Evicting Ring Girls (and Other Cage-Side Thoughts)

Evicting Ring Girls (and Other Cage-Side Thoughts)

Recently, Panda Nation fighter Khama Worthy won another pro bout, taking home a well-deserved championship belt for the Pennsylvania MMA Organization 247. Before the fight, though, we had a problem in the corner.

The seats sucked.

The three of us were staring directly into cage posts and padding. We couldn’t see anything in the cage. Granted, cage-side corner seats are often not the greatest. Being down-low against the fence means that if the fighters turn you often can’t see crucial details like who has an underhook, but this was absurd.

So, we scooted down into empty seats along the cage.

One of the judges looked over to us and said, “The ring girl is sitting here.” He motioned his head toward the woman walking around the skirt of the cage with the Round 1 card above her head.

Our boxing coach replied, “Not anymore.”

And when the ring girl returned, she had to find a new seat (she was fine).

For me, these kinds of moments are what make working in MMA special. And no, I don’t mean the part about bullying a ring girl. What is more important to me is the part where three guys working a corner knew instinctively that we would not be able to do our part as corners if we accepted the seats we were given. That seems small, but kicking a person out of their seat is pretty out of character for any of us. I’m the kind of guy who will go sleep on the couch if my dog is on the bed and looks comfortable. I am also the kind of guy who will eat a meal I didn’t want rather than tell the waiter he got my order wrong.

But in the moment where you are fully invested in helping someone else succeed, a different part of you can come alive.

I don’t think that we get (or take) enough of those kinds of opportunities in our normal lives, and I love that jiu-jitsu makes those experiences because it opens the door to a new kind of self-awareness.

I think it’s good for us to spend several weeks helping someone else get ready for a fight. In serving someone else, we have to expand our own horizons and think more deeply about how to use our knowledge to move someone else forward.

I think it’s good for us to coach and corner. Even if that responsibility does not go beyond yelling from the corner of a mat during a local jiu-jitsu tournament, the ability to mentally insert ourselves into the problems a training partner is facing—and then offer worthwhile advice—is a meaningful skill.

I think it’s good for us to learn the emotional intelligence of recognizing what others need during stressful, high-pressure moments. Where Khama needs to be pushed in the gym and coached from his corner, other fighters need more encouragement and positive visualization in the warm-up immediately prior to the fight (Khama mostly sleeps).

When we stay active in jiu-jitsu, we are more likely to have these kinds of life experiences. No, I don’t believe that just training will make you a better person, but if you look for opportunities to challenge yourself beyond learning technique and beyond getting in shape, you can find new ways to grow.