“What have I gotten myself into?” I asked myself as I looked at 4 lanes of oncoming traffic.. We were going the wrong way, on the freeway. Yes, I said that correctly, the WRONG way on the freeway.. In a desperate attempt to get out of the major jam that we had happened upon, in our effort to get where we were going, Shad Lierly, (formerly of the IFL Tigersharks, winner of IFL’s fight of the year last year against the Polish Hammer, Chris Horodecki) had followed the huge group of cars that were trying to exit the freeway in an orderly fashion. By turning around and going AGAINST the grain, in a manuever that had we done it singly, we would have SURELY been taken to jail. We watched in our rearview as the tangle seemed to be clearing up, so Shad hit the ebrake Dukes of Hazzard style (ok, so i’m exaggerating a bit!), and we became a congruous part of the artery into downtown Seattle.

Ken Pavia sat in the backseat and was seemingly oblivious to it all. He was on the phone doing business as he always was; one of the only people I find on the phone WAY more than myself. His ability to schmooze his way through situations was put to the test only an hour prior after Shad had picked up a nail in his tire in the hotel parking lot. Within minutes we were at Les Schwab with the tire being fixed, although the location was packed to the gills with because of it’s new promotion, “Buy tires, get free beef!” What? Yes, with the purchase of new tires, you got your choice of ground beef, steak or beef jerky. A selling point it seemed that had the crowd in that saturday morning in masses.

Where were we going you may ask? At 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon, I was almost asking myself if it was worth the trouble. I was in Tacoma for the Strikeforce at the Dome event. I had arrived in Seattle on Friday morning, and spent the day with Shad (he graciously lent himself as my taxi for the weekend) as I shot Joe Riggs cutting weight and went to Weigh Ins later on that evening. The card consisted of a Super heavyweight fight involving a former football player, Pride and k1 veteran who had never fought in the US and a 6’11 kickboxer whose professional record was 1-5. The co-main event involved two former championship kickboxers, one who had never fought MMA, and former UFC Heavyweight Champion- both who had long since retired I believe. A number of the other bouts on the card seemed pretty promising so I was definitely looking forward to what Saturday night’s fight might bring.

[2-22] Strikeforce at the Dome Weigh Ins

[2-22] Joe Riggs Cutting Weight

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When I go to other cities I often showcase a local gym and/or fighters. Shad trains part time with UFC fighter, Ivan Salaverry at his gym in downtown Seattle so we decided to meet up there at 12pm Saturday afternoon. Somehow I think that was ambitious on our part. Shad, Brad Blackburn (also formerly of the IFL Tigersharks, supposed to fight on the Strikeforce card but forced to pull out due to injury) and I had gone out clubbing in Seattle after the weigh ins and dinner with Ken, Ivan, and a crew of his fighters in Tacoma. It was a 45 minute drive each way and Shad had already done it at least 6 times in less than 24 hours.

I found myself staring directly up at the familiar site of the Stratosphere. OOps, I meant Space Needle as they call it up here in the Pacific Northwest. Ivan’s gym is located so close that he probably could sell postcards and touristy paraphenalia out of his gym should he so desire. I glanced at my phone to see that it was nearly 2pm already. We had to be in Tacoma for the fights by 6; they were scheduled to start at 7pm on the dot.

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We walked into the facility and found Ivan in the ring training with his boxing coach Carlos. His upcoming fight against Rousimar Palhares in UFC 84 is nearly 3 months away, but apparently, he never stops training. I was greeted by his French/English bull dog, George, and fell so in love with him that I almost lost sight of why I was there! lol

I shot photos as Ivan went round after round practicing his stand up. In between rounds, he rested by doing pushups on a 6 inch tall block of wood. In that time, I walked around and shot photos of the 3000 square foot space. This small gym boasted 7 bags, a large mat, a boxing ring, and a speed bag. There were lockers in the bathrooms and it was clean and well taken care of.

Next up was Shad. As a wrestler who also trains jujitsu, stand up is a neccessary part of his training. To get on the Tigersharks team, he beat out 9 other guys. At the time had never fought MMA.

He ended up training for a total of 6 five minute rounds. It was some point in the middle of Shad’s workout that Krista showed up. A good friend of mine and big fight fan, she had driven down from Vancouver for the day. It was about 3pm, and we were waiting for the guys to sweep and mop the mats and shower and change. Ivan had a huge day planned for us in the next couple hours before the fight.

Destination? Pike Place market. A total tourist attraction on the water in Seattle; you may have seen it in photos or a number of different movies. I don’t care how many times I travel to Seattle, I still love to go there and peruse the arts and crafts for sale, as well as eat. Ivan dragged Ken into the first Starbucks ever, and as Ken lit up at the thought of coffee, Ivan said, “Here it is! Ok, let’s go, there’s another 3 Starbucks on every single corner!” The place was wall to wall, and I was thanking god that Ivan echoed my sentiments… We hung out there about half an hour, grabbed some food, then headed across the water to meet Ivan family.

