"Let's ... find ... that ... waterfall."
The softly spoken words came not in a serene nature setting, the chirping from treetops the only sounds breaking the reverent silence. No, this meditation retreat was taking place in front of 16,344 worshippers at a thunderous cathedral in Denver called the Pepsi Center. It was the main event of last Saturday night's UFC 135. Jon Jones had just spent five minutes setting a dominant tone, and now the light heavyweight champion was in his corner, sitting on a stool in front of trainer/guru Greg Jackson.
After slowly intoning the "waterfall" line, Jackson paused for a couple of beats to do nothing but look into his fighter's eyes and watch him breathe. This was how he was choosing to begin the scant 60 seconds that trainers are allotted between rounds to fill their fighter's skulls with instructions for the next five minutes?
Across the octagon, Quinton Jackson's corner was an ambiance radiating with far greater urgency. As "Rampage" sat breathing a bit more heavily than "Bones," he was being bombarded by three shrill voices. "THE FIGHT IS SIMPLE," bellowed one cornerman from just outside the cage, his face pressed up against the chain links just behind Jackson's right ear.
Inside with Quinton and leaning in toward the fighter's left ear, another member of the team was insisting, "Youcanwrestlewiththiscat," squeezing in his words just before being interrupted by the third cornerman, crouched right in front of Jackson's face. His unrelenting tone and English accent made him hard to understand, even by those who'd not just been punched and kicked for five minutes. "Blah blah is the important thing," he said as Rampage's face became washed over by a look that cried out, "I wish I were in my quiet place."
So in one corner the Who's Quadrophenia was blaring, and in the other it was the mindful quietude of John Cage's 4'33".
Watching this contrast unfold, it was reasonable to conclude that, as physically gifted as Jon Jones is, the mental massages he received between rounds were no less important factors in his successful first title defense. If you're a boxing fan, you see much the same during breaks in a Manny Pacquiao fight, with trainer Freddie Roach coolly delivering a few bits of strategy wrapped around a 60-second spa treatment. Even spectators at one of these fighters' bouts can't help but soak in the stillness and focus.
"That was an amazing round," Greg Jackson slowly told Bones when he finally resumed talking. "Now calm down."
If there were a low point of UFC 135, it was another of those annoyingly tiresome self-promotional interviews. Not the ones fight promotion president Dana White always does with TV analyst and BFF Joe Rogan at the end of the Spike prelims, selling the evening's pay-per-view. No, the Q&A of which I disdainfully speak was selling nothing but a straight-to-video action movie actor, as it always is whenever AOL sticks a microphone in front of the guy and his bloated ego backstage at a UFC event. So as not to further inflate that ego, the blowhard will remain nameless here, even though Jon Jones talked about him at the post-fight press conference.
Jones apparently had received a call from the guy, who wanted to visit him on fight night to sprinkle some of his martial arts fairy dust. Now, that's quite an appealing offer, considering that this is the sage who taught MMA's pound-for-pound king, Anderson Silva, everything he knows. But Jones declined. "I didn't think that would be a good idea, you know?" he said. "My training staff works very hard on me and I'm their prodigy, and I wouldn't want to disrespect them by welcoming someone else's master into our room, into our house, into our family."
Jones' best performance of the night might have been in managing to apply the word master to this guy without cracking a smile. (Sorry, by the way, if me not naming the actor/sensei leaves you in the dark, but better that than to give the buffoon the publicity he and his gasping-for-air career are so desperately seeking.)
But what about the interview? What did the "master" say? Well, after witnessing Jones dismantling Jackson in as one-sided a performance as you'll see in a title defense -- despite not having had his pre-fight guidance -- the guy self-servingly opined, "Jon Jones wasn't himself tonight." And after watching Jackson land all of 10 punches while being peppered with fists, elbows, knees and feet for 16 minutes, he insisted, "I was more impressed by Rampage." All because "Bones" wouldn't allow him in the dressing room? That's sad.
Said sad actor did, by the way, see the Jones submission coming, even though Rampage hadn't been subbed in his last 29 fights over 10 years. Really?
"Oh, yeah," he said, smarmily. "I have a pretty good eye."
Yeah, the same good eye that thought Under Siege 2 was a great script.
A few other lingering images from the weekend's fights:
• Watching 37-year-old Matt Hughes make his way to the Octagon, accompanied not just by longtime teammates Robbie Lawler and Jeremy Horn but also by former trainer Pat Miletich, it looked like the last scene of a buddy flick, with all of the characters brought together one last time. But after being KO'd by Josh Koscheck with one second left in the first round, Hughes would only say he's going to "ask the UFC to put me on the shelf for a while." Later, Dana White interpreted: "I think he's going to retire. I just don't think Hughes wants to say the word retire."
• Nate Diaz had quite a struggle on his hands. First he tried it one way, then backed off, then got all twisted up before reversing direction and finally getting the job done. I'm not talking about his fight with Takanori Gomi, whom he picked apart in the striking game before wrapping up a quick submission once they hit the mat. That was the easy part. The hard part was putting on his T-shirt in time to give his sponsor some TV exposure during his post-fight interview. A fighter's got to do what a fighter's got to do.
• Largely unnoticed outside the spotlight of UFC 135 was a little drama unfolding at Saturday night's Bellator 51 event in Canton, Ohio, where featherweight champion Joe Warren began his bid to also capture the promotion's bantamweight belt. That bid lasted 1 minute, 4 seconds, the time it took unbeaten Alexis Vila to lay out Warren with a counter left hook that advanced the Cuban to the tournament semifinals. It was quite the explosive ending to what was billed as an elite wrestling showdown, with Warren being the 2006 Greco-Roman world champion and Vila a two-time freestyle world champ and 1996 Olympic bronze medalist. But the 40-year-old Vila (10-0) has now knocked out six straight opponents.