HAIL HAIL FORUM OF FORUM BOOMERS GOT A TALE TO TELL!!
And as all tales do, this one must come to an end. I find myself in Afghanistan again, working in concrete buildings with no windows .. 12 to 14 hours a day .. many days not seeing the sun.
Yesterday I read my buddy matt was moving into a new season of his life. I needed some air so I went to get a hair cut. As I ventured out into the daylight with the living .. the sun touched my face I hissed .. It burns us … precious. A new Army unit was coming in, so the muddy, snow covered walk way was teaming with new faces. God … these kids look so young. Then it got me thinking, I've been out of the Marine Corps for 10 years. I did my first deployment as a DoD civilian the year I got out. I was 28 at the time. Where had time gone? If I could have chosen a path in life … this certainly wouldn't have been it. It very well chose me, to an extent. The Lord put me in an environment where my natural inclinations flourished, and that drove my life to where I am now, I've made a lot of mistakes, done a few things right, and met some great people along the way.
You can take that above paragraph, tweak it in a few spots and that would also be a very true statement for matt. Studying to be an electrician, helping to coach wrestling at a local college .. took a fight for $100 and life drove him to be one of the most respected and undisputed world famous mixed martial artist in the UFC. If I were a betting man (cough cough) I wouldn't have put anything on Boomer, a guy who loves the arts, craves karaoke, hyperventilates at buffets and has no natural athletic inclination to speak of become friends with a farmer, who likes to hunt, eats 5 almonds for dinner when cutting weight and destroys opponents inside a 30' cage. But as the path the Lord put me on crossed his, I have to say I am grateful and humbled at the opportunity to get to know the man that recently announced his retirement.
One of the downfalls of our society is the sense of community has been almost utterly destroyed. The pursuit of the American dream in many cases has turned into do whatever you have to do to glorify and lift up yourself. Climb the corporate ladder, step on people, lie, cheat, do whatever you have to do to make yourself the center of something. I see it everyday in the politically charged environment I work in. matt had /has every opportunity to be all these negative things with his fame, but has managed to keep himself centered in a very polarized world. One of the main nets that drew me into matt as a friend was his humility and focus on what was important to him in life. He never wanted to be the center of anything from my perspective. He never said something he didn't mean, and didn't change who he was just because a camera was around. In America if you cater the public as so not to offend, the masses offer their “love” to you for thinking they way they want you to think. matt was content with the love he had at home, the friends around him who helped him build this life and his walk with God. If any of that offended someone, oh well. Of course that caused him to be extremely controversial in the public’s eye. How dare he not cater to someone for their support, doesn't he know they can use the internet?!? hehe
In this final tale, I'd like to recount the first time I saw matt fight. You never know what small moment will grow into a big part of your life.
As mentioned above I have never been an athlete. 5th and 6th grade I played two years of soccer, lost every game. 7th and 8th grade I played two years of football. Lost every game. Those being very formative years you look for things that will anchor you to some form of identity. With four years of loosing after all that practice and pain … I joined choir and took home a few medals in my first solo competition. Suck it sports. I can win on my own AND eat all the Ice Cream I want. I did like MMA though. My first exposure was in the Corps. A buddy of mine had a VHS tape of some of the now classic UFC fights. I was interested. As a matter of fact I loved it. I think this was the only time in my life that I regretted not being younger. I would love to train for this I thought. Soon after I got out of the Corps and got my job at the National Ground Intelligence Center in Virginia. I had some roommates and one of them was really into pro wrestling. I would watch it with him on Spike, and then the first season of the ultimate fighter came on right after. I stayed up and got really into that first season. So into it .. the week before the final show .. I got tickets to UFC 52 to root for Randy Couture (fighting Chuck) and to root for Forest. Matt was on the card but I didn't know who he was. I didn't know that this was his second fight against Trigg.
