One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Fights at the Fights

Written By: Barry Laminack

This past Labor Day weekend, we saw the best and the worst of Houston MMA. It’s like my friend and business partner AJ Hoffman said, “It seems like sometimes we are just spinning our wheels. We try and do the right thing and promote the sport and bring some positive coverage to Houston MMA and this is what happens. It’s like we take one step forward and two steps back.”

One Step Forward

On the bright side there was a blood drive that helped save 100’s of lives. Fighters and fans from all over the city converged on Paradigm Training Center to give blood. When you consider it was a holiday weekend and the morning after a big amateur card (and the morning before a pro card), it was very impressive to see that kind of turn out. The first annual Houston MMA blood drive produced 44 units for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. To put that in perspective, the national average for a drive is 25.

I’ve never been more proud to be a part of Houston MMA than I was on Saturday.

Two Steps Back

On the not so bright side, the ugly side of Houston MMA reared its ugly head not once, but TWICE this weekend.

The first time was at Cage Combat 5 where there was not one but two incidents involving rowdy fans. The second was at IMKF 1 where again, more fans ended up fighting.

I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a part of Houston MMA than I was this weekend.

Bottom line is that this shit has got to stop. Leave the fighting in the cage where it belongs. Fans have absolutely NO BUSINESS fighting in the crowd. I promise you this; from now, on any time there are fights in the crowd, myself and the entire TCD crew will do our best to take pictures and videos of the fights so that we can expose those people who are doing the fighting and giving our sport a black eye (no pun intended).

Cage Combat 5: The OTHER Recap

By now, I hope that you have read our recap of the outstanding Cage Combat 5 card. We didn’t want to make mention of the extra curricular activities in that recap because we felt like it would take away from the fighters and what they accomplished that night, but now it’s time to air it out.

Many of you have asked me what happened, so the following is based on the FACTS that I have been able to gather from sources, eye witnesses and pictures. (I understand there are two sides to every story, but the following are the facts).

The wife of a fighter from Team Tooke had too much to drink and was shouting racial slurs at the fighters from Silverback. Sources sitting next to Mrs. Castillo told me she had been doing it for most of the night. At some point members of the Silverback team started shouting back.

It’s unclear what happened next (because the story varies depending on who you talk to) but some how the sister of one of the Silverback fighters (also the daughter of the head coach of Silverback, Tony Orozco Sr.) ended up in the Team Tooke section.

Mrs. Castillo felt it would be a good idea to produce a taser and try and tase Ms. Orozco.

That’s when all hell broke loose. From my vantage point in the cage, I personally saw a few Silverback fighters trying to go over the barricade, while other Silverback fighters where holding them back. I also saw about ¾ of the Silverback section of the crowd leave their seats and go over to the Team Tooke section. Many of them also followed Mrs. Castillo out of the building.

An unbiased source who was right next to the action had this to say:

“It was pretty bad man. First off, the drunk chick was dropping N bombs ALL night. I don’t remember when the 15 year old came over but at one point we heard a taser. The Silverback coach (Tony) never made it over the barricade. I do know she (Mrs. Castillo) was saying something about Tony Jr. when he was hurt. All in all, the drunk chick instigated about 85% of what happened, the rest was instigated by some of the Silverback folks.”

Of course the story is going to vary in some degree depending on who you talk to, but again, these basic facts are true:

  • Mrs. Castillo was shouting racial slurs
  • Mrs. Castillo had a taser and tried to use it
  • Silverback fans left their seats to go over to the Team Tooke section.

My Thoughts on the Bullshit

Mrs. Castillo should have been thrown out LONG before it got the point of producing a taser. The other side of that is that under NO circumstances should any of the Silverback fans left their seats to go to that section. Security should have reacted much faster and been more prompt in removing Mrs. Castillo.

You know what the crappy part is in all this? Joe Trevino and Jacob Silva had to fight one of the most anticipated rematches in Houston MMA this year, in front of about 100 people.

I also feel bad for Eric Garcia. He was devastated by the events. He said to me that he’s going to have to beef up security from now on. Guess what, that’s going to cost money. Guess who’s going to end up paying for that, the same people who are causing all the problems, the fans.

[Update: Eric said on our podcast that he plans to eat the cost of the added security and will not be passing it on to the fans. Classy move on his part.]

