Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The World Cagefighting Alliance debut event suddenly got pretty damn intriguing with the announced match-ups of Kevin Roddy vs. Charles Oliveira da Silva and Steve DeAngelis vs. Felipe Medeiros Arantes - bouts that are pitting top New Jersey featherweights against two potentially dangerous Brazilians. Who are Oliveira da Silva and Arantes? According to the Gold Team Fighters website, they're a pair of "fresh off the boat" dudes with a 6-0 record and a 4-1 MMA record, respectively, and Oliveira da Silva is credited with four grappling championship titles to his name. Are Roddy and DeAngelis ready for two opponents with Chute Boxe lineage, opponents who've been paying their dues in hardcore vale tudo style back in Brazil? Hopefully. But either way, time will tell.
When I was a youngster dabbling in various martial arts in the pre-MMA era, I would sometimes visit a school and meet folks whose sole presence there - at that school, in this city, and even in this country - was to train, train, train. Get to the academy early and maybe you'd catch them rolling up their sleeping bags, or if you were one of the last students out the door maybe you'd witness them giving a far corner of the mat an extra wash because that's where they'd soon rest their head. There were Japanese kids here to study aikido or judo, there were folks from the West Coast staying for the month, and when BJJ came to town there were Brazilians crashing on the mats at Renzo's. Forget your usual semester abroad program - this was the version where you got ringworm in lieu of hooking up with chicks in the dorm, but damn did you get good at your art. Nowadays, the proliferation of fight promotions has spurned the growth of the "MMA exchange program", where fighters are brought in from far off lands to mingle with the local talent. Thanks to Renzo's ties with Gracie Barra back in Brazil, chaps like Delson Heleno and Fabio Leopoldo have competed here in the States, and when I interviewed Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro at his NYC school a couple weeks ago he mentioned bringing in some boys from Nova Uniao as well. And now we have Jorge "Macaco" Patino's Gold Team Fighters, which has a school out in Newark and is stocked with all sorts of vale tudo dudes from the old country. We on the East Coast have been blessed with some tough homegrown fighters who've mixed high school or college wrestling chops with submission savoir faire and striking. But with the MMA exchange program now in full effect, the status quo looks like it's about to get seriously shaken up.