Fight of My Life: Part 4
There are moments in the night that hold long, belonging to no one but the individual experiencing it as no words can explain the feeling. Standing in the tunnel waiting for your walkout song to come over the speakers is one of those moments.
There was nothing in front of me other than a Grappler cameraman (who is as much brother as friend) and a path to the cage. Tunnel vision began to set in. Just then, over the cameraman’s shoulder, I saw a familiar figure walk into my line of sight. In this very surreal and unique moment in life, Eric’s* Dad walked around the corner and stood dead center on my path to the cage. Beer in hand, he was clearly searching for his wife in the audience and completely oblivious that to his left I was locking in on him with singular focus. Staying connected to my breath, I felt the corners of my mouth lighten as he found her and disappeared up the stairs. It was beautiful. My walkout song starts. One last full and complete exhale.
Stepping into the Combatagon, I feel prepared for battle. Clear minded with violent intent. Ready. Nod. Go. We tap hands and I begin to throw. Three leg kicks land off the bat. He catches my heel on the last, sending me to the ground. Rushing in he lands an overhand fist to my right eye. Reaching up, I break his posture, tying up his head and arm, swallowing him in my guard. I sweep to get on top, striking with precision before securing a rear naked choke. The fight lasts just under a minute.
Rising, I held my hands up in unison with friends and family, transitioning back to their moment, getting my pic with the Combat Night CEO Mitchell Chamale. During the post-fight interview I did what I could to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices that made the moment possible, thanking those still on the front lines. Walking out of the cage, I gave the night a proud and boisterous “DUUUVALLL!” before heading straight into the crowd to hug my friends. I had barely seen them in months, and twice I’ve been able to exit the cage and land in their arms. It was beautiful.
The next morning was spent at breakfast and the Volunteer Life-Saving Station in Jacksonville Beach with mentors, friends and family. I hit a Mandatory Monday workout at Elevate MMA before packing up and ultimately returning to New York and the ICU a few nights later. The moment had passed and we were back to work.
Thankfully Covid numbers were dropping and about a month later the Emergency Order from New York’s Governor was rescinded and our project was disbanded. In an eerily similar fashion, on the morning of July 9th, 2021 I left an hour early from my last shift at NYP Lawrence Hospital to catch a flight home, this time with more heartfelt goodbyes, fully aware that we weren’t returning. As I sat at the gate during my layover, reflecting over the last six months, I got a text from Preston:
What’s the goal?
July 17th I’m there!
Life comes at you fast.
*Eric Bohn was Grappler’s original cameraman for both the Roll Thru: Taiwan and Roll Thru: Thailand (available at www.grapplermag.com/rollthru and on YouTube). He is currently embracing a true outdoor/waterman’s lifestyle off the southern coast of Australia. Eric was recently awarded 7 Life-Saving Rescues and 70 Life-Saving assists from the Jacksonville Beach Volunteer Life-Saving Corps for his efforts in the town of Lisborne, New South Whales, Australia after flood waters reached a height of 14 meters. Eric and a buddy immediately jumped into action, utilizing a boat to pull seven victims directly out of the water, upwards of 70 individuals off roofs, countless cats and dogs, and a few horses and cows to dry land. He was of course watching the stream live, because that’s how we roll.
TK is a former pararescueman and retired surfman from the Jacksonville Beach Voluntary Life Saving Corps. He has traveled the world on military and humanitarian missions, as well as exploring on his own.