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Thursday
Feb092012

There are many layers to Fedor's Sweater

By Sam “ALL JAM” Perez

Sweaters are meant as a layer of comfort and warmth, while at the same time acting as a fashion statement. There are many facets to a sweater, but never more than just one layer. That is unless you happen to be ‘Fedor’s Sweater’ AKA Daniel Fajardo.

Every time I interview a Junkie listener, I am blown away to find out how much more there is to that person besides our common love for MMA. I’m shocked to find that engineers, artists, military personnel and even healthcare professionals, both medical and psychological, alike are all junkies as I am. Yet, the last person I’d expect to be interested in this supposed “blood sport” is a microbiologist.

Daniel’s path as I’ll call it, and you’ll soon see why, started in his home country of Peru. One of five children born to a Peruvian father and an American schoolteacher mom, his childhood was filled with a love for soccer and the 70’s TV show ‘Kung Fu’. At the age of 10, his mom took him on a trip to the U.S. so he can meet his American side of the family.

Originally meant as only a visit, as fate would have it this was the same year internal conflict within the Peruvian Government broke out. Terrorism and political revolution forced Daniel to stay in the states. “My family, including my grandparents had to leave in the middle of the night,” he said. “Suddenly I became a resident of Salinas, California.”

As can be expected it was culture shock at first, especially for a kid who was looked upon as a foreigner. To make matters worse, although he was Hispanic, he wasn’t Mexican/Chicano, which made him even more of an outcast. Unable to fit in anywhere, Daniel just went to school and worked through high school at a McDonald’s. “I wrestled for a little bit, but nothing serious,” he said; at least not yet.

Upon graduation, Daniel decided, “I want to check out the east coast.” So he decided to attend Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York to study biology. If this sounds familiar to some of you it may be because it is also the Alma Mater of former UFC fighter Matt Hamill. Being from Peru and then California, Daniel said, “I wanted to see snow; however, I never realized how bad the weather was in upstate New York, so after I got there, I couldn’t wait to leave.”

While there, he would occupy his spare time playing classical Flamenco Guitar and running the 100 meters on the track team. Yes, this stocky well-built 200+ pounder was once a sprinter. After R.I.T. Daniel was interested in becoming a teacher, so he did some research in Dallas. From there, he took his studies to Arizona State University for his Ph.D. in microbiology. It was while in Arizona that he began to train in Pankration. He loved the ground game so much he also studied Judo and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu where he attained the rank of brown belt.

It was around this time that a friend invited him to watch his first MMA event. It was ‘Extreme Battlecade’, a short lived promotion from the early days of MMA that I know very well considering I happen to own copies of Battlecade I & II. With a long time personal interest in martial arts, Daniel was hooked instantly. “From that point I would rent VHS tapes of UFC, Vale Tudo, Japan, Pancrase etc; whatever I could get my hands on.”

However, he didn’t let it hinder his studies or his career, so from Arizona he moved back to California to teach high school chemistry. He did that for about a year and then decided he wanted to go to Medical School, which he did in Gudalajara, Mexico from 1998-2001. As if that wasn’t enough, he did a fourth year elective in Brooklyn, NY.

While in Brooklyn he stayed in Sunset Park and Daniel loved it. He told me, “It was more like a neighborhood than anywhere else I’ve been. You had Puerto Ricans, Dominicans etc. and everybody looked out for each other.” Daniel was also in Brooklyn, NY at the time the 9/11 tragedy took place. “I was in the gym working out when the first plane hit.”

After a year in Brooklyn, Daniel went to New Rochelle, NY for a pseudo internship for one year. From there he did a four year residency from 2003-2007 at The University of Texas Southern in Dallas, Texas. Then back to NY for one year at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, followed by another year at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland for Neurological Pathology.

Since then he’s been in Brunswick, Georgia for the last couple of years where according to Daniel, “Things are very limited as far as culture goes; that is unless you want to eat squirrel.” In Georgia, he started training in Taekwondo with his girlfriend Kimberly who is a black belt from Oswego, NY; “It is something we can do together.”

