2013 – The Year in Review – Real Fighters Gym
Over the last several years I have tried to make a end of year blog or facebook note recapping the year. It is always interesting to take a look back. The years seem to fly by and for some reason when I look back at the end of each year it reminds me how much actually happened! I have actually been working on this since before the new year and I just could not bring myself to finish it. This year amidst all the amazing trips and fights the sport lost a real legend with the unexpected passing of Ramon Dekkers. Ramon Dekkers was one of the biggest driving forces of making Muay Thai a truly international affair. It was his performances in Thailand and around the globe that ignited the spark that dives many of us in the game today. He was also my friend. I first met Ramon Dekkers when I was 19 years old. I traveled to Breda, Holland to train at his gym. I had been infatuated with his fighting style after being introduced to a video of him knocking out Coban in Lumpinee Stadium. In the early 90s I had linked up with Steve Armstrong in Texas. Steve had ran classified ads in the back of boxing magazines for copies of his vast collection of fight VHS tapes for sale. I had called him and he had lots of videos of the fighters I knew of then and wanted to watch! Around my second order he told me he was throwing in one free tape of fights he thought I may enjoy and the first fight on that tape was Ramon vs. Coban. I must have watched that fight 2000 in the days after receiving it. I called him and told him to send me everything he had on this guy. That also sent me on a mission to collect as many of his fights as I could from collectors in Europe and Japan. In a few short years Steve and I had amassed around 100 of his fights. That search led me on a mission to make contact with Ramon Dekkers and through Bob Wall (of Enter the Dragon fame), who was then managing several American kickboxers such as Dennis Alexio, I reached Clovis Depretz. Clovis was the former manager of Rob Kaman. Clovis introdced me by fax to Cor Hemmers. Cor, as most know, is Ramon’s step father and his coach through out his career. Cor sent me a fax asking how could he help me? I responded that I had one amateur fight, I had lost by decision, I loved in a city with no Kickboxing or Muay Thai and I wanted to come to Holland and begin to learn their system. Cor responded when will you be here? The next day I purchased a plane ticket.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Ramon. I had just arrived to Breda and we all went out to have dinner in the city and Ramon was going to meet us. When he walked in and sat next to me I was scared to say anything to him and he barely said anything to me. I remember thinking that I thought he would be bigger. Ramon ate and left before the rest of us and the entire experience was so surreal. The days that followed I would get to know Ramon better and he actually stated to ask me to hang out a bit. One story I have not shared too much from that first trip was a night out he took me to play snooker. We had some drinks, I am a certified lightweight and one drink I was tipsy, he had a few and just became silly as can be. On our taxi ride back to the apartment he nudged my arm and I looked over at him and he nodded his head as if giving me a secret signal. I of course, had no idea what the signal meant. At he next stop sign Ramon popped open the door and ran away. I sat there stunned looked up and the diver turned to me. I panicked and jumped out of my side and an into some bushes. The taxi driver just drove away. No fuss. Ramon then came out and I came out and we walked the rest of the way. He was laughing so hard. As soon as he calmed down he told me it was stupid really. In the morning he would have to go pay the guy because everyone knew who he was in Breda. I have so many hilarious stories from over the years that I will share through future blogs.
In the years that followed that trip I returned a lot. I also helped bring Ramon and Cor and other fighters from Breda to the states. Over the years we had a lot of adventures, I had him to my city. I took my now wife, to train in Breda in 2007. He was ringside for one of her fights in Holland too. We did seminars and I was lucky enough to help him with the MoCap session for the Muay Thai video game that is now in production. I must have asked him a million questions over the years and some we elaborate answers and some were so short I was left wondering if he had actually given me an answer at all. We would skype an more recently What’s APP and for me the saddest part of his untimely passing is that he was beginning to find who he was. It’s not easy being an icon in your sport. Lots of people want a piece of you and not everyone has the best of intentions. Post fighting Ramon was trying to find where he belonged in the world. And in the last few yeas he was really starting to become his own person.
Ramon Dekkers is a legend. He was a family man. He was my friend. I had the opportunity to tell him once how much he influenced my life, how much of who I am today is because of my experiences with him and Cor and where that journey led me. I’m so thankful that I took the chance to tell him those things. Ramon’s passing while very sad, is a reminder that life is not guaranteed. Those that seem invincible today can be taken tomorrow. Ramon Dekkers had more life to live but even being struck down far too early he lived his life to the fullest. We should all strive to live our own dreams and not put off to tomorrow those efforts. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
This is Ramon Dekkers vs Coban from Lumpinee Stadium. It was their second meeting. Coban had won by KO in their first match in France. This fight literally changed the direction of my fight career.
