In ancient times, a Gladiator who had survived long enough and earned enough victories was eventually granted his freedom from the Emperor. It was an acknowledgement of respect, of triumph in the face of overwhelming odds, and of the singularity of purpose it would take to persevere in such a profession. It was a rare man indeed who could rise to this nearly impossible challenge.
Come this Saturday, Edmonton’s own Travis “The Gladiator” Galbraith will step into the cage for the 25th time in his career. He will be just a few months shy of a decade spent in professional Mixed Martial Arts competition, in a career that has seen him run the gamut of promotions from King of the Cage to Elite XC to PRIDE, and everything in between. His resume is a who’s who of Canadian MMA, and is bolstered by victories over the likes of Greg Marshal, Chris Wilson, and UFC veteran Davis Heath.
This Saturday, as part of Shine Fight’s “Mayorga vs. Thomas” card, The Gladiator’s quest takes him to Feyetteville, North Carolina, for the biggest fight of his career. His opponent: BJJ Black Belt and Chute Boxe standout Murilo “Ninja” Rua, whose younger brother Maurico just became the new UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion of the world.
So, was Travis watching UFC 113?
“Yeah, but that doesn’t make me any more scared for this fight. You know what? A fight’s a fight. I’m just as dangerous as he is, man. It’s not like he’s coming in there with any special ninja tricks or anything (laughs).”
For Galbraith, this fight isn’t about apprehension, it’s about excitement. For the Edmonton native, it’s a chance to live out a dream.
“I’m looking forward to this fight. Ninja is one of my heroes, man. So is his brother. They’re guys I’ve loved watching since I first saw them.”
For Galbraith, nothing is more important then the moment the cage door closes against Ninja. He has trained and prepared for and waited for that moment for months. But for “The Gladiator”, the fight outside the cage is proving to be as a big a challenge as the one set to take place inside it.
That’s because several days ago, Don King Productions issued a cease and desist order to Shine Fights, based on a loose interpretation of Ricardo Mayorga’s Boxing contract (which Mayorga sued King to get out of years ago). The issue remains to be settled in court, but it has cast a shadow of doubt over the entire event.
And that may be the least of Galbraith’s problems. When I called him to ask his thoughts on the unfolding King/Shine legal drama, he confessed that he had no idea what I was talking about, and hadn’t heard the news.
“No man, that’s the first I’ve heard of it.” A legitimately stunned Galbraith told me after I explained the recent situation, “That’s too bad. I hope it still goes down. I was really looking forward to this fight.”
Aside from proving that he doesn’t get on the internet much, it may also have pointed to a bigger problem with the management of Shine Fights. According to Galbraith, Shine Fights has yet to contact him with info regarding plane tickets, accommodations, or weigh-in information. For a fighter in fight week for the biggest battle of his career, it’s a layer of frustration “The Gladiator” could do without.
“Things haven’t been the way they should be. Fighters should know, way in advance, simple things like when you’re flying out. And I haven’t heard anything.”
Still, Galbraith isn’t ready to cast judgement on the promotion just yet.
“It’s my first fight with them, and the fight hasn’t gone down yet. So I’ll reserve final judgement until after it’s over.”
Such is the chaos that MMA outside the UFC can sometimes be - which is exactly why Travis wants to make 2010 the year he finally makes it to Mixed Martial Art’s biggest stage. Coming off a stunning headkick loss to Tom Watson at MFC 24, Galbraith knows the fight with Rua may very well represent his last shot at that dream. For “The Gladiator”, it truly is do or die.
“[My career] has been a weird road, when I think about it. But to say I’ve hit a wall, that’s just crazy, you know. I definitely feel like winning this fight will carry me to the next level.”
And it’s that next level, that ranking in the MW elite, that has eluded Galbraith his whole career. Every time he builds some momentum, he runs into a juggernaut. Joe Doerksen. Rafael Feijao. Even Georges St. Pierre. His list of opponents is truly world class. But to live his dream, Galbraith will have to prove he can hang with the sport’s elite. It is the challenge of his career.
“You can’t sit and dwell on the past. A fighter is really tested, truly tested, when he’s up against a loss. Does he go or, or does he call it quits? Does he persevere, or does he let it bring him down and destroy him?
I guess we’ll find out.”
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