As for Junkie radio, according to Daniel, “One day I was on-line looking for MMA news and saw there was a radio show geared towards the sport; this was when Trigg was still on. I listened to the show, found out there was a chat and logged in.” What he didn’t expect was an experience he would have that would truly cement his love for the show.

He said, “At the time my mom was suffering from breast cancer.” Daniel being an Arizona Cardinals fan, from his days at ASU, found a common bond with his mom who had become a huge Larry Fitzgerald fan who had lost his mother to breast cancer. While in the combat chat one day, Daniel says he came across a girl who said she worked for the Arizona Cardinals in some capacity. He believes her name was Samantha.

“On a whim I sent her a private message explaining my mom’s situation and how she was a huge Larry Fitzgerald fan, but I never thought anything would come of it. Then one day I got a phone call from my mom saying that she had received a package in the mail from the Arizona Cardinals full of all kinds of stuff.” Daniel’s mom has since passed away, but as he explains, “That moment came from my connection to this radio show.” ‘Nuff said!

 

Friday
Dec302011

The Nigerian Golden Bear of San Francisco

By Sam “ALL JAM” Perez

You would think the title of this piece alone would sum up all there is to know about MMA Junkie listener Muna, however as you shall soon see, it is only a small part of this man’s life story. Born in San Francisco, Munachim Okochi, or MunaBear as we’ve all come to know him by, was a product of native Nigerian parents who immigrated to this country in the 1970’s. The oldest of five, four boys and a girl, Muna was under pressure to lead by example for his siblings and that he has done.

Muna doesn’t consider it pressure though because it was his father who first had to lead the way. Nigerian students in the ‘70’s had the opportunity to study abroad, whether it be the United States or Europe, and Muna’s father chose the city by the bay to further his education. Originally the “Master Plan,” as Muna put it, was to go back to Nigeria after college. However, because of a military coupe in his father’s native country, those plans changed.

Instead, his father sent for his girlfriend, Muna’s mother, to come join him in San Francisco, so that she too could go to school and eventually the Okochi’s settled in the city to raise a family. Although both educated, it was difficult to find work since they weren’t citizens, so his father living with a green card, worked multiple jobs in various fields such as restaurants and security to make ends meet.

He also spent a lot of time working within their Catholic Church, so Muna had both a very educated and religious base he grew up with. Thus, the origin of his given name, which translates to, “God is always with me.” Growing up in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of the city, Muna says, “I was a product of the Hippie movement as my neighborhood was the center of where that lifestyle grew out of.”

Growing up was a “unique” experience, he states because he was an American who didn’t necessarily grow up around a lot of African Americans and yet he was still Nigerian. Thus, he says, “One of the toughest things growing up was finding an identity. I always had friends, but never really one group I could associate with.” That would soon change, yet continue right before going into seventh grade.

Starting to hang with the wrong crowd and go down the wrong path, his parents decided to send him and his next youngest brother to Nigeria to live with their uncle. There Muna would stay for the next three years, once again a stranger in his own country; a Nigerian who was looked upon as an American. “At first it was culture shock; no running water or electricity. Many times I did my homework under a kerosene lamp. Sure in Nigeria cities are developed, but you also have rural areas,” he said. 

There were many positive to his three year experience though. As he explained, “It helped me realize my roots. In Nigeria there are three main tribes; my family was part of the Igbo tribe.” “Also, in the United States I spent a lot of time indoors while in Nigeria I got to spend a lot of time outdoors, hanging with friends doing activities such as playing soccer or hanging by the river.”

Growing up in San Francisco, it was inevitable Muna grew up loving the 49’ers and football. So, upon his return to the states prior to his junior year in high school, he had aspirations of playing at the same school that produced the infamous legend O.J. Simpson. Unfortunately, he enrolled in school after the season started, so he was unable to go out for the team. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

A friend suggested he try going out for the wrestling team and without any experience, he ended up being a natural; although he freely admits, “In my first match ever, I gassed worst than Jake Shields in his first fight in the UFC.” However, he enjoyed the overall experience so much, including the discipline, hard work and cutting weight, that in his senior year he went undefeated in the city. Little did he know how much wrestling would come into play later on?

