Tuesday, April 1, 2008
My coach kicks ass on TV
The guy issuing the beatdown in this photo is Alex Serdyukov, my main MMA instructor at Gracie/Fairtex, where I train in the sport controversially known as "ultimate fighting." This week Alex earned himself a huge victory on national TV as a welterweight in World Extreme Cagefighting (a "feeder" subsidiary of the UFC). It's great fun to see one of your coaches handling business in front of thousands of spectators and a sizeable cable audience.
It bears mentioning that Alex is one of the many people who put the lie to the stereotype about
MMA being a "bloodsport" practiced by snarling barbarians. (Although, in fairness, Alex does
appear to be snarling in this photo.) A soft-spoken Russian immigrant, Alex earned himself a business-school degree before pursuing his pro fighting career. As a trainer, he follows the example of our mutual teachers in the Gracie family, emphasizing the application of calm, intelligence, and technique in a fight.
Alex has been a big part of my own training getting more sophisticated and productive. I'm a pretty decent jiu-jitsu player but I need work on becoming a better boxer and wrestler. Alex has been really helpful in correcting my bad fight habits and learning how to dictate a gameplan on somebody. He also cracks me up by shaking his head disapprovingly whenever someone claims to be tiring.
It turns out that mastering this sport is really hard -- who knew!? -- and it causes contusions and discoloration about the face and head; but it's also a lot of fun and downright satisfying when you're having the better
of it. There's something confidence-building about learning to stand "in the pocket" with an opponent (the pocket being the area right in front of him) and exposing yourself to damage in order to try doing some damage yourself. (It's what fighters euphemistically call "trading.")
If you get a chance to catch the replay of "WEC 33: Back to Vegas" on VERSUS Network, try and check out Alex's fight. And if it's your first experience watching MMA, try and keep an open mind about this highly misunderstood and highly awesome sport. (I sometimes wonder if I missed my calling as a defender of the sport. Playboy published my incensed letter-to-the-editor after they ran an ignorant article about it; I guess you can't count on Playboy for much, except a great reality TV show about Hefner's Bunny housemates.)