–Kenny Rice

Sometimes in the big, big picture those glimpses are what piques interest. A nugget here or there that stimulates thought or gives pause. Some thoughts about the large picture of sports with snap shots:

  • –He sprints from the grill to the fryer to the milkshake dispenser in barely a blink of the eye. ‘My goodness’ you think, watching the one man show whip together your number 2 combo order and make change faster than anyone you’ve ever seen. The hand speed alone was blinding, the foot work impeccable. This Anderson Silva deserves his ten year reign as “Employee of the Month.”

Farfetched? Well now it certainly is, but imagine if Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira hadn’t encouraged and convinced Silva a career at McDonald’s wasn’t for him, that he could be a really good fighter. Ed Soares, manager of the two along with his star-studded roster of fighters, shared the story on Inside MMA this week to explain how emotional Silva had gotten watching his longtime friend “Big Nog” pull off the submission of the night in beating Dave Herman. It might have meant more to him than his own TKO of Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in Brazil. Being home and watching someone who he — (the arguably greatest MMA fighter of all time) –idolized do well created a flood of emotion.

It’s that ‘What If?’ possibility – no matter how crazy it sounds after the fact – that has such an appeal to sports fans. To think that at one time even The Spider might have questioned his own ability and were it not for a trusting friend who can say with total confidence the MMA world might never have known or seen this living legend in action? Although wouldn’t it be interesting to see him frying burgers for the crew at Black House?  Special orders would not upset him. Which of course is the motto of another famous chain, but it works better here than “all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese”.

  • –Think this reinforces the cross-over recognition of MMA: After the verbal slugfest of President Obama-Governor Romney II, the analogy from Fox to MSNBC and all varying points in between summoned up the old reliable sports analogy to describe the intensity of the two men vying to lead the U.S.  There would’ve been a time where it would have been compared to sacking the quarterback or slam dunking in each other’s face. This time, by a 5-1 margin, unscientific poll as it is, the commentators immediately after it and even days later said the two candidates looked “like UFC fighters,” “as if they were in the UFC.”; which is kind of good for the sport, but still amazing the brand the Ultimate Fighting Championship has. To most on the outside, the UFC is MMA, not an organization of mixed martial arts.
  • –The sport of cycling might be the most demanding on the cardio system. It is not a must-view always on my DVR but the appreciation is there. Especially at Tour de France time. It’s like watching the Indy 500 or Daytona 500 or Kentucky Derby, even if one doesn’t follow car or horse racing. It’s the event that needs no explanation; you don’t have to fully grab the nuances. Who is the fastest? Simple. Except now of course, with Lance Armstrong being stripped of his unprecedented seven titles. What makes it worse is that as of now all those cycling leaders and politicos can’t seem to find anyone who should be awarded those wins. Apparently there are more drugs in cycling than at a rock concert stadium.


  • — If virtually everyone is getting an edge does that make it legit? Baseball historians might rethink the Steroid Era. Oh, MMA might have a future problem, if TRT usage leading up to fights continues.


  • — What did happen to the New York Yankees bats against the Tigers? Raul Ibanez excluded of course.


  • — Texas is now my most fun college football team to watch, replacing the team that beat them a couple of weeks back, West Virginia. These Longhorns are not for the purist. They score and score and score. They also give up score after score after score. It’s like a really large-scale version of pee-wee football. They are the guilty pleasure for grid fans and a nightmare for scoreboard operators throughout the Big 12.


  • — If you don’t follow baseball but were told Tim Lincecum is a pro athlete, bet your guess would be surfer or skateboarding guru, not a two-time Cy Young Award winner. The San Francisco Giants former ace would probably also stump the panel that he isn’t a California native. Bellevue, WA is the hometown of ‘Big Time Timmy Jim.’ A cool dude indeed.


  • — A spa therapist in San Francisco is offering an alternative to Botox. She is from Thailand and learned the ancient art, she claims, of slapping the wrinkles off the face. It’s a real treatment. Possibly a shot at MMA down the road for her as well if the ground game improves.


  • — Cleveland Williams, Jean -Pierre Coopman, Rudi Lubbers, Bob Foster, Jurgen Blin, Joe Bugner and Chuck Wepner. Any of these names ring a bell? Bet Joe Frazier, George Forman, Ken Norton and Leon Spinks all connect with the memory. All these men have something in common: opponents of Muhammad Ali. For all the great matchups, and the Frazier showdowns remain the classic standard, even The Greatest took on just a bunch of other guys from time to time. Get used to that playing out for some of superstars of MMA, not all of them can be surefire must-see events.
  • — Wonder if Vince McMahon would ever allow for some of the MMA fighters who want to be pro wrestling stars to win a WWE championship?
  • — If your alma mater (like mine) or favorite college football program is struggling or just plain stinks, there is probably talk of bringing in a new coach. If you are an active member of the booster group, insist on getting someone with a proven track record. A ‘name’ coach is preferable – and for my friends who argue it’s not a guarantee, look at South Carolina. I know they have had an adult dose of the best conference anywhere, the SEC, the past couple of weeks, but before Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia the Gamecocks were never being talked about as November approached.
  •  — I also suggest considering an offensive or defensive coordinator from a major program. Look at what Will Muschamp, formerly defensive coordinator at Texas, LSU and Auburn, is doing at Florida. And at what a pair of former Gator coordinators, (defense) Charlie Strong  and (offense) Dan Mullen, have done getting Louisville and Mississippi State back in the national picture.
  • — If there can be such a thing as too nice, it was Jeff Blatnick. His lack of swagger and no trace of arrogance belied what a successful athlete he was and what a story he lived. A cancer survivor who, along with Steve Fraser, became the first American to win Olympic gold in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1984. Jeff was also instrumental in the development of the UFC as we know it today by helping structure the unified rules in the early days, making it a more recognized sport not the tough man contest it appeared to some. He was even briefly the UFC commissioner and many credit him with coining the term “mixed martial arts.” That can be debated, but Jeff would do that, just say he didn’t ever hear from anyone else until he said it.

Make no mistake; Jeff was a big, tough man. But he was also a gentle giant who loved MMA and respected the fighters to a fault.  We announced fights together for HDNet when the network was in the early stages of covering the sport.  We would kid Blatnick about his reluctance to make predictions or criticize a fighter, and he would talk about how hard it is to even make that choice to get in the cage. He was sincere in his support of the sport. A minority of followers probably never got this, because Jeff was not a screamer, not a trace of flamboyance. It was never about him.

At the time of his death this week from complications from heart surgery, he was doing all he wanted. He was judging and refereeing MMA shows and coaching the varsity wrestling team at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School in his home area of upstate New York. The only other passion I remember him talking about, and seeing when we traveled all over Austin, Texas one morning looking for a driving range, was golf.

He leaves us too soon at age 55. He leaves behind many fond memories of genuine kindness, humility and devotion to his sport, as well as his wife and two children. A decent man, the way we all at the end would like to be remembered.

Got something you’re burning on? Tell us on facebook or twitter, or tell the man himself on Kenny’s twitter or facebook page

Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Monday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now


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