Can you imagine how cool it would be to be a ten-year-old kid competing in a jiu-jitsu match in front of hundreds of spectators mere hours before stars like Marcus “Buchecha” and Lyoto Machida compete on the very same stage? Oh, and thats after Bruce Buffer announces your name UFC-style for everyone to hear!
For the competitors at Saturdays Submit Cancer event in Denver, Colorado, that wasnt just a dream – it was reality. and Fight to Win Pro worked together to put on a show that wasnt just a mind-blowing experience for those who love jiu-jitsu, but also incredibly successful at achieving its primary goal: raising a lot of money for Childrens Hospital Colorado.
From the moment you walked into the venue, you could tell that this was no ordinary jiu-jitsu event. The F2W team worked their usual magic in a way that was downsized from their usual events, but still nothing short of epic. The stage was huge, the lights were dazzling, and the atmosphere was thick with excitement.
Once you tore your eyes away from the area where all the action was taking place, you had the opportunity to get a free (and delicious) dinner from the food trucks outside. You could even eat it with a glass of wine from one of the drink tables inside the MusclePharm headquarters.
There was a silent auction for anyone who wanted to own some seriously cool stuff signed by some of the worlds top athletes, and at 5 pm, the stars of Submit Cancer sat down to sign autographs for anyone who wanted them.
Considering the fact that tickets went for as little as $50, with all the proceeds going to help kids fighting cancer, you really couldnt ask for more.
MusclePharm and F2W worked together to fill the card with outstanding and diverse athletes. Submit Cancer began with the kids bracket, with jiu-jitsu practitioners as young as eight walking out to flashing lights and their favorite pump-up song. But these werent your average eight-year-olds. They already proved themselves in previous Fight to Win Pro tournaments, and though they be but little, they were fierce. These little fighters knew their stuff, and their matches were just as intense as many of the adults.
As the night continued, the competing athletes progressed in age and experience. A special exhibition match featuring MusclePharms CEO Ryan Drexler – who is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu himself – and UFC fighter Neil Magny came before a moving speech by Drexler, who spoke about the importance of the event in raising both awareness and money for those who are fighting a much harder battle than the ones we were seeing on the stage.
Drexler and Magnys fight was the first of the nights most anticipated events. Black belts Peter Straub and Scott Epstein fought to a draw, with Straub fighting off leglocks – that made the audience collectively gasp in fear – and Epstein somehow battling through a choke attempt that would have put a lesser fighter right to sleep.
Machida and Jake Shields were next up on the stage. Just about everyone in the audience (including me) had only seen these two black belts showcase their skills in a mixed martial arts context, so seeing them forgo all striking to battle it out on the ground was a rare and awesome experience. Although Machida fought off a choke and heel hook attempt from Shields and was able to control him in his closed guard for a while, he eventually tapped to a heel hook.
The main event of the evening saw Marcus Buchecha Almeida and Eliot The Fire Marshall step onto the stage serenaded by the loudest cheers of the night. Buchechas very presence put electricity in the air that had nothing to do with all the lights and cameras. He was calm, collected, and radiating confidence. Marshall walked out with his adorable young son, showing everyone what those who know him already knew: he may be a total badass, but at his core, hes a down-to-Earth family man.
Marshall and Buchecha put on an intense and technical show that showed exactly why these fighters have had such successful jiu-jitsu careers. But Buchecha isnt the superstar he is for nothing. After scoring a takedown against Marshall and passing his guard, he put his opponent in a reverse triangle and secured his victory.
By the time it was all over, over $60,000 had been raised for Childrens Hospital Colorado, and everyone left the building with words of excitement pouring from their mouths. The entire show was enough to leave anyone with stars in their eyes, whether or not they live and breathe jiu-jitsu. As a proud jiu-jitsu nerd (and unabashed Lyoto Machida fangirl), this was easily one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and I have my fingers crossed that MusclePharm and F2W will be teaming up again in the future to create more events like this that can save lives while also giving jiu-jitsu the love it deserves.