Aside from the loss of a sports icon the year 2013 was very good for me and Real Fighters Gym. In fact, it was a very good year for kickboxing. In 2012 a new Kickboxing company asked me if my management company could suggest some talents for events in Europe. Those event s became GLORY. After lining up some of the fighters we represented over three events, I was hired by Glory Sports International as a consultant to give suggestions on promoters, fighters and strategies of introducing the sport to the USA. Several months later I was moved into the Talent Operations division and work directly with Cor Hemmers in signing, matching and developing athletes. It was a dream come true to help kickboxing finally have a chance here in the USA. This also meant a lot more travel. Below is a look back at 2013 for me and my gym and for GLORY!
It was a crazy busy year that saw me on the road sometimes weekly. Adam fought 11 times in 2013, Aaron 5 and Lindsay fought twice but those were in France and China. Some of our extended family fought and that took me on the road. Not to mention the nine GLORY travel dates I had through the year across the country. Throw in a few seminars and you can see that fight sports is our business 100%. Scroll through and check out some of the notable moments I had from 2013!
Jan 4 – Setting the tone for big things in 2013, Lindsay and I marry at a very small private ceremony. We later had a great party. My good fortune for the year was sealed.
Jan 12 – After being moved into our new facility for 5 months we hosted Thai Stadium Champ Kongnapa for a seminar. It was a nice turn out and a change of pace from our Dutch Kickboxing roots!
Jan 18 – It was off to NYC for Friday Night Fights with Eric Utsch.
Jan 28-Feb2 – Road to Glory Tulsa 95 kilos kicked off our search for North American talent! This tournament saw Dustin Jacoby win the 8 man tournament and the 20,000 check!
Feb 7-10 Just a week later it was off to Los Angeles for Road to Glory Los Angeles 85 kilos. Mike LeMaire would walk away with this one.
March 9-10 The WKA North American Championships. We had three fighters competing but it would be Adam Edgerton who finally added the tournament victory to his resume!
March 20-23 it was back to NYC for Road to Glory 77 kilos. Francois Ambang wins the tournament and the money.
March 31 it was off to Dayton, Ohio for Micah Bagby’s fight.
April 5-7 we were off to Muskogee, Oklahoma where Adam would fight for the USMTA United States Title.
May 9-12 it was up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for Road to GLORY 70 kilo tournament. Michael Mananquil would win this one.
March 14-18 we flew across the pond to Marsielle France! Lindsay took part in the Urban Boxing ladies tournament.
May 31-Jun 2 it was back to Muskogee for a rematch with DJ Miller who Adam had knocked out for the USMTA belt. This time around DJ would out slick Adam over a five round decision.
June 12-15 it was back to Oklahoma. Tulsa would host yet another Road to Glory tournament for the Heavyweights and Xavier Vigney would dominate everyone!
June 19-23 just a week after Tulsa it was off to NYC for GLORY 9!
June 23 I took the train from NYC to Boston for a seminar at North Shore Muay Thai!
June 28 -31 just a week later it was off to the TBA World Amateur Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Aaron Lehenbauer would win his division and join the ranks of champions from our gym!
August 6-12 Again just a week later it was off to Chengdu, China where Lindsay would face a Chinese Champion and win big!
Pretty crazy schedule huh? Well it is not over yet!
August 23-25 we made the familiar trip to Richmond where Adam and Aaron would have bouts. Adam had the honor of fighting for the first ever GLORY rules amateur United States title!
Sept 26-29 it was off to Los Angeles for GLORY 10! Joe Schilling would pull the upset victory and earn 150,000 dollars!
Oct 10-13 GLORY 11 came to Chicago. It was our debut on SPIKE and a HUGE success!
October 29-Nov 3 it was across the pond again. This time to Italy with the US team for the WKA World Championships!
Nov 20-24 it was back to NYC for the fourth time for GLORY 12.
Nov 24 I hopped the train to Boston for another seminar at North Shore Muay Thai!
And finally! Dec 23-27 it was off to New Orleans for a little R&R and of course a bit of training!
It was a very nice wrap to an incredibly busy year that also saw us complete our gym.
Coast to coast and everywhere in between from novice shows to amateur championships to the biggest kickboxing promotion on the planet every few weeks. It was hectic. It was amazing. I have spent my whole life working towards this end and hopefully 2013 was just the beginning! Thank you to everyone that supported us along the way. Stay tuned as I try and get the hang of more blogging here on the site!