By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA
According to Merriam-Webster, an actor or actress:
“a person who acts in a play, movie, etc.”
With this as an acting definition, roles of any persona are open to takers. A-list celebrities play war heroes, passed away musicians, or voice cartoon characters. In the movie Fight Valley: Knockaround Girls, the Writer/Director, Rob Hawk, cast a trio of women who currently star on a stage defined: as real as it gets. Already performers inside the cage: Miesha Tate (“Jabs”), Cris Cyborg (“Church”), and Holly Holm (“Payton”); these three top-tiered mixed martial artists will test their performing chops outside the cage involving: an adjustment of lighting, a layer of make-up, and artistry that begins at the sound of a clapper, instead of ending.
Appreciating the tapestry of a mixed martial artist’s bout rests on their overall execution, and the world of film parallels a scale of judgment. If it’s a movie about an underground women’s fighting syndicate, which outlines Fight Valley’s premise, the most technically accurate cast would gather a collection of world-class female fighters.
The Tale of the Tape
In an interview, Hawk described the movie as,
“We are going to take a little bit of The Outsiders (1983) mixed with, if you remember the movie: Tough Enough (1983) with Dennis Quaid.”
The scene is set: a cast of women willing to breathe life into the underground fight organization residing in Fight Valley. Hawk wrote the script of Fight Valley to extend beyond mere fight scenes, including artful nuances of setting and character development to delight fights fans and movie-buffs alike. In an interview with Cassie Crisano, also a fighter and actress who plays “Mia” in Fight Valley, attested to a deeper essence projected in her prescribed lines:
“It’s more of a love story between two sisters. Windsor and Tory are sisters who were separated, due to a divorce of their parents: one sibling went with one parent, and the other went with the other. Tory ends up getting herself involved in some underground fighting, which inevitably, leads to her death. Windsor came back to town in vengeance to find out what happened to her sister.”
Intentionally, or not, Crisano slipped into a character-like state, reflecting hints of “Mia” to anecdote her own role in the film,
“My character in the movie is “Mia” who is best friends with “Gracie” and “Church.” We hang out at “Stakes”’s Gym, and we are pretty much fight starters. We go around and start fights with everybody and bring them back to “Stakes” to make some money off of them.”
On Fight Valley’s opening night, your next steps should include: silencing your phone, nestling into your seat, and ensuring your snacks are within an arm’s reach because action will take on a whole new meaning.
Keys to Victory
In any setting, a necessary element to aid success is passion. Artists who are passionate about their creations incite reactions from spectators. In a YouTube interview, Hawk discussed Fight Valley, and his devotion to his craft is palpable. For those who are unaware of Hawk’s ability to design vivid video stories. Warp yourself into the Director/Writer’s world by clicking on the embedded music videos below:
Not only the director, Hawk was the writer and performer in the embedded music videos. Fan of rap music or not, it wouldn’t defy logic to assume quality as this could have featured on a VH1 countdown. Engaged in a three-minute musical tale constructed by Hawk, it’d be a safe assumption that an audience’s focus wouldn’t waiver given the span of a full-length cinematic feature.
During the interview, Hawk’s youthful appearance brightened as he reflected on where his love of filmmaking originated,
“We started shooting music videos; we started shooting skateboarding videos, and I just fell in love with filming. Everything I did, or my friends did, we would turn it into a little short movie, or whatever. I just thought it was so cool; I became so obsessed with filming that I would sit in my room and create videos. It turned into, almost like, a sickness.”
Over the years of expanding elements of production value, Hawk’s interest in fine-tuning his art hasn’t subsided; in fact, it’s exponentially compounded. He continued,
“Here I am years later, and I think I’m more deeply involved now. I probably spend sixteen hours a day in the studio. If I’m not writing, I’m editing; if I’m not editing, I’m filming; and if I’m not filming, I’m writing the next film.”
Hawk isn’t alone in speaking out about the innovation seized in the lines of Fight Valley; the Director of Photography, Michael Lucas, elated at bringing form to Hawk’s creativity:
“Obviously, it’s going to be professional, but it’s going to have a gritty feel. We want it to look raw; we want it to look rough, and it’s going to come out in the cinematography.”