Upon graduation, Muna went to the University of California, which explains where the Golden Bear comes from. Taking time out to teach math & science at a school in Oakland during his tenure, Muna graduated in 2006 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Before graduation, he served an internship with Boeing at their location in Seattle. “While I was there, I just fell in love with the city,” he said. So, when Boeing ended up offering him a job, it was an easy decision.

It was while at Boeing through a co-worker that he discovered MMA. His colleague invited him to watch UFC 60 Hughes vs. Gracie and not surprisingly, he was instantly hooked. “I appreciated that many of the fighters in the sport had the same foundation of wrestling that I had.” 

From that point he was on-line looking up all he could about the sport; old fights, articles etc. It was through a friend that he discovered an article on Junkie and while there he saw a link to TAGG Radio where he uploaded a podcast. “I would listen to the podcast while riding my bike to work, he said; then I found myself following the show more and more. The guys seemed chill and once I didn’t feel like such a newbie anymore, I decided to call in with my two cents.” 

It was also through Junkie Radio that Muna would eventually meet fellow Seattle listener ‘Bad Mo Jack’. Inevitably they hooked up, went clubbing and to a couple of MMA shows. Becoming good friends and ironically both at the end of their respective leases, they decided to become roommates and six months later they are the best of friends.

Meanwhile, Muna is such a proud graduate of Cal that he conducted this interview while at the airport on the eve of the Holiday Bowl. He was there because he was headed to San Diego to watch his Alma Mater take on Texas; and so lives the Nigerian Golden Bear from San Francisco.

 

 

Tuesday
Dec062011

Focus on what you have, not what you're missing

By Sam “ALL JAM” Perez

As uplifting as I try to live my life by imparting positive wisdom to others, I could never take credit for the simple, yet powerful title of this latest Jam Session. That distinction goes to Junkie listener Hal ‘from Chicago’ Fuentes who says, he tries everyday to live his life by focusing on what he has, not what he’s missing. If you’re like me, upon seeing his photo, many of you probably thought I had interviewed UFC lightweight Gleison Tibau; but as successful as Tibau has been in his career, he’s accomplished nothing next to our brother Hal.

A native of Nicaragua, born in the capital city of Managua, which was also the birthplace of legendary boxing champion Alexis Arguello, it must have been destiny that Hal would grow up loving combat sports. However, civil war in his native country in 1979 would force his parents to move his family, including a young Hal at the age of two and half, to the windy city of Chicago.

That move would provide Hal with his initial passion in sports, baseball. Hal told me, “I was a baseball addict till I was about 16.” Hal had dreams of someday becoming a professional baseball player. However, those plans were quickly derailed when he saw the 1993 film ‘A Bronx Tale’.

“That movie ruined dreams of baseball for me,” he said. “When Sonny said to Calogero, “You think Mickey Mantle cares whether your father can pay the rent. Nobody cares.” “I thought about it and I realized he was right. Now I use that phrase all the time, no matter the situation.” At first I thought he was kidding, but when I went on to ask him how he felt about his hometown Cubs and the whole ‘Bartman’ situation, he quickly responded by saying, “Nobody cares.”

Granted, that’s not true; as far as Cubs fans are concerned. However, Hal’s perspective is different. “I don’t feel any ill will towards that guy; I don’t get why people got so upset.” Part of that may have to do with his chosen profession Psychology. “Growing up Catholic, although I am now a Universalist when it comes to religion, I always admired priests. It had to do with the way they were able to help people with advice. Around 15 years of age I knew my calling was to help people in their lives,” he said.

However, realizing he could never live the celibate lifestyle of a Catholic Priest, he decided he’d do it another way. “Psychology was the best compromise; that’s what led me on my path.” So, upon graduating high school in 1994 he enrolled at the University of Illinois as a psych major. While there Hal told me, “I was not your typical college student. I tended to hang out with more of a hippie crowd. We were counter cultural, not your typical frat boys. Instead of football games, we would go catch a band or go to a dance. I was more into philosophizing.”

