Former Bellator middleweight champion Brandon Halsey recalls the fight that changed his life. Halsey will fight Smealinho Rama at PFL 2 in Chicago on June 21. Story told to Tony Reid of MyMMANews.com.
The fight that changed my life.
Told to Tony Reid
“When I think about this, out of all the fights I’ve had as a professional the one that sticks out to me is the Joe Yager fight a couple of years ago.
So the background on it is this: I had fought a couple fights, then I took a pretty serious injury and got a shoulder surgery which put me out for a while. First fight back I draw Rocky Ramirez, and it’s a pretty one sided bout for me, but I made a few mistakes and didn’t finish him until the third round. At that point I was pretty new to MMA and was still kind of learning how to be a fighter.
We set up the Joe Yager fight and because I’m 3-0 people are starting to wonder about me. They’re asking these questions and saying “Oh, he’s a wrestler, but can he take a punch?” and things like this. Joe is a tough guy, he was a D-1 wrestler up at Michigan I think.
So we get to the fight and right before I go out they tell me no elbows to the face, which threw me off. I don’t know if you’ve felt the pressure right before a fight, but it’s a big head game, and then to find out that they’re taking a way a big part of my game plan was a massive head trip. I mean, for weeks I was working take down to elbows to the face. It’s a great way to win: just smash his face in with these massive elbows. And right before I go out, I mean when I’m standing back stage ready for the walkout, they tell us no elbows to the face. My guys are arguing with the promoters and I’m trying to stay focused but it was hard. It’s hard in those moments to stay ready.
A funny thing about that: So my fiancé at the time, who is now my wife and the mother of my daughter, she doesn’t know that they changed the rules on us last minute. I mean, it’s not like you get a chance to go over and talk before you go in the cage. Right away when I take Joe down she’s just screaming “Elbow him! Elbow him Brandon!” and I can hear her, which is funny and I’m like “I can’t!” It was pretty funny.
In any event, se head into the cage and we start to fight and I’m feeling pretty good. Takedowns are coming, things are going my way. Once you get in there and start punching each other the noise goes down. Things loosen up. The months of preparation start to build in your subconscious and you let go of everything. It’s a beautiful moment.
And then Whack!
He kicked me square in the nuts. I’ve seen the film. It was a straight up football style field goal kick from straight to the balls.
Now, I know a lot of people who saw that kick and I still think that there is some question about how long I laid on the ground. Let me tell you: It hurt A LOT. And let me tell you another thing: one of my testicles was pushed up into the pelvic recess from that. And it stayed there. For the rest of the fight.
I knew something was wrong, I couldn’t breathe for some time, I was dizzy, the whole nine yards. Anyone who’s had this before knows what I’m talking about.
John McCarthy, who is the man, tried to help me walk it off. I remember he was covering his mic so my cursing wouldn’t make it home to the viewers on cable TV, which I don’t think worked if I remember correctly.
I must have taken 9 and a half minutes of your allotted ten minutes, but let me tell you: I needed it. Big time.
I go back to fighting. But now I’m dealing with this fairly serious testicle issue. I’m a bit tired. I’m a bit out of sorts, as any fighter can tell you happens when you get kicked that hard. And after some time we end up in the third round.
Now, this third round is the thing that changed me as a fighter. I’m in a little bit of trouble physically, but I continue to control the fight with my wrestling. No big deal. I’m going to grind the third out and get the win and go to the hospital.
And then Joe gets up and away from me. We’re toward the end of the round, I’m thinking that there’s about a minute left, and Joe gets this burst of energy and he just tags me with a combo. I’m a bit stunned and he pushes forward, I remember trying to keep my head in the game but everything in me wanted to instinctually push for the takedown. But the training was telling me not to do it. So I waited.
I took some more damage and then Joe made the mistake of pushing too hard. He came right in, I slipped him, took the fight back to the ground and finished it off on top.
And then I went to the hospital to get my balls pulled back out. That’s not a joke!
For me, after that fight, I’d learned a few things. First, I can overcome significant discomfort in the cage and find a way to win. Second, I can take a punch. In fact, I kind of like getting punched. It wakes me up, which is a sort of blessing in the fight game. It feels good in its own way.
Sure, at 4-0 nobody gave me my due but at the same time I still hadn’t earned it. It would be some time before I broke into a title fight and choked the guy out pretty quick.
In every fight career there is a moment when you know you’re going to be a champion. Mine came when I got my balls kicked into my stomach.
Once you’ve had that, well anything else any of these guys can give me is just sweet like candy.”