Of course, trying to get the Writer/Director and the Director of Photography to speak ill of their project is like persuading a cornerman to throw in the towel. On episode 82 of Cage Side Submission Radio (CSSR), “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson sounded intrigued when confronted with the topic of Fight Valley. Since Waterson and Holm are training partners, Waterson had a bit of background knowledge on the film,
“I have heard of it. I talked with Holly a little bit about it; she seems to be very excited.”
Would another elite female cage-fighting specialist like Waterson also be interested in finding herself in Fight Valley?
“I love to take up on opportunities. If the opportunity presented itself, of course, I would love to. I’d have to be a badass character!”
Waterson also touched on a relevant point that intensifies the allure of such a film,
“That’s pretty interesting that he [Hawk] is using actual fighters in the same weight class, and they are going to have to work with one another; I’m pretty interested to see how that pans out.”
Movies like Bloodsport (1988) or T.V. shows like Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001) allowed viewers to suspend their disbelief in maybes and what-ifs because actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris were practicing martial artists, and the same could be said for a movie like Fight Valley whose cast could form a functional fight team of champions amongst themselves.
When It Goes to the Judges’ Scorecards
The line has been tattooed into the minds of all: Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges. When it comes to art forms beyond pretzeled metal with padded posts, judging is the only place it can go. A product is created out of joy, but when that creation is circulated for others to discover its beauty for themselves, the eye of the beholder holds up the scorecard of its choosing.
Often, fans of MMA are quick to count out a UFC fight card because it’s labeled a UFC Fight Night versus a pay-per-view. Phrases are tossed around to diminish the value that every UFC event potentially showcases; hence, it’s backdrop as the organization that rosters the world’s greatest fighters. At UFC Fight Night Sydney, Australia on November 7, 2014, the event comparably towed in question marks, but the evening was punctuated by eleven out of eleven finishes and wall-to-wall action four times over.
There is simplicity in judging books by their covers. By casting something aside before it even has a chance to take shape closes off the potential for enrichment that an open heart welcomes. Hawk faces criticism to his film head-on; he’s made weight and addresses his naysayers with one final stare down before quieting the set,
“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this movie a million times. Sounds like something I’ve seen. It does. It has tastes of other things in it, but every movie that comes out has tastes of other movies. The storyline doesn’t have tastes of other movies; it’s different, and I think people are really going to enjoy it.”
One of my favorite authors is Donald Murray (1924-2006). I’m fascinated by his ability to translate abstractness into simplicity in his writings. Donald Graves (1930-2010) is another top author who I’d recommend to any reader, and he admittedly derived his writing prowess from the instruction of Murray. When I read a book written by Graves, I’m lost in his moments and teachings; overall, enjoying a good book. If I magnify my pattern recognition while reading, I undoubtedly notice similarities between Graves and Murray, but this sameness removes none of the greatness, unfolding page after page. The same can be true of movies, pixelating frame by frame.
For more information on Fight Valley go to:
Check out the interviews referenced:
Give a listen to Episode 82 of CSSR or others at:
Pannie Kianzad on Becoming a Full-Time Fighter
Invicta FC bantamweight Pannie Kianzad recently shared some exciting personal news – that she is now able to devote herself full-time to her fighting career. Speaking to MMA Latest, Kianzad explained how her new full-time status came about.
— PannieBanzaiKianzad (@PannieKianzad) May 29, 2017
“Me and my boyfriend have been talking about this for a long time,” the Swede began. “I’ve always wanted to do this since I got into MMA and to have the time to put everything into it. Since I’ve signed with Invicta, it’s even more important because I’m fighting against the best in the world. Ilaz moved down from Stockholm and moved in with me, he said ‘when I get a full-time job and everything is good, then you can quit your job’. So now he is working for a really good company and I only work one, maybe two days, just to pay for my train card to get to the gym.”
