alex-davis-1.jpgSo instead of just writing about serious subjects all the time, I decided to share a story or two. And Antonio Silva fighting for the UFC heavyweight title in May, I think it’s a prime opportunity to remember his first fights in Japan.

This was 2006, and Antonio (Junior) was an undefeated prospect who had debuted in Japan with an impressive TKO win over “The Big Cat,” Tom Erikson while fighting for K-1 Hero’s. They brought Junior back to fight Georgy Kaysinov later that year, but the problems started right away.

First off, K-1 would not give Junior a first-class ticket. I tried to explain to them that we didn’t need that seat because I was seeking special privileges but because he is simply too big to fit an economy seat. He’s 6-foot-4, and this was back in the days when he was competing as a super heavyweight. We were flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and on to Tokyo, and one can only imagine how Junior would feel after the nine hours from Rio to Paris, not to mention another 10 hours to Tokyo – all in an economy seat!

So things go back and forth until finally K-1 agreed to give Junior two economy seats. It wasn’t want we wanted, but at least it was an improvement. But what seemed like a fair solution caused more complications: Every time the flight crew did the preflight passenger count, they would come up with a number discrepancy as there would be one less passenger then boarding passes! So every time, the flight crew would recount the entire plane over and over. Every single flight we were on, there would be an hourlong delay until they could figure it out. I would try to grab a flight attendant and explain why they were having the number difference, but they would simply wave me off and say that they had it under control. Apparently not.

After all of that, we finally got to Japan and headed to the hotel to start the process that every fighter goes through during fight week. But with Murphy’s law always over your shoulder, we quickly came across a huge problem: The sponsor had sent shorts about 10 times smaller then Junior’s size. The only thing we had with us that would fit him were lycra shorts. I thought, ‘Oh, well. No biggie. He will just fight in lycra.” But Junior would have none! He would just scratch his big ears and his head and repeatedly say, “I am not fighting in lycra!”

Oh, boy. Fighters sometimes get caught up on seemingly small things like this, but even the tiniest of details can turn out to be a very important issue. So I got my Japanese partner and translator, Hideo Takada, to call around Tokyo and look for shorts that would fit him. But size 55 shorts in Japan? Yeah, right. None could be found!

So that went on for two days.

“Alex, what about the shorts?”

“Junior, there are none to be had! You will just have to fight in the lycra.”

“Urrrggghhh! No, Alex, I will not use the lycra. I won’t fight!”

And it went on and on, just like that. I was at a loss. I was thinking of every single possibility.

“Junior, OK, how about a sumo skirt?” I asked. “Maybe we can find one!”

All of a sudden, the phone in my room rings. It was “JZ,” Gesias Cavalcante, who was fighting on the same card.

“Alex, hurry down to the lobby!” he said. “I found the shorts, but please, come down, fast!”

So I ran down, and as soon as I came out of the elevator, I found JZ holding on to a pair of shorts, and a group of VERY excited Japanese people were surrounding him. Some of them looked a little angry – or at least confused. I asked JZ what had happened, and he told me that he bumped into this guy holding the right size shorts for Junior, and since he couldn’t explain in Japanese that those shorts were a heaven-sent solution to a huge problem, he just grabbed the shorts and held on to them!

JZ figured it was better hang on to the shorts until someone could come and explain our dilemma. He was not about to let those shorts walk out and disappear somewhere in Tokyo, never to be found again. And, of course, the Japanese perspective was probably, “Hey! This Brazilian is trying to steal my shorts!”

So I called Junior down, and it turns out he had sold the shorts to this guy after his last fight, and the guy had come by looking for Junior to autograph them! So we haggled, and finally they settled on a plan. Junior gave him the too-small shorts, signed a few different items, posed for a picture or two, and in exchange he got the right-sized shorts!

So much for those who say that a fighter does not need a manager! I still had to get all the right patches sewn on those shorts, which was another nightmare, entirely, but all is well that ends well. Junior went on to fight and he beat Kaysinov by knockout.

Alex Davis is a lifelong practitioner of martial arts and a former Brazilian judo champion. A founding member of American Top Team, Davis currently oversees the careers of a number of prominent Brazilian fighters, including Edson Barboza, Luiz Cane, Rousimar Palhares, Antonio Silva and Thiago Tavares, among others. Davis is a frequent contributor to, sharing his current views on the sport built through his perspectives that date back to the Brazilian roots of modern MMA.

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