MMA Fighter Mike Easton: “All D.C.’d Up”
(Read the Washington Post Story here :http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/02/mma_fighter_mike_easton_all_dc.html#more)
I don’t usually write about MMA fighters in this space. But I’ll make an exception for a guy who lives about two miles from my house; who trains to go-go music (Rare Essence and Junkyard Band!), roots for the Caps and D.C. United and met his trainer at a Cluck-U Chicken in P.G. County; whose father went to Howard and teaches visual art at Duke Ellington; and who plans to enter his fight this weekend to the strains of “Bustin’ Loose.”
“It’s Chuck Brown, baby,” Mike Easton explained to me over the phone. “It’s the Godfather of Go-Go. Since we’re fighting in D.C., I had to give the fans some Chuck Brown. Had to.”
The fight isn’t technically in D.C., but it’s close enough. Easton’s biggest opportunity to date will happen Saturday night at the Patriot Center, a meeting with former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Chase Beebe. Easton, 5-1 as a pro, will be introduced out of Temple Hills, but he’s “all D.C.’ed up,” as he put it, from growing up in Anacostia to moving near H.D. Woodson to childhood boxing lessons with his father at Orr Elementary.
“Every time I dropped my hands, he would slap me in the face; not a hard slap, but a little slap,” said Easton, whose fight headlines the 10-fight Ultimate Warrior Challenge card. “I remember crying and boo-hooing. He was like, ‘Regardless of what’s going on around you, if you stay calm you can see your way out of any situation.’…I liked that feeling.”
Easton spent years learning Tae Kwon Do, but that, he said, “was like playing tag. It wasn’t no real contact. And I like contact.”
Then he met Master Lloyd Irvin in that P.G. chicken shop, noticed Irvin’s cauliflower ears, and began talking about mixed martial arts. Easton visited Irvin’s gym and was hooked, went 5-0-1 as an amateur and didn’t lose as a pro until a 2007 fight against Reynaldo Duarte. The Brazilian threw a kick, which Easton thought was heading toward his ribs; he misjudged the angle and Duarte’s shin crashed into his elbow. As both men went to the ground, Easton realized something was wrong.
“My arm just flopped backward,” Easton remembered. “I’m having a full-blown conversation with my coach while this guy’s trying to punch me in the face. I’m like, ‘Man, my arm’s not working. What’s going on with my arm?’ This guy’s just hitting me in the face….I wasn’t worried about him. I don’t fear no man.”
Irvin threw in the towel, and the fighter headed to the hospital to get a titanium plate and five screws in his broken arm. So sure, he has to get a special pass to get through metal detectors now, but he said the pain of the break didn’t particularly bother him; “I have a pretty high pain tolerance, except for like a little paper cut,” he told me. “That always hurts me for some strange reason.”
What else do you need to know? Easton compares the feeling of landing a perfect punch to the vibration in a batter’s arms upon hitting a baseball with a bat; “you can feel the vibration through your whole body, and it’s perfect, and the person just drops, just goes nighty-night,” he explained.
He wears Speedos in the ring, because he wants to “keep it old school,” and because it prevents opponents from finding any fabric to grab when he’s using his knees. “And the ladies love it,” he added.
He was raised on Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, loves classical ballet and the District, considers MMA “beautiful,” has previously used Mambo Sauce’s “Welcome to D.C.” as his entrance music, is a “Washington Redskins fan to the fullest,” and fights under the name “The Hulk,” because, he said, his body somehow swells up before fights.
“Everybody says it,” he told me. “I don’t know what it is, my legs and muscles get all big. My dad explains it really well, he says, ‘Man I look at you before the fight, yeah you’re looking all slim cut and ready, but then fight night you walk in there and you’re huge. Just swollen, like an over-sized pit bull or something.’ It’s wild.”