Yet, while he no longer followed team sports, he still had a love for combat sports. “I always loved boxing. Like most Latinos my influence for the sport came from my father and my uncles who always used to watch fights when I was growing up,” he said. Then during his freshman year in college, while at a video store he saw a VHS tape of an event he had read about on-line, UFC 1. Hal said, “Once I saw it, I was hooked; it was like the Kumite in ‘Bloodsport’, only this was live and in person. Before that the only time we would see something like this was in ‘Enter the Dragon’.”   

However, being a psychology major, he looks at MMA and boxing a little different. He says, “Combat sports are an honest expression of play. It is a game played by adults of life’s struggles that encompasses the mind, body and spirit; it’s like chess.” From that point forward, Hal says, “I became obsessed; Vale Tudo, Jungle Fights, Pride. I started purchasing tapes from a guy on-line.” Sound familiar Junkies?

Hal would go on not only to get his bachelor’s degree in Psychology, but also his Master’s and Doctorate’s degree as well. So, technically I guess I should be referring to him as Dr. Hal. His inspiration and influence came from his parents who from humble beginnings in Nicaragua, both went on to become college graduates, with his father going on to obtain an M.B.A. here in the states with English as a second language.

As for discovering Junkie radio, all the credit goes to his phone. “I got my first smart phone earlier this year and I found out you can download podcasts,” he said. “Immediately I searched for MMA radio and Junkie was one of the first hits. I downloaded it and as soon as I listened to the first show I was hooked right from the start. Just like Junkie listener ‘Raider Kela’ it serves as the perfect backdrop for my morning commute to work, which is about 45 minutes to an hour.” 

Besides MMA, Hal’s other passion in life, similar to mine, is music. He loves everything from grunge rock, which was the backdrop to his high school days, to Latin Jazz and World music, which came about from his Hispanic roots growing up listening to Salsa. In 1992 after seeing Tito Puente on the timbales in the movie ‘The Mambo Kings’, he went out and bought some drums. Since then he’s become somewhat of an amateur musician playing percussion at any open jam session from blues to Latin music he can find.

However, his number one passion in life is his family, which is comprised of his wife and two kids. Hal reminds us that, “As long as we have our health, family, friends and three meals a day, we are rich.” Besides working full-time at a hospital, he also has a private practice and when I talked to him, he was on his way to teaching a class in graduate psychology, which he does part-time as well.

Where does he find the time for all this? Hal says, “The key to life is adapting; it’s an honor to help people. It never ceases to amaze me how you can put two people in a situation and they can both come out of it in different ways.” Hal’s favorite quote comes from renowned psychologist Dr. Alan Slater who said, “Perception is at the core of all experience.” Think about it.    

Tuesday
Oct042011

Work hard, Play hard

By Sam “ALL JAM”

The world is usually comprised of two kinds of people; those that don’t mind working and those that can’t stand it and rather just have fun all the time. So, it is unique when you find that rare person that is comprised of both traits. It is in this realm where you’ll find beautiful Junkie listener Kindra Waluk.

Personally, I often think to myself that I have way too many things going on in my life and I need to cut back and scale it down. However, after talking to Kindra and seeing what her life is comprised of, I’m starting to wonder if I do enough. Even growing up a small town girl from the Sierra Mountains couldn’t keep her from staying busy and having fun.  

A product of Markleeville, which resides in the smallest county in California, she actually grew up five minutes from the Nevada state line near Lake Tahoe; is that anywhere near Otisville? Yet even though she technically lived in California, she went to school in Nevada. Why? “Because of the weather and snow, it was a safer commute for the kids who grew up on the mountain,” she said.

Growing up on a mountain had its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, sometimes the kids on the mountain got snow days that the other kids didn’t. On the other hand that meant being at home with not much else to do other than ski; and ski she did up until she was 14 when she discovered snowboarding. “After that I knew I would never go back to skiing,” she said.

However, skiing also impacted as to which direction she would go in life as well. While working at the local state park as a lifeguard and EMT, she witnessed medical personnel attending to someone who was in a ski accident. Kindra said, “It was at that point I knew I wanted to be a nurse because I thought that was the coolest thing.”