There are, of course, a plethora of benefits for a fighter who is able to enjoy full-time status, but, for Kianzad, the biggest difference is not the extra time to train, rather the after-training aspects. “I still train the same amount,” she explained. “I still do one or two classes a day, like I did when I was working full-time, but now I get my recovery time, which is just fucking amazing. I get to sleep! But not only that, I get to work on my own things and what I want to do for the future too.”
One such project that the 25-year old will get to work on is brand of fight and training apparel. “I have my brand – Kianzad gear,” she began. “Everything is fine, I just don’t have the money yet to go full in on it. The design work and what I want to create is done and the samples are all really good. That’s one thing I’m working on – saving up and looking for sponsors for that.”
Logo for Kianzad Wear
Anyone who follows “Banzai” on social media will know that she recently returned from America, where she took the chance to train at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, as well as spend time with one of the biggest names in women’s MMA. “The main reason I went to Vegas was for the TUF tryouts,” Kianzad revealed. “I didn’t tell anyone about that. I was trying out for the 135 category, which got cancelled three weeks beforehand – So that sucked! We were thinking whether or not to go, but then I was like ‘this is our only vacation time’ so we took the opportunity to go anyway.”
“I talked to my friend Ray Elbe and was going to train with Cris (Cyborg), but she had to fly out to Brazil for a commercial or something, but she missed her flight. So we drove down to Huntington Beach and had lunch with them. It was nice talking to a female fighter who is at the top. She motivates me a lot and has always been one of my favourite fighters, but she is a really good person too.”
— #UFC214 #LetsGoChamp (@criscyborg) May 27, 2017
Something that always seems to shine through with Invicta FC fighters like Kianzad is the great relationship and affinity they have towards the organisation, as well as the owner, Shannon Knapp. This is refreshing to see given the current climate of public disputes between fighters and promoters. “Shannon believes in us,” Kianzad explaned. “It doesn’t matter what we look like, if we win or if we lose, she respects us as professional athletes. That is the biggest reason. And fighters in all organisations should be respected because we fight and train hard, but we don’t make that much money.”
Kianzad recently made her professional wrestling debut at a show in her native Sweden. While her immediate focus is on her MMA career, Kianzad enjoyed the change of scenery. “It was so much fun,” she smiled. “The whole experience was really fun because I didn’t have this huge pressure on my shoulders to win. It was just about having fun, and the pro-wrestling crowd are amazing. It was a huge adrenaline rush and I would love to do it again, because apparently I had a really good debut and not many do.”
As for when fans can expect to see her back in the cage, Kianzad has most certainly got a date in mind and, now injury free, she wants her appearances on cards to become a more regular occurence. “I am hoping for the July Invicta card – And I know my fans are asking for me to be on that card too. I like to fight often if I am healthy, which I am now, I am in great shape. So when I am healthy I prefer to have 3, maybe 4 fights per year.”
With her new status as a full-time MMA fighter, fans can expect to see much more of Pannie Kianzad as well as continued improvements from the young prospect.
Christine Ferea Hopes Tiffany van Soest is the Girl to Give Her a War
Christine Ferea is no stranger to playing spoiler. In her professional MMA debut in January, the 34-year-old battered Invicta FC fan favourite Rachael Ostovich until much-maligned referee Mike England eventually, mercifully, stopped the bout.
That fight opened the show at Invicta FC 21 and set the tone for an action-packed night at the Scottish Rite Temple. It also had Invicta fans clamouring for a sophomore appearance, one which they will get at Invicta FC 23 on Saturday.
This time decorated Muay Thai champion Tiffany van Soest provides the opposition. In van Soest’s Invicta FC debut she was womanhandled by powerful wrestler Kal Holliday before being submitted in the second round.
There is a reason that van Soest, whose transition to MMA was met with excitement from combat sports fans, is facing Ferea on Saturday, and it has a lot to do with that submission loss. Given her own Muay Thai background, it seems unlikely that Christine Ferea will be tossing van Soest around like a ragdoll when she has the chance to punch her in the face instead.
