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|Raging Bull is back in form|
|Written by Sandy Hackenmueller|
|Thursday, 15 March 2012 08:18|
(Photo and story by Sandy Hackenmueller of Fight to Finish Photography. Her work can be found at this link.)
To see a raging bull take life in stride would seem to be an oxymoron, but to friends and fans of mixed martial artist Brock "Raging Bull" Larson, they know exactly what this means.
Inside the cage, Larson is a beast ... but outside the cage, he's a man who accepts life's challenges with ease, and competitive losses with grace.
Earlier this month, Larson, who is a former UFC welterweight competitor, accepted a short-notice fight in Brazil. He received a call from friend Sergio Cunha asking if he would be interested in headlining the show, "MMA 10 Minutos Contra a Dengue" against Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Antonio Braga Neto.
With five days’ notice and the need to go up a weight class, Larson accepted the fight.
"I'm never one to turn down a challenge," he said. "I've never in my career turned down a fight. It was a good matchup. He's a world champion grappler, and that enticed me a little bit. I had a fight cancel that I was supposed to fight a week before, so I was already in shape. I was fight-ready."
"MMA: 10 Minutos Contra a Dengue" translates to "MMA: 10 Minutes Against Dengue." Dengue is a viral infection that occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, transmitted by mosquitoes.
Last year, Rio de Janeiro reported 131 deaths and 160,000 cases of dengue. There is no antiviral medication for this virus. Symptoms range from fever, rash and headaches to pain behind the eyes, as well as muscle and joint pain.
The campaign’s goal is to bring awareness to this virus and its prevention by asking the public to invest 10 minutes a week in removing potential mosquito breeding sites from their homes.
Main breeding sites are old tires, so the Health Department-organized campaign offered free tickets to the event if you brought an old tire in.
"To be a part of supporting this cause, and be the main event, was pretty special, especially with so many amazing fighters in Brazil to choose from," Larson said.
With a record of 33-6, Larson was ready to take on Antonio Braga Neto, who took home the gold at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
"The fight went well, except for the outcome," Larson said. "I felt great going in to the fight. Braga Neto is a world champion grappler, so I wanted to keep the fight standing, one of the first fights I’ve ever said that. My plan was to go out there, bang him out, put him against the cage, wear him down, and later in the round take him to the ground and grind it out.
"That plan didn’t last long though. We got out there, we circled and he tried taking me down. I threw him, he fell down. He got back up, came at me again and pushed me into the fence. I snapped him down, he got back up. We exchanged some blows. I landed a few, he didn't land any. He shot in again and I tossed him. He fell down and at the time I wasn’t sure what happened, if he got hit or what. He stayed down, so I draped over the top of him, contemplating whether to let him back up. I looked in his eyes and he had a panicked look on his face. I felt good about it, so I went down past his guard. Then he did some more funky stuff with his hips, and got underneath me. He got my leg and then knee-barred me, and I was forced to tap. But, they had to carry him out of the cage, so that was a bit satisfying, that I gave him a whoopin'."
Larson said he felt good on his feet, exchanging with Neto and countering his takedown. He felt he was able to dictate the fight rather than be dominated by a fighter on his turf.
"I put the fight where I wanted it to go," Larson said. "Even though I went down to the ground, and I probably shouldn't have, it was my choice to go there. He didn't force my hand."
In retrospect, Larson said when he had the decision to stay on the ground or let Neto back up, he should have backed out.
"If I would have followed my game plan, that's probably what I would have done. But, I didn't, so shame on me," Larson said.
Larson believes that the toughest part in any fight is timing -- knowing when to go in for the kill, or when to sit back and pick your spots. "There, I should have sat back and been a little more careful," he said. "But if I see the fear in their eyes, I'm going to go after it, and that's what I did. It just didn't work out this time. But it's good to know I still have what it takes to get in there with some of the best in the world."
Besides being a part of the MMA event, the highlight of the trip for Larson was his time with Brazilian Top Team.
"BTT opened their doors to us, and allowed us to train and do our own thing," Larson said. "So between the event, and hanging out with world champions, it was just amazing. We trained in a room where there were 42 black belts. What an experience."
Larson said he had a warm homecoming despite his loss in Rio.
"I have some of the best fans and teammates in the world, and they were supportive as always," he said. "They understood the circumstances. I took on a world champion on short notice, and moved up a weight class. Anytime you do something like that, the odds aren't in your favor. But I've done that my whole career, taken chances, and taken tough fights."
Larson said if he had he won the fight, which he believes he was in position to do, it would have changed his career and put him right back on top.
"In this sport, you have to take chances, but you have to play smart at the same time. But, I'm at the point in my career that I’m going to take tough fights, and not build up my record by fighting easy ones," he said. "I'm going to keep fighting the best guys I can get. When I'm done with my career, then I'll look back on it and be proud of what I've done. I've done it the right way, and I've done it my way.”
Larson said he had felt in a slump as of late, but this last fight made him feel more like the "old Brock." It has motivated him to continue fighting. After his release from the UFC in late 2009, he said he felt a lack of direction.
"I didn't know where to go, how to fight; it can play mind tricks on you," he said. "This fight felt good, I felt aggressive again."
While there are rumors of fights coming up, nothing is official yet.
"I've still got some years left in this old body," Larson said. "I feel great, hanging out and training with young 20-year-olds, and I'm doing just fine with them. I plan to keep coaching, and when the time comes to pass the torch on, these other guys will be ready to step up and take it. I'm looking forward to the future of training, fighting and teaching these young guys to take on the world."