Cubicle to the Cage Column: Introduction

By:

Boyd Sharpe LEAD

Editor: Boyd Sharpe is a cast member of the radX series Cubicle to the Cage.  The 12 part series begins on September 12th on radX.  The day after every episode airs, Boyd Sharpe will share his unique insider’s perspective on the show with a Top MMA News post.

Here is Boyd’s introductory column to set the stage for this unique MMA series:

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My name is Boyd Sharpe. I’m 40 years old and I have no combat sports experience or training. In 12 months, I want to step into the cage and fight my first professional mixed martial arts fight. And even better, I’m going to take 30 other cubicle workers, most with no previous fight training, along for the ride. The program is called Cubicle to the Cage. And it started like this…

The first time I ever saw mixed martial arts was probably in 1995. I was visiting my cousin Jason and he had an overused, poor quality VHS tape of something called the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I don’t remember the exact details, but do remember enough to know I did not like what I was seeing. It seemed excessively violent and brutish. I kept cringing and looking away as I expected for someone to break a limb or lose an eye or worse. The other guys in the room were loving it, but I only pretended to watch as I focused on rereading the label on my beer bottle. Two minutes after it was over, I couldn’t have told you who fought or who won or if anyone actually did die or not. But I did remember that a skinny guy, wearing what looked like a Karate outfit, seemed nearly invincible as he made everyone else, no matter their size or skill, quit by twisting their arms, or choking them. As I say, my buddies were hooting and shouting and apparently taking great glee in the carnage. I failed to see the appeal.

Fast forward 10 years. I was out walking my dog when I met my neighbour. We probably chatted about the weather or some other innocuous thing, but, as I walked away he said, “You watching the fights tonight?”

“Boxing?” I replied. “Naa, I haven’t watched much boxing since Tyson was in his prime.”

“No man, not boxing. TUF…. you know? UFC? It’s the finals of the reality show. You should check it out.”

My mind quickly flooded with faded memories of fat men slobber-knocking around a cage and a skinny guy in pajamas choking everyone until their eyes popped out.

“Umm, yeah, I’ll give it a look,” I muttered with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. In actual fact, just thinking about it activated my gag reflex.

Later that evening, despite my best intentions to avoid watching any horrific and gratuitous maimings, I channel-surfed my way onto the first round of the now iconic Bonner vs. Griffin tilt. For the first few moments, I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching. These two extremely fit, well trained, and obviously completely insane individuals were feverishly trying to punch, kick, elbow, knee, wrestle, twist and strangle the other into submission… or unconsciousness. But, the thing that struck me the most? They appeared to be having the time of their lives. I mean, sure the fans were enjoying themselves, but they weren’t in a cage having the living hell beat out of them. What struck me about Stephan Bonner and Forest Griffin was they seemed to be having more fun than anyone else in the room. And when it was over, they congratulated each other and embraced like long lost kin. This epic war of heart, skill, grit and determination was nothing short of awe inspiring. It was a far cry from the awkward and brutish spectacle I’d seen on a crappy VHS tape 10 years earlier.  I was hooked.

I spent the next few years consuming every form of MMA content I could get my hands on. DVDs, downloaded videos, borrowed VHS tapes, websites, blogs, podcasts, books , magazines and more pay-per-views than I care to admit (to my wife anyway.) I was completely obsessed. While my focus was certainly on the UFC, I discovered Shooto, Vale Tudo, Pancrase, K1 and PRIDE (Oh, PRIDE. We hardly knew ye!) By the time 2010 rolled around, I felt I had become an MMA super-fan.

And that’s when I came up with the concept for the Cubicle to the Cage program.

