Category:Mixed Martial Arts
Posted on: March 4, 2012 1:18 am
Edited on: March 4, 2012 3:19 am

Registered sex offender was on Strikeforce card

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker expressed regret Saturday night that his outfit had allowed a registered sex offender with an apparent Neo-nazi tattoo on the card.

Welterweight Brandon Saling fought (and lost to Roger Bowling) with what looked to be a Neo-nazi tattoo, an "88" that in some circles means "Heil Hitler" -- 'h' is the eighth letter of the alphabet -- and with a criminal record. According to this newspaper account, Saler was indicted in 2004 on charges of unlawful sexual conduct when he was 18, "an alleged rape of a person under 13."

I couldn't find the disposition of that case on Saturday night, but Saling is registered in Ohio as a sex offender, for gross sexual imposition.

Afterward, I asked Coker why Saling was allowed on the card. Coker said he wasn't aware of Saling's past (or tattoo) until Saturday night, but expressed disappointment and said Saling's presence on the card will be subjected to "a full investigation on Monday."

Posted on: February 3, 2012 5:39 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2012 9:25 am

On sparring with a UFC fighter-turned-politician

Chris Lytle and Gregg Doyel sparring at Kingdom Martial Arts, February 3, 2012. (Ryan Wilson,

GREENFIELD, Ind. -- Chris Lytle doesn't hit like a politician. No shots below the belt, in other words. All to the face -- specifically, my face. We sparred six rounds on Friday, the former UFC fighter and me, and he punches like the professional boxer and cage fighter he used to be ... not like the state senator he's trying to become.

Fascinating guy, Chris Lytle. This is not a political column, so don't read this as an endorsement for Lytle's state senate campaign. Don't read it as the opposite, either. It's neither. But it's recognition of a guy who has always been willing to put his money, as they say, where his mouth is.

That's what he's doing now as he runs for state senator at a time in his life when, frankly, he didn't think he'd be doing such a thing. He's a full-time fireman, husband and father who always fought on the side, first as a pro boxer who built up a 13-1-1 record before switching to mixed martial arts, and then as an MMA guy who went 31-18-5 overall and fought 21 times in the UFC -- taking on the best welterweights in the world, guys like Matt Hughes and Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck and Matt Serra and Thiago Alves. And Robbie Lawler and Marcus Davis and Nick Diaz. He fought the best of the best and he gave as good as he took, going 11-10 in the UFC with six "fight of the night" awards.

But anyway, those days ended with Lytle's submission victory against Dan Hardy in August, and when his fight career ended he started to think about the bigger picture.

"I've been watching local politics, and I don't see people in it for the right reasons," Lytle told me before our sparring session. "They're not in there to help people in the region or state -- they're in it to help themselves and their friends. It's the good old boys' network, and I decided to stop complaining about it and get in there myself and help fix it."

The state legislature is a part-time job, so Lytle plans to maintain his job as a firefighter. But he says he's finished fighting professionally. More and more, fighters are "retiring" two or three times before finally, irrevocably, being finished. Lytle says that won't be him.

"I got into fighting because I liked the fight game, and wanted to actually do it and not just talk about it," Lytle said. "But you have to have 100 percent focus to do it right, and my focus is on other things."

And now, a little about our sparring session, which took place at Steve Guinn's Kingdom Martial Arts about 20 miles east of Indianapolis. It was my idea, not a tit-for-tat thing but just a chance to get in a workout while I'm town for the Super Bowl. I knew Lytle was from here, so I tweeted him a request to spar. He said yes.

Lytle's savvy campaign manager Beth Dockins turned it into an impromptu campaign stop, mentioning the sparring session on Lytle's campaign twitter and Facebook accounts. Although we were sparring at 2 p.m. on a work day, there were 20 or so people there to watch.

What did they see? The same thing millions of UFC fans have seen over the years: Chris Lytle kicking someone's ass. Problem is, this was my ass. Well, my face. Lytle gave me the option of MMA, but seeing how he has blackbelt-level submissions and I, um, do not ... we stayed with boxing. Unlike almost every other cage fighter I've sparred with, though, Lytle came up as a boxer -- which means he's always comfortable, fluid even, when limited to using "just" his hands as weapons.

And what weapons they are. He's a strong guy -- I didn't ask him, but I bet he benches 300 pounds or so -- and he throws short punches. He especially loves the uppercut, or at least he loved the uppercut against me. I felt like the loser in a game of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, my chin getting popped time and again. But he must have hit me in other spots, because when it was over I was bleeding from both lips, the nose and (slightly) from the forehead. My face, never pretty after a sparring session, was a pulpy mess. It was so ugly, Lytle was apologizing to me when the session ended.

