"That's all from action," Rick Huddleston says, pointing to Innis' fist, which is crisscrossed with the kind of scars you'd expect to find on Freddy Krueger victims. Huddleston, who promotes mixed martial arts events for his Close Quarter Combat team to compete in, could just as easily have said, "That's all from other guys' teeth."
The thing is, these guys aren't going to be standing around pummeling each other in the head. "If you're a good MMA athlete, you can avoid that. You can end up not getting hit in the head for a whole match," Troy Talavera, another MMA fighter, says. By mixing every conceivable style of fighting, MMA brawlers can destroy their opponents a million different ways using their feet, knees, elbows, hands, open fists, palms, chokeholds, pressure holds and various limb-locking techniques.
"We're talking about full-body assault," explains Huddleston, who presides over the CQC team as president, coach and surrogate father. "If I grab ahold of you and suck you down to the ground, I'm trying to choke you, cover your mouth, break your ribs, twist your ankle, arm-bar you, take your wrist and break it." He offers to demonstrate on the interviewer, who very respectfully declines.
Although the fights are promoted as being brutally violent, Huddleston wants to make it clear that these are not tough-man competitions. "You wear out real fast, so you gotta be a top-notch athlete," he says. "The less rules, the more professional the fighter has to be. Plus, it's a better match because they have more ways to defend themselves."
Talavera, a 26-year-old married mortgage broker with two kids who is known in the ring as "The Filipino Jackhammer," got into martial arts through his father, starting with jujitsu and moving on to tae kwon do. "It was fun but unrealistic. It was Olympic-style sparring, and unless you're planning on going to the Olympics, there's really no other reason to do it," Talavera says. "So I switched over to the more realistic side, the athletic side of martial arts. That's where MMA is. Mix them all together and you provide for the best athlete that you can have." But Talavera admits that he just likes hitting people.
Innis, the 22-year-old fighter who has never been knocked out -- except when he was hit by a car -- was recruited to the CQC team by virtue of his hardcore street-fighting reputation. "I knew I was good when I sat there and fought two dudes at the same time and knocked 'em both out," Innis says. The stepson of a military man, Innis, also known as "The Devil," moved around the country as a boy and had to fend for himself the only way he knew how. "I've been knocking people out my whole life," he says.
"And now he can do it legally," Talavera cuts in, cracking the other fighters up with laughter instead of body blows.