The Receiving End: Tim Hague
So far, 2012 has been kind to MMA fans. The year started off with UFC 142, an event that bombarded fans with an array of spectacular knockouts. Edson Barboza flattened Terry Etim, unleashing a breathtaking wheel kick that Hollywood special effects departments would have trouble replicating. Barboza’s victory was celebrated by MMA fans worldwide. He was awarded a $65,000 Knockout-of-the-Night bonus by the UFC and added a picture-perfect finish to his personal highlight reel.
While the victory was one for the MMA history books, Barboza didn’t enter the cage alone. Two men entered, revved for battle, and one triumphed. Both walked to the octagon determined to win, yet only one left with something to celebrate. Being on the receiving end of a devastating knockout, as Terry Etim was, is an unpredictable and brutal potentiality in the sport of mixed martial arts. Of course Etim is not the first fighter to fall victim to a crushing knockout like the one Barboza dealt at UFC 142. Such finishes are woven into MMA’s history.
A similar story occurred at UFC 102, in Portland, Oregon, where Heavyweight Tim Hague found himself on the wrong end of a devastating knockout just seven seconds after the fight began.
“It kind of just goes to show you that anything can happen at any given moment, and that night I got extremely unlucky,” Hague said of his loss as I spoke to him on the phone from halfway across Canada.
“In the big scheme of things, it was probably a really embarrassing moment for me, and it kind of derailed my momentum. I was 10-1, and I’d avenged my only loss. It kind of took the wind out my sails, so to speak”, he continued.
Hague lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and with two and a half years between himself and his fight with Todd Duffee in Portland, he’s had plenty of time to reflect on the details of the loss.
Before he signed with UFC, Tim Hague finished Jared Kilkenny in just 9 seconds with a beautiful punch. Despite this, he admits that, coming into the Duffee fight, he still did not fully fathom just how quickly things can go wrong inside the cage.
“Not really, no,” he admitted when I asked him if he understood the speed with which a fight could end prior to UFC 102. “I’ve been on both ends.”, he continued, touching on his fight with Kilkenny, but he did not deny that it took being the victim of a quick knockout to properly comprehend just how brief a cage fight can be.
When MMA fans watch a knockout, most often in awe, their attention is quickly yanked in the direction of the next fight. Little thought is given to the man who was struck into unconsciousness. The victim of a knockout leaves the cage, dazed and distraught, while his opponent celebrates and the viewers await the next fight.
Tim Hague walked me through the moments after being knocked out.
“I don’t really remember anything until I got to a big bathroom and shower area backstage, and called Kyle, my coach. I said, ‘Kyle, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know where we are, I don’t know if I fought yet’,” Hague described, illustrating the immense disorientation experienced immediately after a knockout.
“He [Kyle] said, ‘Oh it’s okay buddy, you got knocked out, you’ll come around soon enough.’ And that’s my first memory, besides coming out across the cage towards Todd.”
Hague trained hard for the Duffee fight. He had a very successful camp leading up to the fight. “The numbers on all my exercises were better. I’d say I’d probably trained hard for about eight to ten weeks for that fight.”
Investing eight to ten weeks of full-time training is an indication of any fighter’s dedication, yet, with so much build up and preparation—and such a disappointing result on the night that counts most—one has to wonder if it would all feel like time wasted.
Tim Hague’s answer to this question was simple: “Not, really no,” he said, optimistic about his camp’s worth. “I just wish I would have started the fight differently, as opposed to trying to land a knockout punch on my first punch.”
It’s difficult to imagine having to cope with a loss like this in the days and weeks following the event. Tim did so by returning home to Edmonton quickly.
“After a loss, I like to just sit around and watch TV and drink beer for a week or two,” he said, alluding to a remedy that other fighters probably employ after a tough loss.
“I didn’t really didn’t let it bother me that much, but, looking back on it, I can tell that I was upset about the whole deal. It was a brutal situation I guess,” he added, indicating that his TV and beer recovery regimen may not have been just what the doctor ordered.
He was honest in his assessment of how long it took him to recover mentally from his loss to Todd Duffee. After that fight, he lost twice more, To Chris Tuchscherer and Joey Beltran, both times finding himself on the wrong end of the judges’ decision.
“After my loss to Beltran, I had this little flip camera that the UFC gave me, and I sat down, and got all emotional, and I was gonna make a little personal video to my son for him to watch when he was older. I was going to retire after that fight,” Tim explained dolefully.
“After a few days, I figured ‘I don’t think I’m done’. So I deleted the video and took some time off and then I decided to finally get my act together, so to speak, and get in shape, and then I knocked out Zach Jensen and Travis Wiuff. I was in really good shape for those fights. I think that’s when I finally turned things around,” he explained, revealing the lengthy road to recovery that can follow a tough loss.
In fact, he believes his performances against Tuchscherer and Beltran can be attributed to his unfortunate loss to Duffee. “I know I could out-strike both of those guys. Watching the fights you can see that I was a little punch shy. I didn’t feel like it at the time, but it [The Duffee fight] probably played with me psychologically a little bit.”
One aspect of being knocked out that would seem difficult to deal with is the number of repeated opportunities to see yourself getting knocked out—both on TV and in the footage that fight promoters use to hype your former opponent’s next fights. Todd Duffee’s win at UFC 102 was an impressive one, and his blitz victory over Hague became a staple of his highlight reel. The UFC played the footage of Hague’s loss repeatedly when promoting Duffee’s next fight against veteran Mike Russow. Hague admits he saw the footage.
“Oh yeah, I saw it all. I mean look at the guy, he’s a physical specimen, he’s basically exactly what the UFC was looking for, a big, ripped heavyweight, not an ounce of fat on him,” he said, demonstrating great sportsmanship and clearly understanding the UFC’s need, as a business, to use his loss as a lever for promoting the rising prospect and probable cash cow in Duffee.
Duffee’s fight against Russow saw him batter his opponent for two and a half rounds, until he too fell to an erratic knockout, demonstrating again the wild turns a fight can take. Duffee was later released by the UFC, and was finished in just seconds by Allistair Overeem in his first fight outside the promotion. No fighter is immune to the knockout.
Most of us aren’t brave enough to ever get into the cage, and risk discovering how being knocked out feels. Thankfully, athletes like Tim Hague can explain it to us.
“It doesn’t really feel like anything, besides hurting your pride when you gain your senses again. Duffee knocked me out pretty bad, like I was right out,” he said. “I lost memory.”
He continued with a quiet chuckle, “I had a headache for a couple of days, but my face wasn’t sore at all which was kind of weird.”
He went on. “It felt like I maybe had vertigo. I’d have kind of out-of-body experiences, but eventually that went away. I guess it was just post-concussion.
Despite the blow to his pride, the physical pain, and the temporary derailment of his career, Tim Hague pulled no punches when asked his favourite way to end a fight.
“Oh, definitely a knockout! There’s nothing like clipping a guy with a punch and seeing him lose his senses and knowing that you just added to your highlight reel.”
Dealing a vicious knockout is the preferred path to victory for many fighters. Conversely, it figures to be one of the worst ways to lose. With seven knockout or technical knockout victories on his impressive resume, it goes without saying the Tim Hague is familiar with both sides of the coin.
It shouldn’t be long until we see him fight again. He’s currently recovering from a back injury, and has recently been testing his hands in the boxing ring (with much success, knocking out his first opponent in the second round), but he promises to appear often in combat sports this year.
“Whatever opportunities come my way, I’ll probably jump on them. I want to get really active this year.”