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Learning From A Loss: Brooke Mayo’s Bellator Debut

A lot of people enjoy watching fights, but don’t often think about the ramification around the fight. For the average person who enjoys a boxing or mixed martial artist bout it is as follow. Show up, hope for a knockout and leave with either a negative or positive feeling, typically based around the outcomes of the bouts and the amount of brutal punishment they witness.

The problem is this train of thought takes out the humanity from the sport, it turns the fighters into fictional video game characters competing in a fight with no emotion as well as recognition to the deterioration to their body as well as the lives.

In fact to watch a fight solely for what happens inside the ring or cage is seemingly boring, at times. It is all the other stuff, the human being elements, the fear of walking to the cage, family members watching from the crowd, that makes the bouts interesting and relatable to all walks of life. It signifies that these athletes are not just stone cold killers, emotionless coming out strictly to fight and then leave, but have human context and emotion in the midst of a trade they happen to be very good at.

Enter Concord, Ca’s Brooke Mayo, a graduate of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Ca, who saw success as collegiate athlete in soccer. Through a series of events, that I actually don’t know the full story on she found her way into MMA and became a professional fighter making her debut on the televised portion of Bellator 172 in San Jose, Ca.

The card in theory was going to be headlined by Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko making his return to the United States in professional competition after fighting in his native Russia for the past six years. The bout was scrapped 20 minutes before the doors opened to the general public as Matt Mitrione, Emelianenko’s opponent, was forced off the card with kidney stones that rendered him unable to compete. San Jose, CA native Josh Thomson would face Patricky “Pitbull” in the main event instead. A rather big letdown to a lot of the fans as Thomson, a very good fighter in the area, is not a mythical MMA figure who fights once in a generation seemingly such as Emelianenko.

Needless to say the feeling in the arena was different as international media outlets who voyaged out to see Fedor fight appeared to be looking at food options on Yelp as attentively as they observed most of the fights. 

Mayo was what in boxing you would call the swing bout, a bout that is placed between the major fights in case of a knockout to fill-up time for television with the main event scratched Mayo found herself front and center in the middle of a historic night as she walked to the ring to a popular top 40s song by Sister Nancy. Though Mayo knew she was fighting on television now she was the second fight of a four fight main card in the heart of the card.

Mayo’s opponent was not your typical opponent one would expect a young fighter making their debut to face. Veta Arteaga was a 3 fight professional with a winning record of 2-1 and her lone loss as a professional was against highly touted Bellator prospect Anastasia Yankova.

Arteagea had more experience then Mayo and was not a perineal loser in the cage as she has had a lot of confidence in her outings and had never been throughly beat in a mixed martial arts bout. For those that do not know, it is uncommon for most to make a pro debut against a decent opponent for the fact that you don’t know how a prospect will react in the cage and/or ring for the first time.

I could breakdown the fight, but it is rather arbitrary. Mayo started strong, Arteaga never panicked even when in spots that seemed the fight would be over at. It appeared that Arteaga had the better concept of distance on the feet, whereas Mayo was much more successful on the ground. That being said when I watched the fight I didn’t clearly see one person doing a lot more then another, it was competitive from start to finish.

The end of the bout was one that was gut-wrenching if you know Mayo since her eye had swollen up in the cage forcing legendary referee “Big” John McCarthy to call the doctor to observer her eye. The bout was quickly stopped with less then a minute left in the bout. In front of Mayo’s friends and family in the Bay Area, Mayo was taken away from the opportunity to find out if her work output was enough to pull off a victory for her debut.

It was one of those moments in which I wondered out loud “…if this was a dude in the same situation, would the referee have stopped it?” The injury was bad, but I once saw Mark Hominick fight looking like Chunk from the Goonies and no one questioned that. When Mayo who was pleading with the doctor for the fight to continue seemingly was being reassured by a doctor it was for safety. Afterwards, I was told from her team what I had thought in my head she would say, that being, she didn’t want to be protected.

It is a tough part of a male dominated world that is combat sports that no matter how much we want to look past gender lines, at the end of the day inherently most men are going to look to protect women, even if they’re fighters despite what the fighter says. It is the sad truth that a double standard will exist that if a women’s combat sports fight gets to bloody or gruesome, it will be halted whereas a fighter like Arturo Gotti would get the benefit of the doubt more often.

Nonetheless, that being said it was not a given Mayo would of beaten Arteaga on the cards as it was a close and competitive fight that seemed destined to go to a split decision. It just felt a tad bit harsh that she didn’t get the chance to fight the distance as she was in her hometown. Even worse was the erroneous reports, Mayo suffering a broken hematoma, which I confirmed afterwards was not the case.

After the fight it is always awkward when someone you have rapport suffers a loss. I tried to talk to the team afterwards, but the mood was grime.

Mayo’s professional debut was marred by a referee and doctor decision, something that will haunt a fighter as it wasn’t per say something they did wrong that cost them the bout, even though incidents leading up to that moment potentially created that moment, but it was someone else acting in “their best interest” causing them to lose.

Even worse in my opinion was the Cinderella story and naiveness from high-level media outlets who questioned Brooke Mayo’s professional debut being televised despite Keri Anne Melendez making a professional debut in Bellator’s last outing in San Jose, Ca. The general consensus I got from those who travel city to city on the MMA beat was of utter confusion in terms of the bout being on the main card and then shock and disbelief when it turned out to be a good fight. In fact the fight did so well that “Brooke Mayo” was a trending topic on Twitter in the San Francisco Bay Area, not an easy feat.

This was with little to no media coverage leading up to the fight.

The other ugly side of fight sports as a whole is “the meme culture” especially in the Donald Trump era. It seems nowadays people are more worried about their own civil liberties as opposed to violating others and a slew of tacky photos surfaced showing Mayo and her swollen eye sometimes mocking the fighter. As I wrote prior, but will state again, the harshest reality of fighting is it is only you – so you either accept all the glory or suffer all the agony and to witness a bunch of tired and trite jokes at the expense of a young fighter was bothersome especially after such an odd defeat. 

Afterwards, I meet up with Mayo and her team who took to a local establishment to eat pizza. The simple humanity of even after a loss seeing herself, her boyfriend Nick Pica, her coach Dan Black along with his wife, sitting in the back of dingy pizza parlor about 7 miles from the venue eating pizza was a meaningful as any part of the fight. Neither Mayo nor Arteaga attended the post-fight press conference, despite being a fight of the year type of fight. 

Mayo is a fighter, she wants to fight. Mayo will not back down and will not make excuses if she had of lost, I believe she would of accepted it, but to have it taken out of your hands by bureaucratic felt unfair. 

It was an accumulation of every single thing she had worked for athletically leading to a debut on a major television network, Spike TV, only to be halted in the middle of a striking exchange when no punches were thrown to have the bout stopped.

So why I mainly wrote this beyond just talking about Brooke Mayo’s fight is for future writers and pundits of all levels. Be thoughtful and observant of those you write upon, don’t just rush to conclusion or base opinions off assumption. If you are unfamiliar with a fighter go to YouTube, read about them a bit, do something, because their life is at stake literally and figuratively and to belittle or dumb down the achievements one makes by doing battle on national television is tough, let alone if it is your first time fighting on that platform.

I think we have too many critics nowadays, too many comedians, yet not enough insightful thought provoking dialogue whether it is in the fight game, which is probably a reflection of the world at large.

This fight as a whole outlined that.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle