Many of you old school, hardcore fans likely saw the documentary "The Smashing Machine" featuring the life of fighter Mark Kerr. This week marks the 15th anniversary of its first release, so I wanted to focus this blog on it.
I met #MarkKerr in January of 1997 in Brazil when he won the eight-man tournament at the World Vale Tudo Championship. I saw him afterwards and we talked, then he went home. After he won his four fights in the UFC, he came to the Beverly Hills Jiu Jitsu Club to train with us since he was invited to compete in the #Pride Fighting Championships
Mark was a great guy, soft spoken, crazy strong and I always saw him sweat a lot, but never really knew why. I would find out the why later.
The first line I told him was, ‘I will put you on the scale every day, and when you increase in weight, I will stop training you, because it’s not possible to gain weight with the kind of training that we are going to do. No more power training, you are big enough, so let’s go for stamina and skill.’ So that was our “handshake,” and we started training.
Our first opponent was Branko Cikatic, a devastating striker. We knew that Mark needed to get this fight on the ground ASAP. I had known Branko as a kickboxer, and he was an animal. He won the first #K1 Grand Prix in 1993, a one-night, eight-man tournament, and he KO’d all three of his opponents.
The fight started and Kerr tried to take him down, but Cikatic hooked his arm over the ropes so he couldn’t be taken down, and with his free arm, he’s elbowing the back of Kerr’s neck. The referee warned him since this is highly illegal AND super dangerous. So the fight restarted, and the same thing happened. Now Kerr gets angry, slips behind him and drops some uppercuts and hammer fists. Cikatic goes down, Kerr kicks him in the head and they stop the fight and DQ Cikatic.
He beat his next three opponents, Pedro Otavio, Hugo Duarte, Nobuhiko Takada. But first, when he fought Duarte, we had Marco Ruas also fighting on the card, and I was training both these guys, so remember that I said I would find out why Mark was sweating the whole time? Here’s the reason I promised I would get to:
So, I am training with both these monsters who are physically very strong, so at times, I have to muscle myself out of some situations and need strength for that, not realizing it started to mess with my tendonitis, which was the reason I retired. Both my arms started to hurt insanely. It’s full on now, and I tell them I need to go to the hospital because this is pain I can’t handle. It was unlike any pain I’d ever had, and was deep, all the way to the bone.
So, Mark says, “Let’s stop training. I have something for you that will get rid of the problem. Let’s go to the hotel.”
So, we pack our stuff, go to the hotel to his room, and he pulls out a syringe and a little bottle. Now I am not that guy who lets people stick needles in me and give me an unknown substance, but the pain was so insane I didn’t even mention anything. I remember Mark looking at me saying, “The pain will be gone in five seconds.” He emptied his syringe and yes, he was right, five seconds later, I was good to go. But man, it was too much for me. Remember, I had only been in the U.S. for a year and had never even taken a Vicodin, because in Holland, they only give those to people in serious pain. I started to feel nauseous and I started to sweat. Aha! I said, ‘Now I know why you are always sweating!’
So there the cat came out of the bag. By the way, I wouldn’t have told this story if Mark wouldn’t have shown it on the documentary, but since he came clean on there, I feel it’s it’s fine for me to recount it.
The stuff he injected was called Nubain, a heavy painkiller. I could not believe that he was able to actually fight on that stuff because my entire night was ruined. We went to my good friend, Mr. Mochida, who owns a few restaurants in Tokyo. We’d already made the appointment before the workout, so I went, but couldn’t eat anything. I was dizzy and asked Mark how on earth could he fight like this? He told me that you get used to it and once you do, you don’t get dizzy anymore.
Then he fights against Vovchanchyn, a guy that I saw in the Ukraine the first time when I commentated on an eight-man tournament (IFC 1 1996) where Vovchanchyn was the lightest guy (like 200lbs), and I think the smallest guy he fought that night was John Dixon who was 280lbs, then Paul Varelans at 300lbs, and Fred Floyd was 380lbs. He stopped them all!
We knew “Ice Cold” Igor was going to be a tough fight. The fight ended in a "no contest" after Kerr was on all fours and got kneed in the head by Vovchanchyn, which was, at that time, not a legal technique. But Mark was getting tired in that fight, so we started focusing on stamina even more afterwards. It was weird, because we trained like we normally did, and he was in shape.
He fought Enson Inoue, and beat him by decision, but this is the moment that his career started to fail.
Now, looking back on it, I realized that’s where the addiction started to get out of control and his body started to break down. After he fought Enson Inoue, he was 12-0-1. After that fight, he only won three of his next 14, and the drugs had started to take their toll.
After his loss against Heath Herring, he went into rehab, as you could see in the documentary. When he came out, he never really could kick start his career again. He tried, of course, and after almost three years of taking a break and working on himself, he came back, but unfortunately it didn’t work out for him.
That is really too bad since Mark is a such great guy. You won’t find a person that doesn’t like him. He’s as honest as they come, knows everything about everything and was a blast to hang out with. Yeah, I always wished he could have picked it up again. However, if there is one positive thing that can come out of this, I believe that Mark making this documentary and showing people what he did and what happened to him afterwards will make a huge difference for many athletes because they can see a guy who looked like he had it all lose everything because of painkillers. It’s a lesson that they hopefully won’t have to endure themselves.
Whether Democrat, Liberal or Republican, we all can agree that what Trump is now doing with the opiate use here in the States is a good thing. He’s going to try to tackle the drug addiction that kills an estimated 78 people a day.
I talked about it in my #CBD blog, how the USA accounts for 80% of all the opioids used around the world. It’s a huge problem, and many kids, athletes, and “regular” people who start using get addicted, and it’s such a hard thing to come back from. I know, because I had an Oxycontin addiction myself, and I had it later in life. I am so happy I didn’t have that problem as a kid, because it would have been much harder to stop at that age than when you’re older and have a family. A family makes you think, they support you and they make it easier to quit.
It was hard to watch Mark Kerr fall, but he should be proud of the fact that he came clean because I am certain it DID affect some people and those folks learned not to fall into the trap of using painkillers themselves. Additionally, he has been clean for a very long time now, and only had one slip-up in 2011. He enjoys being a dad and wants to be there for his son and for when his son has children, so that is his focus in life right now. In closing, I really wish Mark all the best in life.
If you want to ready about CBD, please read my blog on it here, as it’s a safe, non-addicting alternative for painkillers.
Read More of my Blogs:
- Why You Never Start a Fist Fight with an MMA Champion (on Christmas)
- How CBD Can Help With Painkiller Addiction and a Plethora of Other Problems
- Benefits of the Open Stance: How to Implement it in Your Standup Game and Why It's Important
Listen to the Rutten & Ranallo Podcast