Leave it to a hurricane named Irene to nearly scuttle the first-ever joint photo shoot and interview with UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez—an event that was months in the making. Just 24 hours before we were scheduled to snap our first picture, lower Manhattan, where Black Belt's East Coast photographer is based, was in the middle of a mandatory evacuation. In an unprecedented move, the mayor ordered New York's mass-transit system to shut down. Meteorologists predicted that the storm surge could leave the coastal areas of the city under eight or more feet of water. Local TV networks scrambled to create Hurricane Irene logos and theme songs to brand their nonstop news coverage, and a few stations went so far as to broadcast computer-generated animation to show us what the flooded city would look like. With little left to the imagination in the future that the weather reports said awaited us, the odds appeared slim that we'd pull off the photo shoot. Because both fighters were scheduled by coincidence to defend their belts in their respective promotions roughly six weeks later, the demands of their training camps meant that a rain date wasn't in the cards for either man. After orchestrating a series of pre-Irene e-mails and phone calls involving the relevant parties—during which I received a helpful recommendation from Mrs. Edgar telling me where I could still find vacuum-sealed milk for my 15-month-old son—our plan was to hunker down in our homes and ride the storm out. When it looked like Irene was winding down, I'd contact everyone to determine if the guys thought they could make it to New York the following day for the shoot and, not incidentally, if there was still a New York to make it to. As it happened, Irene wrapped up her visit to the Big Apple more quickly than expected, which was fortunate because it helped lessen the still-significant effects of the storm on the region. The scale of the disaster was downgraded from "biblical" to "epic"—with pockets of "biblical" remaining, depending on how close to the nearest river you were. I was in my home in New Jersey, sitting in a dark basement with no power, sopping up water with a towel and bucket when my cell phone rang. It was our photographer, Peter Lueders, who was at that moment bravely riding his bike across the Brooklyn Bridge, heading straight into the evacuation zone. His mission was to check on the condition of the studio. Mass transit was not yet operating, so pedal power was the fastest means of transport available. He said he'd call back in an hour if everything was OK. I figured if I didn't hear from him in two hours, I'd have to find a boat and organize a rescue. Luckily, he's a capable cyclist, and traffic was understandably light on the empty streets, so it was only 30 minutes later when he called back. There was no flooding in the city, the studio was in order and the lights were on.

MMA TRAINING VIDEOS! Bas Rutten, Chael Sonnen, Mac Danzig, B.J. Penn, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Nick Diaz, Cung Le and others teach you their winning MMA tactics, including the armbar, omo plata, takedowns, chokes and more! Pump your MMA training with these FREE online videos!

That was very good news, but I was still in the dark with a dangerously depleted cell-phone battery. I needed to quickly establish the fates of the fighters. I first called Edgar, who had no power, as did most of the Jersey shore. (Did I just use those two words? Really, that's what we call it.) Then I phoned Alvarez in Philadelphia, where the swollen Delaware River threatened to wash out the bridges. The roads both would have to use during their commute were littered with downed trees, areas of flooding and sporadic closures. Conditions were sure to remain precarious throughout the next few days. Would they ignore the risks, forge ahead and take that uncertain journey into the city in the morning? Would we actually pull this off?

Of course we would. Martial artists see every obstacle as an opportunity to overcome and improve. Not only did both fighters concoct plans to come into the city, but they also had called each other before I reached them and agreed to meet up at Renzo Gracie's Jiu-Jitsu Academy in midtown Manhattan to squeeze in a workout before our photo shoot.

The next day, I asked Alvarez how champions like he and Edgar deal with the high expectations and constant demands the promotions, fans and media place on them. He answered: “[MMA] isn't really about always winning. It's about watching a person deal with a crazy amount of adversity, bounce back and still continue to fight. You need to know how to deal with adversity first before you can ever think about winning or being a champion. If you can deal with it, you can cope with anything inside or outside the cage. If you can't, don't even bother to show up."

As I listened, I wondered how I could ever have worried that a mere hurricane would keep these guys from showing up.

Patrick Bamburak's interview with Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez is in the January 2012 issue of Black Belt, on sale now.

Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants

At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.

Keep Reading Show less

The 5A-rated NASKA event is the most recent world martial arts tournament to announce a virtual format amid COVID-19 concerns.

The Pan American Internationals in Miami, Florida is a well-respected North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) world tour event that is also sanctioned by a variety of other leagues including the World Kenpo Federation (WKF), Southeast Karate Alliance (SKA), National Martial Arts Circuit (NMAC), and more. Promoter Manny Reyes Sr., a Kenpo master and professor, announced Thursday that the 2020 installment of the event will now take place virtually on August 21 and 22.

Keep Reading Show less

Among Native Americans, honoring your ancestors is a long-standing practice. Every powwow, every sacred ceremony and every tribute to the creator — they all begin and end with remembering those who have come before. There's a sharing of the knowledge and comfort that they're up there in the great beyond, pulling for you and finding ways to guide you when you need help.

Native or not, at the very least, we all owe our ancestors a certain amount of respect. After all, it was their love and great determination to thrive that got us where we are today. I, for one, will go out of my way to make sure I remain grateful in remembering these sacrifices — all of them — from 14 different nationalities. Understanding their hardships helps me realize who I am today and what my blood has recorded within my veins.

Keep Reading Show less

Why did you begin teaching the martial arts?
I always wanted to be a teacher, and nothing seemed as rewarding as teaching martial arts. The martial arts combine many different disciplines: history, philosophy, kinesiology, wellness and more.

What is your school name and how did you choose it?
My school name is Rising Phoenix Martial Arts. I chose this name because my students, like the phoenix, ascend from their former conditions and become stronger than before.

Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter