Fight Factory debuted last night on Nuvo TV and for those who don't get the channel, you guys are really missing out. The show debuted with two new episodes that were each an hour long and took fans inside the world of one of the most prominent gyms in the world, American Kickboxing Academy.
The show does a masterful job of bringing fans not only into the gym to watch the fighters train, but also into their personal lives, diving into every nuance that goes into running a successful gym like AKA and representing that name while stepping into the cage.
The cast for Fight Factory features a number of high profile names in the world of MMA along with some newcomers that aren't household names yet. Staples of the AKA program like Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Daniel Cormier, Javier Mendez and Bob Cook all give their own views on what life is like inside the AKA "family."
Fight Factory's pilot episodes begin with Velasquez preparing for his title showdown with Junior dos Santos from last year. Mendez, the head coach of AKA, is seen working tirelessly over getting the then-heavyweight champion ready to perform.
It's nothing new as far as MMA fans are concerned, as we see the heavyweight monster in training while showcasing the skills that made him a world champion. The show attempts to make Velasquez into a source of inspiration for the Latino community.
While I didn't personally care for the show attempting to mold Velasquez into the second coming of Zorro, I can appreciate the idea of Velasquez becoming a role model to a community that doesn't always have one.
The most interesting part of the episode centers around two guys who are at completely different parts in their careers.
The first needs no introduction as Phil Baroni was once one of the top middleweights in the world. Possessing powerful hands with the physique of a Greek statue, Baroni completely embodied his nickname "The New York Bad Ass."
But at this point in his career, Baroni finds himself in a situation like so many of MMA's "old dogs." He has a family and needs money, with fighting being his main source of income. The only problem with that is most of the MMA world thinks Baroni needs to hang up the gloves and call it a career.
During Baroni's time on the show, you can see the desperation in his eyes as he attempts to find a place among the AKA members. Baroni not only wants to fight and make money, but he also wants to be a part of the AKA family once more. It's a truly emotional story watching a guy who was one of the most confident fighters in the game walking into Mendez's office pleading for the chance to fight and to join the family once more.
The story of Mark Ellis is an entirely different emotional story during the premiere of Fight Factory. Ellis was an All-American national champion wrestler at the University of Missouri who is trying to break into the sport of MMA. Like many wrestlers before him, adjusting to getting hit in the face while grappling has become a mental struggle.
Ellis, used to being "the guy," literally walks out of practice after sparring a round with Velasquez and realizes how far behind he is in the MMA game. However, the mental lapses don't end there.
The AKA fighter is entering his second fight and the team is confident that Ellis will relax a bit more than he did in his first fight. It's obvious that Ellis has the skills to be an MMA champion, but struggles with confidence in his own abilities in the lead up to his fight against Ryan Martinez.
Ellis ends up losing the bout to Martinez and it sets off a wide arrange of emotions within the AKA fighter. He goes from anger, to quitting MMA, to tears all within the matter of a few hours. The man was so upset by his performance he didn't even want to collect his check before leaving the arena.
For all the crap Mendez received from Koscheck about not backing his fighters, it was a bit revealing to see the coach confront Ellis about the loss and attempt to motivate his promising prospect to continue to work hard.
Speaking of the Koscheck-Mendez drama, the show attempts to introduce their rivalry in the two-hour premiere. Koscheck talks mostly about his disdain of Mendez while struggling to find training partners and coaches for his new gym, Dethrone Base Camp.
We don't really hear from Mendez on the situation, but I'm sure that's to come during future episodes. Instead, the rest of the AKA family is shown how they are dealing with the situation. It's an uneasy feeling that will seem to add tension as the season wears on with guys from both camps figuring out how to work around the Koscheck-Mendez rivalry.
With all the storylines from the top guys like Velasquez, to newcomers like Ellis and Gabriel Carrasco, the show was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. It's much more than a reality show about a gym; it's a show that could transform the views of many people about MMA as a sport and the fighters involved.
It may not be on a major cable network, but Fight Factory is a can't-miss kind of show that belongs in prime time.
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