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In a Flyover State: How I (Barely) Survived My Day With MMA Fighters

When the folks at HDNet’s Inside MMA asked me to come on the show to break down the massive new Ultimate Fighting Championship television deal with News Corp., the idea seemed like a lot of fun. Little did I know it would “ultimately” lead to me almost getting my butt kicked on multiple occasions by people who get paid to dole out pain.

It all began a few days before the show, when I did some back-and-forth with producers, discussing what we were going to talk about. One question that arose concerned the fate of a UFC rival called Strikeforce, which airs fights on CBS and Showtime and was recently bought out by UFC. After doing a little homework, I formulated my hunch that sometime in 2012, the UFC would write a check and make Strikeforce go away in its current form, the check being necessary since CBS/ Showtime apparently has options to keep it going.

That was fine and dandy until I saw the guest list for the show. Joining me on the panel would be a guy named Fabricio Verdum. Mr. Verdum is a heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter. Mr. Verdum goes about 6’4”, 250 pounds. Mr. Verdum has three black belts. I go about 5’8”, and my only black belt is the one I grabbed at Nordstrom last week when I realized I forgot to pack one for my trip.

Why the tale of the tape? Because Mr. Verdum happens to be employed by Strikeforce. Yup, I was being asked to sit on-camera next to this killing machine and say out loud his company was probably going to get KO’d.

Panicked, I emailed a buddy of mine who is tied to the MMA world, explained the situation and asked what the hell I was supposed to do. His response was that Verdum’s punching is weak, but not to let him take me down to the floor.

Ironically, getting to the ground was going to be my exact strategy. That’s where I was planning to head right after my on-camera prediction, to assume the fetal position and start crying in hopes he’d either show mercy or perhaps pull a back muscle from laughing at me.

So, I got my affairs in order and headed to the studio, where I was greeted with the news that Verdum had cancelled. You heard all those reports about the Libyan rebels marching on Tripoli prepared for a massive battle with Qaddafi’s troops, only to find no one there to fight them? Suddenly, that story hit home.

I was alive. I was going to see my kids again. And my wife. And my in-laws…well, you can’t win ’em all.

I felt like I had a new lease on life. I was feeling strong and confident heading into the show, where I would be joined by MMA fighters Michael Bisping and Marloes Coenen. And that was my next mistake.

I realized I was playing in a very different world when I almost got accidentally killed during a commercial break. I was sitting next to Coenen—an accomplished female fighter who looks badass when she’s beating people up but looked fantastic on-set, all made up. The show went to break and Coenen said something about her outfit and a potential wardrobe malfunction. Apparently giving in to some death wish, I made a typical smartass comment without thinking about it. Luckily, she laughed and pushed me on the arm in a joking manner. That’s when I almost went flying off my chair and into the stairwell off to my side. Yeah, these MMA fighters are just a bit stronger than you and me.

You’d think I would have learned something right then. But when we were live on camera, I was sitting just a left hook away from Bisping, a tough-as-nails fighter who is also a star of Spike TV’s (and soon to be FX’s) The Ultimate Fighter. Bisping had just been grilled by hosts Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten about an incident in which he allegedly spit at another fighter. When UFC host Joe Rogan’s name came up, I couldn’t resist…and I announced that at least Rogan didn’t spit at people.

You never know why you do certain things, I pondered, as Bisping raised up his arm while I quietly said my goodbyes to this world. He pointed to the door and said it was time to take things outside. Turns out I would get to use that fetal position after all.

Luckily, Bisping has a sense of humor. In fact, the worst beating I took was when HDNet put up the video of my appearance afterwards online, and someone commented that I have an alien-sized head (which I don’t refute, by the way).

After we wrapped the show and took some publicity photos, host Kenny Rice said he’d love to have me back on.

I didn’t want to break the news to him, but since he went the entire hour without mentioning that network owner Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title, I was pretty sure he’d be getting fired before the weekend.

I still haven’t seen the press release on Rice’s sacking, but I’m expecting it any minute now. I may or may not get an invite back from the new host, and that’s probably for the best. My teeth may be a little crooked and not the brightest shade of white, but at least they are all there, and given my big mouth, avoiding MMA fighters is probably the best way to keep them that way.

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