If there was one word to describe what sets me off is injustice. If I see something unjust .. I will throw myself in front of a train if that would bring some semblance of justice to the situation. I was sitting in the nose bleed seats at 52 .. eating a hotdog and had a beer. I saw matt get hit right in the junk and looked to the ref for a call. No call .. what?? Trigg drives him to the fence. I'm mad .. so I decide to eat my hotdog to console myself. I take a big bite, start to take a drink of my beer, I look up and OH MY GOD!! matt had picked Trigg up over his should. … OH MY GOD .. he's walking him across the cage … OH OH OH MY GOD .. HE JUST SLAMMED HIM INTO THE CAGE FLOOR!! I stood up … yelled and screamed .. spilled my beer and peed a little! JUSTICE!!!!!! Glorious … I had to find out who this guy was.
From there I got on his website, became a mod on matt's forum and the rest is history.
From the forum, I have made some life long friends. Nate, Neezar, Tyburn, TexasRN, Llamafighter, VCURamFan, SteveT, Sender, Jeff Crow, Bonnie, Flo, Silverback, Play the Man, Tennessean, Doc T, octagon junkie , philips4 , CountyMike, Crisco, Dawn, Chuck .. I know there are many many others .. to many to name, but you guys have been my virtual family when I was out in some of the worst places in the world. You made me laugh, think, roll my eyes and challenge me. We've shared experiences in births, marriages, divorce, job searches, college graduating, sicknesses, moves, matt's gym opening, bonfires, oversea adventures … well .. we've shared life. This is my first deployment that I really haven't had you guys and I miss it dearly.
I've also made some great friends in matt's camp.
Matt Pena .. my Marine brother and someone who you want in your corner. If I ever had to go to war ..(well besides the war Im currently sitting in) I'd want him in my foxhole. His sense of loyalty is unmatched and anyone who can call him friend is blessed.
Robbie Lawler – Has the most infectious laugh I've ever heard and he finds a lot to laugh about. He is also one of the most intelligent people I think I've met. He can be quite in crowds, but takes in a lot. He is pretty private and doesn't let just anyone into his life, but when he does .. he is one of those people you can just be around because you know you'll laugh, or have a good conversation … very few people in life I would say I wished they'd live closer so we could hang out more. He is one.
Jeremy Horn – Also extremely intelligent. If the Big Bang Theory every needed to add a character to spice the show up, he would be the perfect candidate. In talking with him, he often says he doesn't like people … but I see it different. I see him take care of matt or his fighters like none other before, during, and after a show. But, he see's levels in people that many miss. He doesn't like rudeness, pride or ignorance from what i've seen, (which does weed out a lot of people) and will tell you if he thinks you fall into those categories, but he is someone you can most certainly depend on and want on your side. All that and he is crazy talented …
You know the old proverb, Like attracts like. I've been so blessed to have met these men through matt and to know all of you in the forum. matt's career was the nucleus that drew all these elements into my life.
Some of my best memories with matt include driving with him to finish shooting a hunting show, working with him and mark at a cook off in the center of Hillsboro, working to lay mats for the opening of his gym, praying with him before his fights, walking with him to the octagon in Abu Dhabi, setting up after-parties, going to the movies or out to eat, traveling to London … working my schedule to leave Afghanistan in 2009 to watch him fight Serra, him calling me up and telling me he was being inducted into the hall of fame and wanted me to meet him in Vegas. And me beating him in a bet .... (future memory after I sell a lung to pay you off)
So many good memories around a career that is now retired.
That is the way of it. I'm a little sad, I enjoyed helping him out fight week and being with his corner and his fans. But I am mostly happy. You build on life. People who want fame and fortune often don't get it or hold onto it because the relationships they made and the actions they took didn't produce anything solid to build off of. But for matt, I know that from the relationships he's invested in, from the loyalty he's had to the UFC and Dana, and from his relationship with God .. what he has to build off of will lead this next season into something better than the last.
Much love for you buddy and God bless this next season of your life. I know “retirement” is a hard word to take so don't think of it as that. Think of it as being promoted.
To all my forum family … the tales have been fun.
Keep writing your own and be sure I make my way into them every once in awhile.