Saturday, July 23, 2011

SCARTISSUE MMA: FIGHT CULTURE TENNESSEE-STYLE



Razor-bald. Buzz cuts. Chinstraps. Anchors. Goatees. Bretts. Soul patches. Vintage-worn baseball caps cocked at odd angles. Long, sagging shorts ranging from cotton to denim. Tattood T-shirts sporting intricately gothic-styled fonts. Sockless. Sandals of a hundred brands. Sinister-looking piercings. Cauliflower-ears. Broken noses. Finger-splints. Arm and knee braces. Missing and broken teeth. Average height 5'10". Average weight 175. These weren't the fighters. This was the crowd. 


Pulling up to the UAW (United Auto Workers) complex in Spring Hill, Tennessee last Saturday night for the Rhino Fighting Championships, I wasn't sure what to expect. I parked my Volvo equidistant from the stadium's front door and the closest exit from the parking lot (my nearest escape route should, I don't know, things "get out of hand"). Greeted by ScarTissue's beefy inspiration, sporting the latest Military Tribute T framing his 205 muscly stature, he escorted me past the ambulances and police, to the entrance and beyond.  


Entering the makeshift MMA stadium reminded me of the energetic frenzy of a college basketball halftime show. With the lights off. The main lighting streamed from the lobby and ancillary rooms in which food vendors prepared generous slices of pizza, filled large, plastic cups to the brim with beer, and where fighters made their preparations. Turning to my left, I saw the white face of Kutman, beaming from his gigantic, black banner where ScarTissue MMA was debuting their new product line.






ScarTissue MMA & friends carried as much energy in their little vending corner as the entire crowd together. Greeting each other with hugs, entertaining each other with stories, and punctuating stories with laughter, a steady stream ventured by its booth the entire evening not just to purchase T-shirts and beanie caps, but to make friends and get in on a little bit of the conversational action. 

Below is free-runner Zac Self (far right). Standing next to him is Columbia, Tennessee's 145-pounder John Deason, aka THE WITNESS (As a child Deason witnessed his mother get shot through the chest with a shotgun. 20 years of age, this kid has no fear and exuberated such a cheerful attitude, I was afraid he was going to start witnessing on me). Next to him stands Sandy, Samsung Marketing Executive. And next to her stands Derek Myers, one of the founders of ScarTissue.



Here I am below, standing next to Eric Van Gorden, another founder of ScarTissue and designer of its t-shirts (notice that everyone is wearing a ScarTissue t-shirt).




Below is POSSUM, titled MMA champion. I love his name. I'm sure it has something to do with feigning lifeless only to resurrect and kick butt. Or something similar. I left before he fought, but he won.



Interacting with the testosterone-ridden crowd, I learned that most of the audience were males, wiry, sinewy, between the ages of 18 and 40, and no strangers to scrapping. Whites, Hispanics. Blacks. Asians. Blue collar workers.


And the nicest guys in the world. One hour before the first match, the crowd was thick and milling around. More than once some dude twice my size would accidentally bump me, apologize, and defer to me with a slight bow and head-nod so that I could squeeze in line or get through a crowd first.


The fights were intense, but the fighters honorable and humble. I was surprised that the overwhelming choice of "runway music" for Tennessee MMA is mostly Hip Hop. Each fighter chose his song cleverly and carefully from "I Like the Way You Move" to "Smack That" to "Bottoms Up."


Being an honorary honorary guest of ScarTissue, I was ringside and handing out ScarTissue T-shirts post-fight to winners and losers alike. 34 fighters signed up, but only 22 showed up. While only 11 of the 22 fighters could be winners, 22 showed up. And showing up is what ScarTissue is all about.




www.scartissuemma.com

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