Like every armchair quarterback, I have on countless occasions found myself shouting at my TV in a vain effort to pass along some sage advice to my sporting heroes. In earlier years, I would have been shouting, “Lafleur is open! … PASS THE PUCK!” to my beloved Habs (That’s the Montreal Canadians to you non-hockey folks). But recently, it’s been a lot of, “Don’t put your hand on the mat. He’s going for an armbar. Posture up! Posture up! Get out of there!!! Knees! Knees!” Caught up in the heat of this vicarious battle royale I often find myself leaping off the couch and contorting myself into position as I will my fighter to escape defeat. It does not go un-noted that I can clearly remember my grandfather doing the same thing when watching Maple Leaf Wrestling back in the seventies. My grandmother, with the help of my mother and her sisters, would routinely sabotage the rabbit ears (if you don’t know what those are, look it up on Wikipedia) before show time in an effort to keep him from working himself into a rage-induced embolism. With 400 channels of digital cable and a wireless Internet connection to contend with, my wife has no such luxury.

Like my couch-riding brethren, I have oftentimes fallen victim to the hubris that comes so easily to those of us on the outside of the sporting world looking in.

“How did he not see that punch coming? Why is he so tired? Did he even train for this fight? He can’t even maintain guard. God! This guy is a chump.”

And this train always ends in the same place.

“Hell, I could do better than that. If I was in there, I could beat that guy.”

But, rather than putting my money where my mouth guard is, I simply finish my beer, turn off the TV and retire to the comfort of my bed. I soothe myself with visions of myself, arms raised in victory, playing over and over in my head (in slow-motion of course). I fall asleep with my pride and my delusions firmly intact. But that was all about the change.

A while back back, during one of these delusions of grandeur, the shrill and sober voice of reason cut through my self-aggrandizing daydream.

What the hell are you thinking!? These guys are professional athletes with years of intense training. Not to mention they are half your age. If you stepped into the cage with one of these kids you wouldn’t last thirty seconds.

I have to admit, I was a little hurt. I mean, I’ve gotten used to my wife talking to me like that, but I’ve come to expect a little more tact from my own subconscious.

“Oh yeah,” I rebutted, “I’m only 40, thank you very much. Randy Couteur is…”

You are NOT Randy Couteur.

“OK… fine… you got me there… but 40 is not over the hill… is it? I mean, if there was an MMA gym around here… and I had the time to train… and if I did some running… and lifted some weights … I could do as well as these guys…. Couldn’t I?”

“Ummmmm… yeah…. Sure…. Would you like another beer there, Don Quixote?”

Well, maybe had a point there. Maybe my best years were behind me. Maybe at 40 it was time to quit lying to myself and accept my lot in life as a daydreaming-never-been.

I went to bed that night feeling every bit of my 40 years.

Butas it so often does, the morning shed new light on the situation. After a good breakfast, a short bike ride to work and two cups of extra strong French Roast, I started to feel new life welling up in my old bones.  And then it happened… I saw a headline on Yahoo Sports that read, “37-year-old Lance Armstrong to enter the Tour De France in pursuit of his 7th yellow jersey.” I know what you are thinking. In my defence, at that time, I had no idea he was, shall we say, chemically enhanced.

TRT, steroids, and blood doping aside, here was a man, my age (well… nearly), returning to the pinnacle of his sport to challenge the best (and youngest) riders in the world in one of the most grueling races on two wheels.

I’ve never had a desire to climb a mountain, but I certainly understand the allure that draws so many men and women to the challenge. I can’t explain exactly how I knew it, but as sure as I could feel my heart pounding in my chest that morning (although that might have been the caffine), I knew that the climb into the mixed martial arts cage would be my Everest. About to turn 40 years old, it was now or never.

My first step on this journey? Find an MMA trainer willing to invest a year of training in a 40 year old project manager with no fight experience. And THAT is when I met Peter Martell and was introduced to the fine young savages at Team TITANS MMA (now TITANS Fitness Academy).

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Join us on our journey. Premiering 10 PM EST on  September 12th 2013 on radX Channel, Cubicle to the Cage is a 12 episode documentary series that chronicles a year in the lives of a group of daring, dedicated and, many would say, delusional mixed martial arts fans, who want to pull themselves out of their boring office lives to live, eat, train and fight like up-and-coming professional fighters. In the end, if they have what it takes, a select few will be given the opportunity to step into the cage and declare they truly have gone from the Cubicle to the Cage.

Boyd Sharpe will also give Top MMA News readers his insider’s perspective on each episode in a post on http://topmmanews.comfollowing the airing of each show.

To add radX to your cable or satellite package, contact your local provider. http://www.radx.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=4

Click here to watch the opening sequence from the show: http://vimeo.com/60750984

To learn more, visit us at www.cubicletothecage.com or http://radx.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=515:cubicle-to-the-cage&catid=6:catc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cubicletothecage

Twitter: @cubicle2thecage 

20 Responses to “ Cubicle to the Cage Column: Introduction ”

  1. by the way….radX is offering sneak peaks of episode 1 this week. Looks good.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  2. Bill Kennettle says:

    I am Boyd’s neighbor and I can testify in part to the incredible effort and time he has expended over the last few years to make this happen. This is the real deal. The people in this series are not actors but average men and women who busted their asses to train and compete. The punches,the pain and the injuries are real. I have met many of the participants and I have watched their successes and failures while the cameras rolled. This series accurately portrays their struggle from the cubicle to the cage.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 11

  3. EPerez says:

    Why???

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 11

  4. Bill Kennettle says:

    Why???

    Because a lot of people are interested in MMA training and the effort it takes to become a fighter. Hugely popular sport and getting bigger.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 11

  5. Donald Duck says:

    I’m torn. On one side I see this as supporting the new “MMA Tourist” who can’t help but cheapen the experience for those who truly train at a professional level. I’ve been there, missing social functions and losing out on career advancements and relationships because I was so focused on the goal. I don’t want to have someone who is ‘just visiting’ reducing my experience by being given access to competition that they haven’t sacrificed for.

    On the other side I see this as maybe bringing about a drive for what I’ve often described as MMA’s version of a pickup game of hockey. Boxing has their ‘white collar smokers’ but MMA has, to date, never really achieved a level of social acceptance that would see this as an option. Maybe a show like this will help make my need to punch someone in the face socially acceptable?

    I guess as long as no one’s pillow gets peed on and no one eats spunky sushi this will be something positive.

    Donnie

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  6. mike kent says:

    Boyd along with the others that were selected after tryouts spent a year straight or more training twice a day 6 days a week leading upto a pro mma fight. They didn’t pop into the gym and say hey I seen the UFC this weekend and decided to fight next month. Like most things when someone gets into something for it to be cool it may last a week or maybe stretch to month but the ones who made it to the end weren’t pretending to be MMA fighters after the year they were ready to compete. ( against other 0-0 fighter as per the norm )

    A year is long enough for some to earn a blue belt, to get in fantastic shape, to learn the art of muay thai and most that did this show didn’t just fight and leave the gym as a one and done there now members of the gym and continue to train and learn.

    It would be a safe bet to that the bottom half of almost any local circuits card the fighters don’t have a full year of dedicated training like these guys which would make them more Legit then most starting.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 13

  7. If you were to look at all the mma gyms across the country, how many new members/students have joined, trained 2-3 months and then want/ask to have a pro fight? This is a common occurrence and shows just how delusional many people are…plus quite a few so-called pros can also be included. Just because a no-name tv network and mma training facilty are trying to legitimize this side show, it does not give it any credibility

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

  8. OttawaMMA says:

    Don’t really understand all the critics, you have people with a dream/goal that go for it, that’s all.
    Apparently MMA is only for the ones who want to make it a career.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

  9. Donald Duck says:

    Mike Kent – “A year is long enough for some to earn a blue belt”

    I’d post something witty but I’m too busy laughing.

    Thanks for stating exactly what I find wrong about this show.

    Donnie

    Well-loved! Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  10. Mike kent says:

    I’d sure love to know who you are Donnie. For some one who has lost quarts of blood in the ring, been through wars , has endless knowledge of the sport and had drinks with tons of fighters and shares memories with everyone but won’t say who he is Im not even being smart I’d love to see who is this legend you’ve built yourself to be. . I’m not going to argue with you but yeah a year in the gym straight dedicating yourself is enough for some to earn their blue belt which a lot of beginner MMA fighters have when they start. If someone does MUAY Thai 5 days a week for a year they can get pretty decent. If someone has athletic ability and dedicates themselfs then 12 months is enough time to compete at an entrance level in the sport. It’s not the case for everyone and certainly wasn’t for me but i don’t wanna shit on anyone for going after a dream they have and getting involved in a sport we clearly all love .

    Now would love I argue but I have a fight to finish prepping for. Thanks

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 12

  11. Donald Duck says:

    Just to clear some things up with regards to my so called legend:

    1. I haven’t actually lost lots of blood. I’m not a bleeder by nature.

    2. I’ve been in one war. It wasn’t fun but I learned a lot about myself. I lost that fight in the 3rd round via arm bar. He earned it.

    3. Not endless knowledge but my flexible schedule and career as a guy who reads legalize for a living gives me an edge up on some if not most.

    4. I have had a lot of beers with lots of fighters. I was actually the only guy who didn’t go onto a UFC ‘career’ who got drunk on a bottle of scotch in a hotel room after a set of fights. It was as gay as you think it sounds….. and more.

    5. I’m late to the game but have been blessed by exposure.

    Frankly I didn’t say who I was originally due to a massive potential for a conflict of interest however in a year or so that time will lapse and I may decide to share who I am however none of that should matter since, while a bit vitriolic, I tend to speak the truth.

    Donnie

    PS – Don’t get injured.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  12. Mike kent says:

    Great answer, I’m 100 percent healthy and feel very prepared for fight. have a great night

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

  13. EPerez says:

    Why would anyone want to watch a 40 year old on some fantasy camp try to pick up mma? There’s TUF and Bellator’s show full of young, hungry, talented fighters with potential.

    You know where you can see guys going from the cubicle to the cage? Go to any show. They’re packed with guys who work in cubicles. No. Big. Deal.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  14. Jerobe says:

    Agreed Eric Perez, agreed. Even worse in Alberta. Straight from the work crew to the cage. Bodwell, we are all looking at you lol

    Well-loved! Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  15. harry balls says:

    I’ll have to see and get a feel for the quality of the show. There were absolutely horrible and exploitative moments on TUF; there was also some good shit.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Robin Black says:

    I know how much you loved this experience Boyd, lookin forward to reading these and seeing the show.

    Cheers man will facebook you later.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  17. EPerez says:

    How about some real fighters? Kids in school or working and training trying to get better? etc etc. This is something we could all do without

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  18. Snyper Mcgrath says:

    Wouldn t that just be like TUFF Perez?

    Dip your noodle into something different

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  19. EPerez says:

    I meant not in the ridiculous ‘house’ setting.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Boyd Sharpe says:

    Hi All,

    Thanks for the feedback. Both the positive and negative comments are appreciated. And I have to say, the negative comments and debate that followed was significantly tamer than expected. Not sure if I should be happy about that or not. Bit disappointed really.

    EPerez,
    You ask why. Great question, and as you included 3 question marks I’ll offer three answers to three questions. (Note: feel no obligation to read on if you have no desire to watch the show neither out of genuine interest nor morbid curiosity.)
    Why would anybody participate in a project like this? Well, I’m sure the reasons are as varied as the people who came and tried out. Over 200 of them actually. Many just came on a lark as it was a fun thing to do with their buddies. Some of these folks feature prominently in episode 1. Some liked the idea of being on TV. Some were absolutely obsessed with MMA and relished the opportunity to get a year of free training. Some knew nothing about MMA but love adventure. These folks were as likely to show up if we were offering an opportunity to sail around the world for a year. But, we weren’t sailing, we were fighting. They came anyway.