So after graduating high school in 1998, Kindra went from the smallest county in California, to its smallest state school Humboldt State University. “I went as far north as you can go without leaving California,” she said. As for why she went to Humboldt? Kindra told me, “My two aunts went to Humboldt in the ‘70’s & ‘80’s. Plus, I had friends since the third grade that also decided they wanted to go into nursing, so we all went into the nursing program together.”

While there, she majored in nursing, but also minored in music. Kindra said, “I had been doing musicals since seventh grade at Carson Community College as a way to get off the mountain.” It was also at Humboldt that she met her future husband to be Mike, but it wasn’t a fairy tale right from the start. After a “Jersey Shore moment,” as she put it with one of Mike’s ex-girlfriends she decided there was too much baggage there.

So, they remained just friends for a year and a half until one day one of her friends said, “You know Mike is kind of cute.” Upon realizing her friend was right, they finally got back together and have remained ever since. They eventually got married in 2005 on the island of Maui where they partied with close friends and family for a week. 

After obtaining her R.N. degree in nursing, she worked in traditional medicine until 2004 when she hurt her back while caring for a patient. A torn disc had left her partially disabled and by 2006 when it didn’t get any better, she decided to go back to school and get her Master’s degree in Nursing and Mental Health Education. This has led her on a different path in nursing, patient safety education.

Kindra was approached by her employers to put together and spearhead a federally funded program geared to teaching hospitals, nursing schools and paramedic programs about patient safety, thus the Humboldt Bay Regional Simulation Center was born. Using mannequins as patients in simulated situations, Kindra and her staff educate medical professionals on improving their skills. As she says, “In the medical field, the technology can either help or hinder you; we’re here to make it work.”

Regarding MMA, it was Mike that introduced her to it. “Living on the mountain, there wasn’t much to do on the weekends, so I remember I used to watch Showtime boxing as a kid,” she said. However, after becoming a nurse she was turned off by the multiple brain injuries incurred by boxers. So when Mike suggested she watch The Ultimate Fighter Season One finale, she was intrigued.

So much so, that over the next few years she and Mike would rent UFC’s 1–100, just to catch up on their history. In the interim she kept watching TUF, especially season six when one of her favorite fighters Matt Serra let loose a verbal tirade on Marc Laimon. “I hated Laimon, I thought he was such a douche,” Kindra said. Sound familiar?

As fate would have it, Mike was also a Junkie Radio listener. So, when Marc Laimon was in studio co-hosting, he saw it as an opportunity to get Kindra to listen. Ironically, a strange thing happened. Kindra said, “I hated him; however, I learned so much from listening to him that I started to learn the game more. After listening to Laimon I started to watch differently; I would analyze the fights and anticipate strategy.”

Besides MMA, Kindra and Mike are also involved in an Air Soft League they started about eight years ago. It’s similar to paintball, but with weapons shooting biodegradable BB’s. What started with six has grown to about 150 and they coordinate about 25 events a year. On top of that, she’s also business manager for Mike’s independent Computer Systems Analyst Company. With no children a/o yet, their family is comprised of their German shepherd ‘Valkeri and their cat ‘Shmoo’. As Kindra puts it, “My life is simple, work hard, play hard.”   

For more info on Humboldt Bay Regional Simulation Center, please go to http://hbrsc.org/learn

For more info on the Humboldt Air Soft League, please go to http://www.humboldtairsoft.com/

 

Thursday
Sep082011

It's the J-E-FF woooooo Rey!

By Sam “ALL JAM” Perez

 

Love him or hate him, there’s one thing you can say about Jeffrey Harris, the self-professed number one caller and Gozey award winner for best villain of MMA Junkie Radio, he is one interesting character. That’s just what found out when I interviewed him; but beyond the character, the guy himself is one interesting fellow. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the fact that I have more in common with this guy than I actually knew and realized. One thing’s for sure, the guy is definitely a combination of what you think he is and what you never knew he was.

A native of Sugar Land, Texas, born and raised, Jeffrey Harris is Lone Star State proud through and through. While growing up in this suburb of Houston, from a very young age Jeffrey’s interests included theater and movies. “I was a theater geek growing up. In school I was in the video and film club and always enjoyed writing amateur movie reviews. I always felt Siskel & Ebert had the greatest job in the world; you watch movies for free and get to talk and write about them. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

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