“Dude, this is the shit. I’m like, ‘yes, a striker, I can open up'” Ferea told Cage Side Submissions on Sunday when asked if she was excited to be fighting another Muay Thai warrior in the Invicta cage.
“I’m in good shape. I’m getting down to a weight class that is probably the weight class I should have been in my whole career. I just have to be really strict with my diet, that’s all. There’s no cheating, that’s it. It’s not like some gruelling f—–g cut. It’s just a super, super athlete diet.”
Ferea had previously fought at flyweight, both as an amateur and in that professional debut against Ostovich back in January. The fighter does not envisage any problems making the strawweight limit for the first time against van Soest, and believes this is the fight she has been waiting for.
“This is gonna be a badass fight. I think it’s the war that I’ve always wanted as a fighter because I’m always going into fights and I’m like, ‘I want a f—–g war, I want to see who I am’. I want someone to push me to where I’m like, ‘holy shit’. I hope this is the girl.”
If it’s a standup war that Ferea wants against a fighter that can offer plenty of pushback then her wish will likely be granted. Ferea’s roots are set firmly in the world of Muay Thai. It is the world in which Tiffany van Soest is a star. Lion Fight and Glory Kickboxing championships take pride of place on van Soest’s impressive resume. It seems a given that these two will bring the fire once the cage door closes.
At 34 Ferea is a completely different person to the cocky 20-something who had fought her way up from the streets to the gym. That is something she puts down to becoming a fighter.
“I grew up a fighter on the streets a little bit. We fought, my guy friends they fought a lot and I got in a lot of trouble growing up that I finally got out of. I was like, ‘ok I’m done with this lifestyle, there’s something else out there for me’.
“Then I started going to the gym trying to get fit, get healthy, and there was a fight gym in there. I was like, ‘I could beat these bitches up, they ain’t s–t’. So I go to the gym and they beat the living s–t out of me. 115-pound girls just kicking me to the face, sweeping me, catching my kicks and sweeping me, throwing me in the air. I’m like, ‘holy s–t, I wanna know how to do that.’
“After many concussions. After many ass beatings, it taught me a lot of control. My temper, my patience levels, just everything. I stuck to it because it improved my life in so many different areas. I didn’t get in it for that. I thought it would be fun, but then I realised how much it does for you on different levels and I’m like, ‘wow it just made me a healthy person in so many different areas.'”
On Saturday Ferea hopes to channel all those experiences into another impressive showing. With the Invicta strawweight division currently without a champion, every win matters that little bit more. A victory in Kansas City on Saturday would turn Ferea into a serious Invicta contender at 115 pounds.
Forget Cormier vs. Jones – Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson Should Headline UFC 214
Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones II is all but confirmed for UFC 214 in Anaheim, California on July 29. Despite the magnitude of the light-heavyweight championship rematch, the UFC would do well to look elsewhere for their UFC 214 main event — namely in the direction of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Megan Anderson.
The UFC’s schedule for the first half of 2017 is largely booked as of now. Fight announcements for July are coming in daily but there is still no clue as to who might headline UFC 213, the promotion’s International Fight Week pay-per-view offering. Jon Jones is expected to make his long-awaited return in July however not for 213.
UFC President Dana White has stated that Jones will not be eligible to compete during International Fight Week due to his suspension, making UFC 214 in late July the most likely option. White also insisted that Jones cannot be trusted to headline an event due to his past transgressions.
If White holds true to his word it’ll be a bizarre and unfortunate set of circumstances to promote the most important rematch in the history of the UFC. Many titleholders are booked for the moment, so the Cormier vs. Jones rerun would seem the most logical choice. However, as has been the norm in the past two years of UFC promotion an interim title can be slapped on to any semi-interesting match.
Countless arguments are made about how interim titles are senseless and harmful to the actual titleholder but those arguments although valid, are not much more than gripes.
The absence of sanctioning bodies in mixed martial arts are a contentious point of debate in the MMA community and combat sports in general but sanctioning bodies in regard to titles are almost always a nuisance in the world of boxing.
