Monday, December 20, 2010
Lou Neglia's venerable Ring of Combat promotion may currently be up to thirty-something installments, but back in December of 2002, ROC was a fledgling organization putting on its second show. The venue was the Meadowlands Expo Center, and the card featured five MMA bouts intermingled with kickboxing offerings - a rare occurrence now, yet not an uncommon mixture then. In terms of local heroes on the roster, there were few, like the maddeningly-methodical grappler Steve Anshelewitz (his guard and his pace were dangerous, capable of putting both opponents and audience members alike to sleep). There was also Elvis Garcia, Team Tiger Schulmann's version of Fedor Emelianenko, who would ground and pound foes into oblivion and shatter his hands almost every time. But if there was one standout at ROC 2, it was up-and-coming Team Serra/Longo rep Pete "Drago" Sell. On that night in December, Sell squared off against Ted Govola Jr., a tough wrestler, Mass Destruction veteran and undefeated badass from New England. To Northeast fight fans, it would be the first true test for the Matt Serra protege, and the first real gauge of his ability. For Sell, it was just another day at the office. Which isn't to say it was an easy bout for the future ROC champ - it wasn't, and they battled back and forth throughout - but after an extremely close kimura attempt plus dominant position after dominant position, it was clear when time ran out who deserved the decision. In the contest between the kid from Long Island and one of the Massachusetts circuit's best, Drago was victorious. Nowadays, Sell's only trips into the cage are during ROC intermissions, when Neglia calls distinguished alumni forward for a round of applause. Back then, though, at ROC 2 in 2002, it was all about fast and furious combat and a fistful of glory.