We all remember those Christmas mornings. We wake up around 3am to do some early morning recon on our bounty that lay at the base of the tree. While we weave back and forth like a ninja, that warm glow and sensation of thankfulness fills our core. Be it Santa, or parents, somebody has taken the time to do such hard work to make the day special.
Baltimore has been no stranger to sacks of coal in regards to its sports. For the right to host the prestigious Olympics, DC and Baltimore joined forces to see the games make their way to our area. London unfortunately won that honor. In 93, when we begged and petitioned for the NFL to “give Baltimore the ball”, Paul Tagliabue scoffed and thought Jacksonville would be a more profitable destination and market for an expansion team. (What was he thinking?)
Our disappointment was fended off Saturday night as UFC 172 brought with it the realization that MMA was finally a sanctioned sport in the state of Maryland. As the world watched on PPV, Charm City embraced them all with a splendor and vigor that most wouldn’t be capable of. Gone are the days when our home must be an afterthought in the main event type draws. As the Light Heavyweight Championship was fought over, one man stood in the room with that same warm glow and thankfulness. After all the hard work put in, John Rallo could sit back and say here Baltimore, enjoy.
John first made his impression in the mixed martial arts world in 98. He was brought under the guidance of Rickson Gracie. For those who don’t follow the sport, Gracie is to MMA like Ripken is to Orioles Baseball. After winning many a tournament, and only ranking as a white belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Rallo had the world noticing just how skilled he was. Injuries, as with some athletes unfortunately, took the competitive possibilities of the sport away from John. He never did lose sight of the sport itself.
After becoming the head trainer of Ground Control, John realized that the fighters in Maryland had no true way to showcase their talents and prowess. This prompted John to start walking. From Capitol Hill, to local radio stations, John went anywhere he could to educate the state about MMA as a sport. As the politicians started to become educated, more and more support joined the cause. Martin O’Malley would legally sanction MMA as a sport in the state of Maryland in 2008.
So as Jon Bones Jones defended his title last night against Glover Teixeira, successfully mind you, John Rallo was looking at the bigger picture. He successfully brought Dana White and one of the most well known brands in the whole world to Baltimore. Not only did the city respond well, we represented the only way we know how. A sold out crowd, and millions more proves that we have been ready for this for a long time.
So if I’m ever lucky enough to meet John in person, I know what I’ll do. I certainly won’t leave him milk and cookies like I do for Santa. I’ll say shake his hand and say “thanks for showing the world that we are a Fighting Town.” I hope that you all will follow suit and do the same.