Any educated fan knows who the real champion is. Even in the rare instance where the interim titleholder is held in higher regard or more popular than the actual champion as was the case with Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, nothing was done to diminish the value of the featherweight belt.
The notion that a title fight must headline a card may be antiquated but it seems that is the manner that the UFC will continue to handle business for the foreseeable future. Five rounds are seldom a negative in high-level MMA and an interim belt would be most justified if a match is made between former Invicta featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and current champion Megan Anderson.
If Cormier vs. Jones will play second fiddle to another fight, an interim featherweight title fight between “Cyborg” and Anderson would be a sensible headliner for UFC 214. Given the lack of options and the current featherweight champion’s fighting future in doubt, the fight would merit its headlining spot.
Jones in a co-headliner may seem strange business wise. It is rare for Dana White to put morale ahead of dollar signs but if it is the case it may be for the better. An alpha male like Jones doesn’t want to be second to anyone. The very fact that the marquee will say Cormier vs. Jones instead of Jones vs. Cormier most likely rankles with the superstar.
Yet the promotion of Jones is more intriguing now than it ever has been. Jones reportedly pulled in right under 500,000 buys for UFC 197. Not too shabby for a 15-month layoff with a lukewarm undercard.
Moreover, a fight with the magnitude of Cormier Vs. Jones will be heavily promoted under any circumstance. ESPN, TMZ, Deadspin, will all be pulled towards covering the event, so the co-main event placing may not be that big of a deal. The benefits that the Cormier/Jones rematch can provide for the women’s featherweight division are substantial.
..that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.
UFC 208 was the official introduction of the featherweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it wasn’t loved by many spectators. Germaine de Randamie outpointed Holly Holm in a 25-minute striking affair.
Technically, the fight was brilliant but provided not a single awe-inspiring moment. The fact that there was controversy regarding some illegal blows, a contested decision, and that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.
The great thing about a Cyborg/Anderson fight is that both women really want the fight and also happen to be great kickboxers that have genuine horsepower. “Cyborg” trounced Leslie Smith in less than a round and utterly pummeled Lina Lansberg in just over five minutes. Anderson is young and still relatively raw but has some exceptional power at featherweight.
The desire to improve is also not lost on the talented Aussie. Her Invicta FC debut was an embarrassingly one-sided loss to notorious overachieving veteran Cindy Dandois.
Grappling is an aspect of MMA that Anderson hasn’t fully grasped as of yet but is miles ahead of where she was in 2015. Anderson’s 2016 was outstanding with three knockouts in a row and she showed her artistic side as she used Charmaine Tweet’s blood to splatter the canvas red like a deranged college activist student.
There was a USADA flagging for “Cyborg” after her last win that was retroactively cleared. Unfortunate and badly timed, it ended up rekindling an old hatred that some in the MMA community have had for the Brazilian since her first positive test in 2011.
“Cyborg” is a respectful competitor and her fighting style is barbaric but her past with PEDs rubs some fans the wrong way, making her a lightning rod for controversy. More often than not, controversy sells.
In the skills and experience department “Cyborg” will hold a distinct advantage, however, Anderson is not lacking in confidence and may be the first fighter that can match “Cyborg’s” power. Anderson also happens to be a fan favourite in Invicta and isn’t shy about trash talking when the opportunity calls for it.
Justino vs. Anderson would not only be a well-matched and entertaining scrap, it would possess something many women’s MMA fights are too commonly missing, intrigue.
Ronda Rousey is unlikely to come back and that leaves the UFC looking for ways to create a new female star. This bout would seem like the most probable one to do that.
Rousey had a great home backing in Southern California from early on in her career and it might be time for “Cyborg” to take some of those fans as she has been a SoCal native for years. Anaheim is only a few miles from “Cyborg’s” hometown of Huntington Beach and it shares an ocean with The Land Down Under.
If a sacrifice is made by the UFC to prove a point, then let it be one that carries some positive possibilities for other athletes who are hungry and deserving of the spotlight. Step aside Jones, and let the ladies handle this one.
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