Local boy’s moment outshines the brutality of MMA
THEY carried him on their shoulders at the end, and he pumped his arms again and again. To bathe in it, to soak in it. This was his moment. If he does nothing else ever again in this brutal sport, he has this.
As they carried him, the music pounded and pulsed and shook the place. Or maybe that was just his heart.
The crowd would find out seconds later it was a split decision in the other guy's favor, but it didn't matter. Nick Diaz would have the win, but he wasn't the winner. No, the night -- the fight -- belonged to the local guy who did everything but yell out "Yo, Adrian!" at the end.
Mike Aina, out of Hilo.
"He's so tough, you know," Nick Diaz would say after yesterday's fight, on the card of the mixed-martial-arts Elite XC: Uprising at Blaisdell Arena.
We know. Now everybody knows.
Aina was the designated opponent. He'd entered the match, as one observer noted, the only local guy they could find dumb enough to take on a fighter all of the Showtime telecast's mainland viewers recognize as one of the up and comers in the sport. He was the tomato can.
Aina took it on. "The only native on the card," he would say. "I take a lot of pride in where I'm from."
It was that kind of fight. There was blood everywhere. Exhaustion. Haymaker punches that connected with audible impact (Aina would say he popped one of his ribs in the third round). Aina stood in there and traded with him, and escaped choke holds and had the home crowd thinking he'd won it by the end.
He was that kind of winner, even in defeat. He owned the moment. No matter what else happens in his career in this crazy sport he will always have this. He will always be on his corner's shoulders, pumping his arms, his heartbeat rocking the whole place.
YES, I WAS "cageside" last night at Elite XC: Uprising (apparently all the other Bob Marley album titles were taken). OK, not "cageside" --that's what they call it. But close enough to see it all up close.
"There's Bill Goldberg," Billy Hull said.
"You don't know who Bill Goldberg is? He's a famous pro wrestler."
Oh. I was wondering why Dennis McKnight wasn't with the UH football team in Vegas.
There were all kinds of sights. There was a woman holding a little baby wearing noise-canceling headphones, peacefully asleep despite the carnage and noise. There were scantily clad dancing girls in go-go boots shaking it lithely during breaks in the action, like in "Austin Powers."
There was star woman MMA'er Gina Carano narrating the replay of her tap out-inducing choke hold thusly: "Why won't you die!" A minute later she said, "I just want to thank God."
And there was "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler's knockout win over Murilo "Ninja" Rua for the Elite XC middleweight title, an especially, um, ruthless display, the kind of wale-on-a-defenseless-guy-when-he's-down ending that leaves some uncomfortable with this stuff.
His was an awesome display. But it was Aina's effort that gave us the chicken skin.