Friends, Fights and Irish Tacos

So for years I’ve talked on-and-off about going to Chicago. For one reason or another it’s been canceled though. Generally money or stupidity issues but that’s neither here nor there. This past weekend, July 29-31, I was finally able to head up to Chi-Town. The plane trip was fairly uneventful. Heck, TSA was fairly easy to deal with. So I arrive around 7:30 and really, no difference. The whole heat wave deal is going on but I am from AZ, it’s nothing. As it turns out, not so much. The humidity wasn’t overwhelming or anything but I could totally feel it. Like 10 minutes after arrival I was already sweating. Given fat boys sweat after a couple of steps but still, it was insane.

Now for the years of planning I’ve always been told “Don’t go to Midway, it’s too far.” I’ve always just been like “Bollocks to you, I’m going on Southwest. It’s the grey hound of the sky.” Well, I get it now. It took about an hour to get to Angie’s house as opposed to O’Hare being a 10 minute drive. I would just like to take the time to officially say Angie, I totally get it now.

So the first destination was getting something to eat. Nothing big but just grab some dinner and drink a bit. After a bit of deliberation we went to “The Emerald Isle”, obviously an Irish joint. The bar had a very classic look to it. Nothing too fancy but perfectly acceptable. The food was your typical bar food. Wings, burgers, stuff like that. But on the back side of the menu, I spied their selection of Mexican food. Now maybe it’s because I don’t know my history but I am pretty sure the potato famine wasn’t due to the rise of taquito popularity.

After some not quite perfect service Angie and I started chatting and drinking. Well, I was drinking she didn’t due to having to drive later. Anywho, it was just a good time. Talking, laughing, and generally catching up. Even got to bust out my Boston accent that pops up when I drink. It was a fun time for all.

The next day we went to Portillo’s for lunch. They served typical “Chicago” food. Burgers, hot dogs, and pizza being the big deal. What captured my imagination was how you got your food. It was nothing like outlandish but they’d call your number and make a rhyme. Now I appreciate some wordplay but I heard “Number (fill in the blank) 8 don’t be late.” For whatever reason this irritated me. I figured out other rhymes. “Number 8, this food is great.” Or “number 8, may your hunger be sate(ed).” I’m sure I looked dense because I’d go for a minute or two just thinking about it. I then started to think about things the angry employee would say. The employee that got tired of their lot in life. I pictured a pissed teen going “Number 8, unfunny pun” or “Number 4, get over here you whore”. I did this game for a few more minutes. All while eating the greasiest burger I’ve ever had.

Then came the “main event” of the trip, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson. First and foremost the parking sucks. Maybe I don’t go to enough events but its so mind numbingly scatter shot. Drive in a giant circle to get to the lot? That’s just plain dumb. So we finally park and head to the pre-show parking lot festivities. Sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar. Of course festivities are a bit of an overstatement. It was basically a group random goofs in Tapout shirts in the sun paying for overpriced Miller Light and really awful music from a local radio station. There were also free samples of a variety of Rockstar energy drinks. Provided by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar. After realizing it was way too hot Angie and I stood in the shade, talking and whatnot.

I must admit, I was less than impressed by the Sears Centre Arena. Again maybe it’s my lack of knowledge on events but the place just wasn’t too great. Just kind of bland with a weird set up. That said I discovered the greatest drink ever. Well scratch that but it’s good. Lemonade and flavored vodka. You have no idea how insanely tasty it is. Given the drink was insanely watered down and expensive but at least I discovered the miracle elixir. After having the absolutely worst dinner (health wise) ever it was time for the fights! Sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar. The prelims started in grand fashion with two fat guys! Now given I’m sure they have names and their family is proud of them. With that said I watched Titties vs. Bigger Titties. You have no idea how insanely fun it is to watch two fat guys slug it out. Angie liked Bigger Titties trying a superkick in particular. The rest of the prelims were okay, barring an awful women’s bout. The best part, MILEY CYRUS USED AS A THEME! I always swore that if I ever became a fighter I would use the poppiest of pop music. If Tito Ortiz comes out to Justin Bieber my life will be complete.

After an extra long break we started the televised fights. Sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar. First up was Scott Smith vs. Tarec Saffiedine. Now I’m not going to go on a big rant about Scott Smith, it’s not my place. But the guy looked absolutely awful out there. Slow punches, slow movement, slow everything. On top of that he took a hellacious beating out there. If this is all due to his crazy fights then the guy has to get out of the game. I’m sure he loves it but it was brutal. Because really, not looking for a Sakuraba situation. Next was Tyron Woodley vs. Paul Daley. Now normally I think Daley is the biggest douche. Like Batman levels of douche bag. That said, SWEET MOSES DID WOODLEY ANNOY ME! As he came out he got this crazy ovation. Which normally would be fine but random lady RAN DOWN to a spot right behind Angie and I and just screamed her lungs out. Now if this were Fedor, fine. But this is Tyron Woodley. A terribly generic up-and-comer with negative charisma and no finishing skills against decent level guys. I’m sure I could complain more but honestly, can’t remember. It was nothing but takedowns and humping from the dude. Also his nickname was T-Wood. Seriously bro, get a big boy ring name not the rapper name you wrote in your trapper keeper. Now what this show needed was some fire. Some action to get the crowd pumped. We got none of the above with our next bout, Robbie Lawler vs. Tim Kennedy. Kennedy pulled a Tyron but without any of the excitement. The only thing of note was Kennedy pulling the cheapest pop ever going “I love the troops” shtick after she won. Don’t get me wrong, I respect and appreciate the troops and I am sure Kennedy does too. But this felt so insanely forced.

