It was May of 2003 and Rich Clementi was pissed. He was part of a grand theatrical experiment, one of just a handful of men ever to compete in tag team mixed martial arts for the Japanese ZST promotion. That was going well enough, but his partner Jeff Curran was giving him fits.
"I tag Jeff in and he goes out there, I'm sipping on water and he turns around looking to tap my hand," Clementi remembers in an exclusive Ring Psychology interview. "I'm like 'Yo bro! We're getting paid the same and you haven't earned your pay yet. Why don't you go out there and fight a little bit?' So I tag and I go and fight for about another minute and a half and I go to tag Jeff's hand and he doesn't want to tag in."
The two squabbled at ringside like they were auditioning for Vince McMahon. Clementi was ready to make it a three on one match when he heard the news. Curran had actually broken his arm blocking a kick in the first 30 seconds. Clementi was on his own against the tough Kotani brothers.
"I had to fight both guys for probably eight, nine minutes," Clementi said. "They could stall because there were no punches on the ground and they'd get stood up. Then they would tag out. They basically did king of the mat on me. It was fun, and I was glad to be (one of the) first guys to do it. But Jeff Curran, you're not my tag team partner next time."
This story should illustrate one point vividly - Rich Clementi has been around the block. The UFC veteran has fought around the world, including stops in Northern Ireland, Japan, and even Guam. His fight Thursday night, headlining Bellator 28 against Carey Vanier is a little different - it's right in his own backyard. But it's not the hometown crowd that was Clementi's main motivation to take this fight. It was the chance to show what he could do to a national audience.
"They get great coverage. That's what I'm excited about," Clementi said. "...I love fighting and I would fight in someone's backyard...but the fact that I'm going to be on television again and that people are going to see where I'm at right now - I'm excited to have that kind of opportunity and Bellator's given me that."
Much more with Rich Clementi, including discussion of why he thinks he was cut too soon from the UFC, his feud with Melvin Guillard, and how Bellator plans to handle competing with the NFL's New Orleans Saints in the podcast. You can listen streaming on Angry Marks or download the episode on I-Tunes. Older episodes are also available for direct download at Angry Marks. Thanks for your support.