    Why make a show about this? The simplest and most honest reason I can give for why I personally wanted to make this series was because, well, I wanted to make a TV series. Or more accurately I wanted to tell compelling and inspiring stories. The fact that the series is set in the world of MMA is quite simply because I LOVE MMA. Might as well love what you are doing, right? Also, I couldn’t think of a more difficult challenge for myself personally. And a challenge was what I was looking for. I could have climbed Mount Everest I guess. But, as I said in a recent interview on CBC Radio (http://www.cbc.ca/wam/episodes/2013/09/08/boyd-sharpe—mixed-martial-arts/index.html), I wasn’t really in a position where I could fly off to Nepal and climb a mountain.

    Why should anybody watch this show? Hmmm. “Anybody” is a broad term. Why should a die-hard MMA fan who eats and breaths MMA watch this show? Can’t really think of a solid reason really, unless they A) have a morbid interest in watching fish out of water or B) want to watch a very well told story. If you want to be inspired by athletes taking on MMA at the panicle of the sport, then watch Such Great Heights, Fightville, Driven, Like Water or anything produced by Bobbie Razak (Here’s a good list: http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/212-martial-arts/65869332) . But what about Johnny-come-lately who thinks the sport is called UFC and only watches it over draft beer at Boston Pizza? Well, this show might be enjoyable for him (or her). If nothing else they’ll certainly be able to put themselves into the shoes of the participants in the program. They won’t get the view of MMA as told in the stories above… as a matter of fact they will get a very, very different view of the sport. They will get a look at MMA from the very bottom… the absolute bottom. If you think about it, TUF, for example, is a short (16 week?) snapshot of fighters who already have all the basics and know TONS about the sport and how to train. They are tweaking their games and honing their skills a little as they go for the “6 figure contract”. If I may use a car racing analogy, they are going from 60 miles per hour to 63 miles per hour over the course of the show. Our folks went (in some cases) form 0 – 30. If you are not interested by that, vote with your eyes and go watch the current season of TUF (Which is awesome I might add.) If you are intrigued by that concept, I guarantee, if you watch all 12 episodes you will not be disappointed. And what about people who don’t watch MMA and don’t like MMA. Ah, this is the group that I am very interested in. We’ve tested this series against a diverse test audience over the past several months. We like what we are seeing. You see, and I don’ t want to seem like a pompous twat here, but, I’m actually trying to draw more people to MMA with this series. Disagree with my approach if you will, but, as I see it, those other documentaries, TUF, UFC etc…. are doing a damn fine job at hooking a lot of people. But they are not getting everybody. Our approach in this series is vastly different. And, if people who are not currently interested in MMA watch, my hope is they will move over to the mainstream content and become fans.

    I’m not sure where I read it, but I saw somewhere once where someone who knows far more about MMA than I do, said something like, (and I am paraphrasing here) “MMA is in its infancy. At the rate the sport is developing, we will look back in 20 years and laugh at the fact that we considered Anderson Silva and GSP to be the best fighters in the world. It is not until the Wayne Gretzky’s, Tiger Woods’ and Michael Jordan’s of the world put down their sticks and balls and step onto the BJJ mat or start kicking Thai pads at age 5 that the sport will reach its true potential.” Or something like that. If we, with this series, are able to convince the next Michael Jordan’s mom that MMA is not “human cock-fighting” than I consider that a good thing. Who knows, most likely that won’t happen, but it was that very logic that kept us honest and made us all approach this experiment with diligence, honesty and the utmost in journalistic integrity. As one viewer commented, “This isn’t reality TV at all, it should be called real TV.”

    Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to be all swelling music and heroic hooha right from the start. The first episode (or two) will have its fair of train wrecks and laughable moments. And those are meant to entertain and I sincerely hope not exploit. A vast majority of them involve me personally I’m sorry to say. But once we get to the meat of the series, we are just trying to tell a compelling story about ordinary people trying to do an extraordinarily difficult thing.

    I hope you watch. If you watch, I hope you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, spread the word.

    Train hard, fight well and be safe.

    Boyd

    Well-loved! Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

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