Fraternizing, Giant Puddle Dominate Impact FC Presser

By Jordan Breen Jul 8, 2010
BRISBANE, Australia -- What is the point of a press conference that no one wants to be at? For upstart Impact FC, it appears to be robust if unintentional entertainment.

The fledgling promotion will host its first card Saturday night in Brisbane, Australia, headlined by a meeting between former UFC champion Josh Barnett and Brazilian brawler Geronimo "Mondragon" dos Santos. Thursday, it welcomed the local media to Brisbane hotel Urban for a perfunctory press junket that quickly morphed into a disjointed, bizarre but highly amusing gathering.

The presser was set for an 11 a.m. start in a function space called The Loft, an art deco-inspired room far more apt for an afterparty than a presser despite a quaint 10th- floor view of Brisbane's city skyline. However, the early minutes of the meeting were dominated by promoter Thomas Huggins and the aforementioned Barnett regaling the room with peripheral MMA tales.

Topics du jour: Rafeal "Earthquake" Carino, a Brazilian goliath of the NHB era; UFC 5 veteran Andy Anderson's drinking prowess and topless steakhouses; Huggins' decade-old conversation with John Lewis as to how to best fight a mummy, werewolf and Frankenstein; and Barnett's insistence that fellow fighter Karo Parisyan play up Armenian stereotypes for his ring entrance, urging him to support "that real Glendale look."

It may seem like negligible icebreaking banter, but it gets to a realer truth: Huggins' real passion is in this kind of fraternizing. After the presser officially "started" at 11:17 a.m., Huggins spent most of the 50-some-minute junket with his arms folded over his chest, seemingly like he would rather be anywhere else, even outright admitting his distaste for "media stuff."

The previous day, in a hotel hallway, he told me, "There's a presser tomorrow, for the local media. I don't really want to do it, but you know. I just care about my fights." When he said "my fights," he rubbed his hands together like a zealous child or mad scientist, full of genuine enthusiasm.

Three local media members rattled off perfunctory questions for all the main card fighters. As usual, Barnett charmed, despite boredly picking at his gray Pancrase wristband throughout. Dos Santos stretched his gargantuan blue Asics sneakers from under the dais halfway across the floor, staring blankly at them. Though Barnett and Dos Santos did talk relevant shop -- Barnett said he’s training at local Integrated Martial Arts, home of the likes of Kyle Noke and Adrian Pang among others, while "Mondragon" noted this was his first fight in which he got his hulking frame under 265 pounds -- the real meat of the event was on the periphery.

"How is it that you got all these great fighters together?" a local reporter asked Huggins.

"He has the money," shouted a deadpan Parisyan from the audience.

Parisyan was originally set to take on tough Brazilian Luis "Besouro" Dutra, who was forced off the card due to separating his bicep. The UFC veteran will now face local Ben Mortimer. However, while on the dais, most of his squaring off came with Barnett, who was perhaps the most active reporter at the event, accounting for what seemed like half of the questions posed to fighters.

"Have you been doing any randori to prepare? Working on your reaps? You ever throw on the old do-gi?" Barnett chided.

The event at this point had been firmly hijacked by the sideline hijinks. Mortimer also knocked over a pitcher of water, unleashing a massive puddle across the floor that was never cleaned up and slowly but silently spread over the room during the presser.

Meanwhile, the card's Brazilian contingent -- Dos Santos, Urbitran "Birao" Lima Mariho, Thiago "Minu" Meller and Joaquim "Mamute" Ferreira -- all struck up conversations in Portuguese with fluent cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran, in town to work Barnett's corner. As fighters blandly droned into microphones, the Brazilians all posed for pictures with "Stitch," who seemed like a superstar to them.

The puddle of water continued to hungrily devour the tile floor.

The Australian media were keen to ask about sporting crossover: Former UFC champion Carlos Newton was asked about the recent State of Origin, the nation's most beloved rugby league competition, while Ferreira was asked why Brazil's national side lost at the World Cup.

"DUNGA!" Ferreira exploded before his manager and translator Tiago Okamura even finished translating the question. "Dunga took the team down!" he added, giving the former Brazilian coach a literal thumbs down. As the soccer conversation went on, an anxious Parisyan drummed loudly on his thighs before standing up and saying quietly, "I can't sit down, man."

When Ferreira's opponent, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, spoke, it was again Barnett who took the media reins.

"Your background is in judo, but you prefer to use your muay Thai in fights," Barnett earnestly inquired. "Why do you not use the skills you've worked on your whole life?"

"Well, with fighters like Arona or Nogueira, if I throw them, they'll submit me. That's why I focus on striking, what I love to do," Sokoudjou explained. "With judo, you just throw, there's not so much ground game."

"Not exactly, but whatever," the roaming Parisyan interjected from the back of the room. The room fell silent. With no response, Parisyan rolled his eyes to discredit the Cameroonian, whom he actually beat in judo competition nearly a decade ago. Parisyan continued his stroll around the room before settling on the couch next to me.

"What are you writing?" he asked.

"I'm writing about you walking around, rolling your eyes," I smiled.

"What? Really?" he said. "I didn't do anything wrong, did I?" He seemed genuinely concerned by the prospect, as well as the thought that my hair could "poke his eye out."

Huggins delivered the news that the hand injury of Felise Leniu and illness of Brad Morris left Bira Lima and Jeff Monson without opponents, and that they would now fight each other. However, the announcement seemed to fall on deaf ears: The noon hour sun was glaring through the massive, uncovered windows, and the room was growing restless. There were six cell phone rings. Sokoudjou left and re-entered the room no less than five times in a 15-minute span. The Brazilians took 56 photo albums’ worth of pictures. The puddle Ben Mortimer authored earlier had now spanned the entire floor under the table. Brazilian manager Tiago Okamura impatiently tapped his foot, waiting for the event to end, quietly splashing water under his shoe.

"It's attacking us!" someone in the front row of the audience seats jokingly gasped as the puddle surged toward them.

One can only hope Saturday night at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre is as action-packed.
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