My recent Vegas trip allowed me the opportunity to see and partake in, what I will respectfully refer to as, a chance of a lifetime. I recently graduated from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and as a present from my wife, we went to Las Vegas and I made it a must to visit what many feel is the new Mecca of MMA. Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts Gym. Wednesday was the day I was going to get a day pass and take a few classes. At first I wanted this trip to be educational and business related. My original plans were to take a class, then walk around with my tape recorder and interview as many fighters as possible, but that changes the minute I arrived in Las Vegas.
As we got off the plane and were making our way towards baggage claim, my best friend Jacob called my attention to someone arrive at the airport. It was Amani Toomer. The former pro bowl wide out for the New York Giants, just walking with his carry on looking at the slot machine as he walked by. As I saw him, like any football fan, I instinctually said his name aloud. He look at me, gave a little nod of his head, and kept going as if to say I’m in Vegas just like you. At that moment I wondered if the fighter at Xtreme Couture would likely have the same attitude. Like dude it’s no big deal I’m just a normal dude that fights for a living. I made my mind up then that I wasn’t going to be a writer at Bleacher Report, I wasn’t going to be an annoying fan that wants pictures and an autograph, I was going to be a person looking to take a Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu class like every other person.
After paying 20 bucks to the cab driver I walked in to the gym and was greeted to Jay Heiron in a bath robe talking to the very nice looking receptionist named Stephanie. At that moment I felt that this wasn’t going to be a normal day at the gym for me. Heiron saw me walking in and said hello and wave at me not with his hand, but his back scrubber, which I found oddly hilarious. As I walked into the gym to sit at the bleachers to wait for my class I saw Tyson Griffin and Gray Maynard laughing with Ryan Couture (Randy’s Son) and a Strength Coach Jake Bonacci. They were lifting some heavy weights like nothing, doing set after set. I was sore looking at them.
At the same time the advanced Boxing class was going on, on the mats to the right and Chris Horodecki was killing a heavy bag. It was like a normal day and I have to be honest I felt like a normal member just hanging out.
While we wait for the next class to start I walked around the gym to see what was on the walls. The shirt and gloves of Kim Couture’s first fight were framed and mounted on the wall and I got to say that she is one tough women. You have all more than likely seen the pictures of her fight, but it doesn’t show the really horror and blood like seeing the shirt up close. There isn’t an inch of the shirt that isn’t red with her blood. The black gloves had dry blood on them and the tape was pink in color, it was gross.
The Muay Thai class was at 10 am with Joey Varner instructing the class. He has only been there a couple of years and has a sparring class twice a week. He gave great instructions and welcomed me into the class like I’d been there for years. I got partnered up with a personal friend of his named Dustin who was a cool guy, and who was convinced into going to the gym by Joey. In one class I learned stuff that was easy to do yet more advanced than I had ever seen. Dustin had been the next to move up to the sparring class so he got me once or twice with a good shin to the thigh, but I was more than ok with it. He actually kept asking me to punch with more power in order to get used to the sparring class. After class we got in the middle and Joey put fighting into a different perspective. I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically said that fighting can be the most destructive and sloppy thing any of us could do at any giving time, but when done with technique it can be beautiful and poetic, and at this gym that was what they expected.
Jiu-jitsu class was taught by a newer coach who I never got the name of. He was so new Dustin couldn’t remember his name, but man was he good. We learned two different wrist locks and an arm bar that was way different then I had ever seen. It’s hard to explain but it was done from the second position or side control and instead of putting your legs over the opponents face with your back on the ground, you simply throw your left leg over and hold the arm by the triceps locking there arm and leaning back. That probably doesn’t make sense but it works. So well in fact that I had to ice my elbow once I got to the hotel.
To end the day off I sat and watched Kim Couture do a Muay Thai session with her coach, while she yelled at her sister for making her eat Mexican food before the workout. Apparently, the food gave her heart burn.
By the way Kim Couture is a lot better looking in person.
All in all it was a great day, and I am somewhat sorry for not taking advantage of the situation like any MMA fan would. However, if I had gone in with the attitude of a writer there for business, I would have had a completely different experience and may not have been able to enjoy it as much as I did.