I’m Not Done Yet

Wait, it gets worse. After the building was cleared out (as ordered by TDLR) a few fans were let back in (mostly 4oz fans and Silverback fans) so they could watch their friends and teammates in the last fight of the night.

The fight was a good one and ended in the first when Joe Trevino secured a rear naked choke on Jacob. Jacob, being the tough fighter that he is, fought the choke until he passed out. He never had intentions of tapping; he was either going to find a way out or pass out. Joe released the choke as soon as the ref. stopped the fight, and that’s when a beer came flying into the cage from the crowd.

Unbelievable!

The beer came from the Silverback section of the crowd. I’m told it was Jacob’s brother but I don’t know that to be the case. What I do know is I took these pictures coming from the direction of where the beer came from:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

If you’ll recall after these two fought at Legacy at the House of Blues, Silverback fans threw beer into the cage from the balcony. Shortly after that a fight broke out between Silverback fans and 4oz fans.

Why? Why would you throw a beer into the cage?

Jacob lost fair ands square. He CHOSE not to tap out, yet you felt the need to throw a beer in the cage? That’s bullshit, and it’s chicken shit of you to ruin that moment for the fighters and the promotion.

The Bottom Line

  • Mrs. Castillo should have never been served to the point that she was that drunk.
  • Mrs. Castillo should have been escorted out of the building much sooner for the racial slurs.
  • Somebody from Silverback should have reported it to security sooner and had her removed.
  • Mrs. Castillo should have never pulled out that taser.
  • The Silverback fans should have never left their seats in the first place.

Everyone can share blame in this one. EVERYONE.

IMKF 1: The OTHER Recap

Not to be outdone, the fans at IMKF 1 would show they too had no class when they started fighting amongst themselves.

Again, it was the wife of a fighter who started it. I have sources standing near the fight that say Dale Mitchell’s wife attacked a guy in a wife beater after insulting him. The security guard near by grabbed HIM while she kept attacking him.

Others tried to stop her and that’s when a brawl between some guys broke out.

Here are some pictures I took from the cage.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

What I saw was a guy leaving the brawl very shortly after it was over in a Silverback shirt. After security calmed things down, they escorted another guy out who didn’t have a shirt on, but threw up a hand sign on the way out. Not sure what it was but it looked like the “hook ‘em horns” sign.

Solutions

I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few suggestions.

  • Metal detectors, pat downs and purse checks at ALL events.
  • Security guards for every section, at least 1 per.
  • Stop serving alcohol 2/3 through the fights (much like baseball does. I don’t remember who had this idea originally, but it’s a good one)
  • Be more pro-active with removing people from the crowds (rowdy people, people out of line). ZERO TOLLERANCE POLICY.

Enough is Enough

It seems lost in all of this is the fact that MMA is a sport. This is not some street fight or gang war, this is a sport. It’s a hybrid sport were two individuals representing a team (gym) compete against each other to find out who is the better mixed martial artist. Don’t get me wrong I love the gym rivalries, but that should be between the fighters not the fans.

Alas, I think we are our own worst enemy. This type of stuff has to stop. I know some of you are going to tell me, “Barry, don’t be so naïve; it’s a fighting sport and this kind of stuff goes with the territory.”

If that is the case, so be it, but stop bitching and complaining that nobody takes our sport serious. Stop complaining when people talk about MMA like it’s full of thugs, because at this point all you are doing and all you are allowing your fans to do is prove them right.

AJ and I were talking and I told him, “Could you imagine if we had some how convinced the news people to come out and get some footage for their story on the blood drive? Do you know what they would have said? ‘Yep, just like we thought, it’s barbaric. Just look how the crowd acts.’”

You know, the ironic thing is, it’s not the FIGHTERS causing the problems. These guys are rarely involved, if ever. It’s their fans (family and friends). At some point gym owners,coaches and fighters are going to have to take responsibility for the actions of their fans.

Lastly, it’s easy to sit back and point the finger of blame at one gym. Everybody wants to blame the Silverback fans (notice I sad FANS, not fighters), but you know what, they aren’t fighting themselves. Granted, it seems they are involved in many of the recent altercations, but again it’s always with fans from another gym.

I believe in my heart of hearts that this city has one of the strongest MMA scenes in the country, with one of the deepest talent pools as well, but if we can’t get our shit together nobody is ever going to take our fighters or our scene serious.

I hope I never have to write something like this again.

Enough is enough.