Next up was the co-main event, Marloes Coenen vs. Miesha Tate for the women’s title. Sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar. Here’s the thing, Angie doesn’t like fighting. Never really watched, never had an interest. Which hey, fair enough; MMA isn’t for everyone. Totally cool with that. I needed someone to go with me though. Walking around somewhere I don’t know by myself would be freaky so I convinced Angie to go with me. What really intrigued her was the prospect of women fighting. Now the women’s fight on the prelims left a lot to be desired. So Coenen vs. Tate had to deliver. Now it may surprise you at this point but it didn’t. It was a lot of clinching, my most hated part of MMA. It wasn’t just Angie bored either. Around the middle of the 3rd the crowd started booing. Then out of nowhere in the 4th Tate locked Coenen in an arm triangle and the crowd exploded. I don’t know why but the total lack of loyalty and commitment of MMA fans has always bugged me.

Now it was time for the main event; Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson. Sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar. The lights dimmed and loud rock rang through the arena. As Dan Henderson walked to the ring the crowd went wild, or so I thought. Slow, dreary music began and the place absolutely exploded. Russians flags waved across the arena as Fedor entered the cage. There was electricity in the air I have never felt before. The sold out arena stood to their feet as these two warriors went toe to toe. And finally, after a night of disappointment, this fight delivered in spades. It was an insanely back and forth bout between two old dudes. As round 1 ended Henderson got a surprise victory getting the top position on Fedor and won via TKO. The arena absolutely erupted and then the real show started. After the initial reaction the Russians came out en masse. You could hardly hear Henderson talk as the Russians went absolutely ballistic after their hero lost. One guy in particular tried to start his own chant of “BULLSHEET! BULLSHEET! BULLSHEET!” Sadly it didn’t catch on. Nevertheless he wasn’t the only one upset. The section around me was just enraged. The only voice of dissent came to my right. I heard a lone voice go “USA!” I peer to my right and it’s the one other Asian in the building. We exchange glances and like a silent contract we nodded. It was like we were saying “Yeah if things go down, I got your back.” Now I know I complained quite a bit about the show and really it was all valid. With that said, the main event and the atmosphere surrounding it totally makes up for everything. So really, the fight show was all but a success. A success sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar.

After the show Angie did me a favor by driving me out to Schaumberg; or as she lovingly calls it Scumberg. She took me out there to meet the one, the only Mike Coughlin. Now I’m sure you’re wondering, who is Mike Coughlin? The answer- Shame on you for not knowing. He is not only one of the top MMA journalists but also a jiu jitsu expert, an expert lawyer and a former fighter. So yeah, he’s the most amazing man I could possibly know. Unfortunately we got there about 15 minutes early. In that time I learned why Angie gave it such a loving name. We saw what I was 50% sure was a drug deal, a crazy angry hillbilly coming out of a trailer. Well that is between Angie convincing me I should have the fear of God as I turned every corner. After 15 minutes of fear we entered the Tilted Kilt and I finally met the man. I am happy to report that the guy is as amazing as his resume. For about an hour all we did was talk shop. We discussed MMA, other journalists and even being a lawyer. Time flew by as upcoming bouts were talked about and laughs were had. It was just an awesome chat. Not only that but I discovered the one other guy that realizes the genius of Repo Men starring Jude Law. There really isn’t too much to say besides Thank You Mike Coughlin for your time. It was truly great to meet the man.

The rest of the trip wasn’t that eventful. I said my goodbyes and got a ride to midway from Angie’s parents; who I am eternally gracious to. I was there about 3 hours early so I killed about half an hour before heading to security. I went through the metal detectors without issue. No buzzing or anything. Despite this the TSA agent felt the need to pat me down. Was he sexually repressed? Was he hoping for a tip? I thought about asking or cracking wise but I decided not to. Dude didn’t look bright and I’m sure he’d detain me for thinking me quipping “Are you trying to get me off” to mean some kind of bomb so I decided against it.

So now I had a couple hours to kill. After the worst cheese steak I’ve ever had I headed to the bar. I really don’t like flying so I figured a few cocktails would help the process. I’m glad to report it did. Nothing big happened I was boarded and fell asleep on the plane. About an hour, as far as I can tell, later I woke up and continued to read Irish Thunder. After a couple of hours a look out the window and its pure dark, nothing but black. Then it hit me, what if I’m lost in time Langoliers style? I mean I fell asleep and it looked like time stopped outside. Was I stuck in the time stream? Would I ever see my family again? Was the guy next to me the Bronson Pinchot of the group? My mind raced.

Then a baby started crying and somehow that convinced me that I wasn’t stuck in my own personal hell. And here is where my tale of ups and downs ends. It was a fun trip though. I got to see friends, make some new ones, and watch two old dudes fight each other for prize money. And really what more could I possibly want from a vacation? A vacation sponsored by Rockstar Energy: Party Like A Rockstar.

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