finely tuned fighting machine has been awesome to see. He’s won some, he’s lost some, but he never loses heart. All of the time and energy he puts into training is a full time job, with very little pay. When I told him that sometimes when I go out in public with a black eye people look at me with pity, he said “Try being the guy riding a city bus with one, everyone is terrified of me!”. Which is too bad, because James is one of the nicest, most good-hearted people I know.
I try to make it to as many of his matches as I can, but I don’t really like watching him fight. I guess it’s too personal for me. A couple of years ago, he left in an ambulance after one of his fights, and it was heart-wrenching. Luckily he was just a little dehydrated, but his crappy-paying full time job is also dangerous, and I don’t want anyone hurting Sweet Baby James!
He will be fighting in Omaha tonight, and no matter how the fight turns out, or where his MMA career ends up, I will always be proud of him. I just need to get him to sign those gloves again, before he gets so famous that he starts charging for his signature. Psshhh, he knows I will just sweep him if he tries to charge me, and I’m not afraid to go to the ground with him anymore! ;)