Jason Day’s Creative Destruction

By John Lee Jun 5, 2008
Eddie Bravo made good on his promise.

The innovator of the rubber guard was so impressed with Jason Day (Pictures)'s use of the technique against Alan Belcher (Pictures) at UFC 83, he offered to send the Canadian middleweight his instructional DVDs.

Day had been surprised to meet Bravo after the fight and surprised again when the DVDs actually arrived. Of course he had ingeniously applied the rubber guard to ensnare Belcher and rip a series of vicious elbows off his back en route to victory.

Bravo's keen interest in Day arouses the suspicion that what the fighter did that night may have been something special.

Perhaps it was a moment of "creative destruction" that leads to a revolution in the dominant mode of fighting. Under the unified rules system, ground-and-pound from the top position -- no matter how lumbering -- invariably sways the judges despite furious action from the bottom. Day's performance, however, may have laid out a blueprint for scoring a 10-9 round off one's back.

Then again, as Susan Sontag observes, interpretation may be the revenge of the intellect on art -- in this case, mixed martial arts. For Day, the move, which he had picked up from an old friend only a few weeks before the fight, wasn't a stylized technique but rather something more fluid and spontaneous.

"When I got him in the rubber guard," explained Day, "his head was right there; it had a big target on it. And I just wanted to elbow the crap out of his head. … It wasn't even something I really practiced or anything."

"Get up! Get up!" Belcher's corner screamed.

But Day was equally lethal on the feet. He used a dirty-boxing clinch to land debilitating elbows to Belcher's temple and heavy hands to finish him off.

In his UFC debut, Day had showcased an array of skills that he seemed to ply with near-musical improvisation. In his match Saturday at UFC 85 with England's Michael Bisping (Pictures), though, Day is looking to do one thing: stand and bang.

"I'm going to go in and bang with him," said Day menacingly, the rising emotions in his voice palpable. "He said he wants a guy to stand with him, and I'll stand with him. If he gives me the takedown, I'll take it. But I'm not going to go in there and try to shoot or try to force the takedown when it's not there."

In what is a well-documented story, Day had actually called out Bisping prior to the cancellation of the original bout between Bisping and Chris Leben (Pictures). That's not to say, however, that Day is disrespectful of his opponent. In fact, the very reason he wanted to face Bisping was because he held the Englishman in such high regard.

"I think he's a very tough fighter and I think he'll provide me with a good war," Day complimented. "He's not going to roll over. I'm going to have to fight twice as hard as I did against Belcher and hit him twice as many times before he's going to give up."

Ken Seaman, Day's strength and conditioning coach, has been subjecting his fighter to a tortuous plyometrics regimen.

"We'll take him through rounds going from treadmill sprints into boxing for two minutes, back to the treadmill, then to the ground for two minutes with a specific partner, and then back to the treadmill, then back to wrestling," Seaman said. "And then he'll rest."

The coach, who has been working with Day since his bout with David Loiseau (Pictures), told Sherdog.com that fans can expect to see faster hand movement and improved explosiveness from his fighter.

"Hopefully his training will be the hardest thing he'll have to face, eh?" said Seaman before bellowing a mischievous laugh.

Apart from conditioning, Seaman believes it will be Day's mental toughness that will give him an additional edge in the fight.

"The biggest thing with Jay is now mentally knowing that he can go all three rounds," Seaman said. "The pace that I push him after those sprints and everything else, he never breaks. … For him to know that he can go through the type of training we put him through, I think that's going to be the biggest tool -- to have that mentally. He'll know he'll never break."

Day also knows a win over a well-marketed fighter like Bisping could catapult him in the rankings and garner attention from a wider fan base, especially if he manages to stop Bisping, who has never been put down.

"To finish a guy that's never been finished is huge, I think," Day said. "If I go into London and finish him, that builds my name even faster."

Despite having fought professionally for more than eight years now, it is clear that Day remains hungry. He was first introduced to MMA while working as a doorman at the "Road House," a fitting backdrop that conjures up the seedy, smoked-filled setting of the 1980s Patrick Swayze flick.

The head doorman, Lee Mein (Pictures) -- who also ran the budding Canadian Martial Arts Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta -- suggested Day give MMA a try after watching him carry himself well during the bar scuffles.

Today the gym is fast becoming a hotbed for MMA in the Prairies, breeding tough fighters like Day, Jared Kilkenny (Pictures), Dan Chambers (Pictures) and Jordan Mein. But Day's childhood friends from his small hometown of Fort Macleod still have a hard time imagining their soft-spoken friend as a prizefighter.

"I get messages from people I knew in high school," said Day with a laugh, "and they're like ‘You're a fighter? I never would have guessed!'"

Ask him about the scraps he got into when he was younger and he'll have to dig all the way back to grade school.

"I think I was in grade four or five," he recalled. "I don't even remember what the reason was. All I remember was getting whacked by this kid and just crying and crying. That was as close as I got to a fight. … I was never, ever the kid that got into fights. I never started stuff."

Day's childhood reveals that it doesn't necessarily take a harsh upbringing or a bellicose personality to become a fighter. If anything, it is the blue-collar work ethic ingrained in him by his father that has helped him excel in the sport. A self-professed workaholic, Day will wake up at six in the morning, go to work, do his strength and conditioning in the early afternoon, go back to work and return for another session.

Those close to him say he is a bona fide celebrity in the small city of Lethbridge. But Day remains unassuming, and often he can be seen walking around with his hard hat on. With the rugged look of a lumberjack, Day represents the Canadian everyman and takes pride in being able to represent his country overseas.

"There's not another Canadian on that card," he said of UFC 85. "When I was here in Canada, we had a bunch of Canadians fighting and it was nuts having that many people cheer for you. Now you have to go to England, and I'm the bad guy this time around. To be able to go in there and be the only guy representing my country is a pretty big deal."

While Day may be in hostile territory Saturday, Canadians will no doubt be watching and supporting him in spirit. An American jiu-jitsu artist named Bravo will probably be watching, too, waiting perhaps on another instance of innovation.
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