Ivan had barely thrown his truck into park as we all followed, running full speed up the street to his house. The tour of the house was also a rushed on that consisted of running up and down the stairs. His wife brought little Ivan in (at 18 months is one of the largest toddlers I have ever seen!), and her 3 week old baby was lying down in the living room with the beautiful skyline of seattle in the background. I got them (including George) together for a family picture and then found myself being ushered back to the car.

Even with traffic, we were back in Tacoma in less than 30 minutes. I got to my position cageside in just enough time to start shooting the first fight. In the midst of it, the lights above the cage went dark. Completely. the fighters confused on what to do, waited as the ref stopped the fight. The backup lights came up and the fight commenced; only a few more seconds until Nathan Coy was raising his hand triumphant as he knocked out Dave Courchaine.

“Wow, I love my job” I thought, as I really buckled down and got into my work. I found myself switching back and forth between my cameras quite frequently. In between each fight I tried to get my photos loaded to my laptop, shoot the next fighter’s entrance, and not jump out of my skin as the fireworks went off.

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[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Nathan Coy vs Dave Courchaine

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Zach Skinner vs Scott Schafer

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Matt Kovac vs Mike Hayes

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Lyle Beerbohm vs Ray Perales

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Josh Bennett vs Mychal Clark

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Eddie Ellis vs Steve Berger

One knockout, three decisions, a referee stoppage due to cut, and a submission went by and finally, we hit the Ryan Healy vs Jorge Masvidal fight. It was the one I had picked as fight of the night. It was the only one on the card that didn’t feature a local Seattle fighter. Healy came out strong in the first round and I feel that he had a chance to take it. Not strong enough though; when all was said and done, he lost a majority decision to Masvidal although had put up a very good fight.

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Ryan Healy vs Jorge Masvidal

I expected the Cory Devela vs Joe Riggs fight to go the distance and less than two minutes later was disappointed as a throw had Joe Riggs being taken out of the cage on a stretcher. A previous back injury began acting up when he grabbed Devela’s leg from the first kick in the fight. Wincing in pain, he was tapping before he even hit the mat.

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Joe Riggs vs Cory Devela

When you put a former UFC Champion against a championship kickboxer making his MMA debut, what do you think is going to happen? He’s going to take him down and submit him. And thats exactly what Mo Smith did to Rick Roufus. At 1:53 into the first round, Mo had him on the canvas, tapping with a simple key lock.

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Mo Smith vs Rick Roufus

And it was time for the final fight of the night. Bob Sapp vs Jan Nortje. The last time that evening I would jump in surprise as the fireworks went boom, the last time I would grasp my camera in anticipation and quickly focus it on the action. And as the action unfolded, I documented two extremely large men facing off in the cage. One who took this fight seriously and one that rumor had didn’t train one bit for it. Sapp was the recipient of a punch to his left eye that split open at the eyebrow and started bleeding. Sometime in the time when that hit connected, and the stars somewhat cleared, he came to the realization that, “oh yes, this was real”, and started running from Nortje’s attack. Not sure if Nortje took Sapp down, or Sapp fell to the ground hoping that the ref would step in, the fight was over at :55 in the first round.

[2-23] Strikeforce @ The Dome: Bob Sapp vs Jan Nortje

And that was it. Finito. Done. The last 3 fights were a combined total of just over four minutes long. I stayed to shoot the amatuer fights, and then instead of chasing a nonexistant afterparty, headed back to the hotel where one was rumored to be going on. I finished off my evening with a meal in the cafe along with Ken and Krista. I came back down a couple hours later to top it off with dessert with Scott koker and his friend, George.

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It was an anticlimactic end, to an anticlimactic evening. The fights were lackluster although I had thought some of them were going to be extremely exc
iting. I started thinking forward to Strikeforce’s Copromotion with Elite XC on March 29th where the card is sure to make up for this one’s. With names like Cung Le, Frank Shamrock, Jake Shields, Drew Fickett, Gil Melendez and more, many will find it in their hearts to continue to support Strikeforce!

It was a gorgeous day with blue skies as I made a second trip to Pike Place with Shad and Jamie the next day. I always hear how rainy Seattle is, but with my 6th trip there with similar weather everytime, I find that rumor hard to believe. As I enjoyed the beautiful weather, I did the math and figured out that Sapp got paid over $1000 a second for that fight the night before. Was it worth his self worth and future career in MMA? I guess only he knows the answer to that question.

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