No need for that, of course. Lytle beat me up even as he was taking it easy on me. Fighters -- good ones, anyway -- have a code of honor in sparring: The better fighter will go only as hard as the lesser fighter. I went hard after Lytle, and he allowed me to do so, but popped me just enough to make it clear that there was only one alpha dog in the ring, and it wasn't the sportswriter.

Fine by me. It was an honor to be in the ring at all with such a good fighter, and a good man, as (possibly) the future state senator from Indiana, Chris Lytle.


P.S. The video is of our first round, a warm-up round. It got much more painful intense as the rounds mounted.

Category: Mixed Martial Arts
Tags: Chris Lytle, UFC
Posted on: August 15, 2010 4:32 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2010 4:47 pm

So Dana White sees my story and calls me ...

Just so you know, I tried to get Dana White's comments for the story. For days I communicated with his P.R. people, gave them my email, my cell, even my questions for White. He never responded. Hey, he's busy. Fine. So I wrote my story, and it went up about an hour ago.

Ten minutes later, White called.

He called from a plane headed for Mexico City. As I said, he's busy. And how's this for irony? As he finally got back to me for a story about his profane ways, he identified himself, then asked me to hold on as he burst into profanity on his other cell phone.

"God d-----, what the f--- happened ..."

I love this guy, I tell you. Love him. The UFC's slogan used to be, "As Real As It Gets." Well, the same goes for White. He's as real as it gets. For sports fans weaned on polished technocrats like Roger Goodell and David Stern, Dana White is a punch to the solar plexus. Is he perfect? No. Polished? Not close. But he's as real as it gets.

So anyway, he calls me back -- but not because he's seen the story and is angry. He calls me because, well, he's just now getting around to calling me. He knows the internet is an organic entity, and I can add his quotes even after the story goes up. So I will, only I'll do it here and not there, because White's comments deserve their own story.

White didn't apologize for the stuff I was taking him to task for. In fact, he was profane for 10 minutes. As real as it gets, this guy. The vulgar tweet to the San Francisco Chronicle , the over-the-top video about the reporter? No f---ing apology.

So here's what he said when I asked him about the Chronicle tweet:

"I deal with a lot of s---," he tells me. "A lot of bulls--- behind the scenes. I'll admit every once in a while I do snap, and it's 100 percent justified. Is the way I say it the right way? Look, it's no different than how you'd talk to someone you know. Whatever you want to call me, a public figure or whatever, I'm a person just like everyone else.

"The thing I love about the social media is, the [mainstream] media used to bully people. The San Francisco Chronicle still acts like that. We go to San Francisco, and at the end of the day the San Francisco Chronicle hates us and doesn't want to cover us? Big f---ing deal. If I was going to tell everyone who doesn't cover us, 'f--- you,' I'd be sending a lot of tweets out.

"But we have these girls who work their ass off in the PR department, and [the Chronicle ] won't return their calls. The senior sports editor won't, so the deputy sports editor finally calls her back -- and couldn't be a bigger d--khead. Completely rude to her. Say what you want about how tough she's supposed to be, but he made her cry. So then I said, 'You know what? F--- you.'

"When I sent that tweet out, 15 minutes later the sports editor finally calls us back, and of course he started the conversation with how childish I am. But he was being childish too. Just because you didn't say 'f--- you' in front of 1.1 million people [on Twitter] doesn't mean you're not childish, too."

White stopped for a breath, so I asked a question: Do you regret the way you say things? Because it could hurt your sport?

"Not at all," he said. "I get portrayed the way I get portrayed. Some people think I'm the greatest thing on Earth. Some people think I'm a monster. Look, I have 350 ultimate fighters under contract. It's not like I'm the CEO of Microsoft or Toys 'R' Us.

"This is what I love about social media. I have a voice. I wanted to call them out for what they did, and social media gave me that opportunity."

Category: Mixed Martial Arts
Tags: Dana White, UFC
Posted on: July 23, 2009 3:56 pm

Well done, MMA-hole Josh Barnett

MMA is close. Can you feel it? I can. I've felt it since the moment I saw my first UFC event a few years ago, UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio. This sport is close to crossing over, to becoming huge in a way not even UFC president Dana White in all his braggadocio glory thought possible.

And what I wrote that night a few years ago was this: MMA needs to avoid steroid scandals to hit it big.

And along comes Josh Barnett.

Barnett isn't the biggest name in the sport, but he's fighting the biggest name in the sport. Or he was, this weekend, until he failed a drug test and was removed from the Affliction MMA card opposite superstar Fedor Emelianenko.

So now, tons of potential MMA fans who are checking out this sport for the first time this week, because of another Fedor fight in this country, are hearing about the steroided monster who was kicked off a fight card.

Well done, Josh Barnett.

You just set back your favorite sport -- and mine -- a year or more.
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