COLUMBUS, Ohio — Every year during the first weekend of March, the Arnold Classic comes to Columbus bringing with it nearly 200,000 nutrition and supplement enthusiasts. Over the past few years the sport of mixed martial arts has found a home amongst the madness and with the UFC vacating this year, Strikeforce saw the perfect opportunity to pounce. The San Jose based promotion lined up a double title shot billing with one of the organization's biggest stars, Dan Henderson, carrying the shoulder load. With that being said it is a weekend jam packed with activities and while Strikeforce will have their time on Saturday night, Friday afternoon is all Arnold.
While I am still one of the newer staff members at Bloody Elbow, occasionally Kid Nate will put me on mobile assignment. Much like my stay in Vegas for UFC 125, Columbus has been action packed with adventure and today I became one of the masses that took to the Columbus Convention Center to take part in the Arnold Classic Expo. By noon the place was packed and the muscle bound and bronzed moved from table to table in search of this year's newest breakthroughs. Hoping to blend in the best I could I filed into line when amidst the creatine and nitric oxide pump inducers I came to a natural booth that was featuring a glucosamine product. For those unfamiliar with glucosamine it is used to promote lubrication in the joints and prevent inflation. Imagine my surprise when at this natural product stand I ran smack into UFC veteran Duane "Bang" Ludwig and MMA pioneer and everybody's favorite American Don "The Predator" Frye. After a brief exchange of pleasantries the fighters shared their opinions on the spectacle around them.
"Yes it's my first year here," Ludwig began. "It's entertaining for sure to see the different variations the human body is capable of. You see some big guys, some small big guys and it' s always interesting to see what chemicals can do to the human body."
The connection between mixed martial arts and sports nutrition would seem to be a seamless fit but with many supplements unregulated by the FDA, they are definitely waters a fighter must tread with caution.
"I think it's a good fit but to be honest I think most of the nutrition business is a bunch of bulls**t," Ludwig stated. "It's all a lie and 90% of this s**t does not work. I think they are lying to the public so I'm not a big fan of supplement companies. GLC, the stuff I'm representing here today actually works but the rest of this stuff is just bulls**t."
The last time Ludwig stepped into the octagon he found victory against Team U.K. TUF alum Nick Osipczak at UFC 122. The fight may be more revered for Ludwig's post fight speech than the bout itself as "Bang" said hello to his newborn son, who he had yet to meet because of fight obligations.
"That was a good moment for me for sure," Ludwig stated. "One I'll always remember."
Up next for Ludwig is another TUF alum in fan favorite Amir Sadollah at UFC Fight Night 24 in Seattle. There is no secret where Ludwig would prefer the fight take place but said it would all depend on which way Sadollah decides to roll the dice.
"I fight Amir Sadollah coming up in 3 weeks," Ludwig stated. "I think my stand-up is better. He's good and I think he's better off of his back but it's an interesting matchup for sure and which Amir wants to come and fight me. If he wants to stand-up or try to take me down will be the interesting factor so we'll have to see what happens."
As I wrapped up speaking with Ludwig the ominous mustached figure loomed in the background as Don Frye stepped up to the plate. Few have proven to be more rugged then "The Predator" and where often times a fighter will err on the side of PC, that isn't a game that Frye has ever played.
"Ahhh I love it," Frye replied when asked about the Arnold. "Have you seen the women here? Holy balls! This and the Olympia are my two favorite weekends of the year."
Frye's exploits in and out of the cage are the stuff of MMA legend and while the former two-time UFC tournament winner's last bout came a year and a half ago, Frye finds other ways to stay busy.
"I do something with Fight! Magazine and I'm doing Junkie Radio, just hung up on them as a matter of fact so I'm going to have to call them back," Frye laughed.
While the UFC has been keen to the supplement industry for some time using supplement giant BSN and the now defunct Xyience in the past, Strikeforce is new to the game. With the two biggest organizations in MMA invested in the multiple fashions, the union would appear to have a bright future.
"It's common sense," Frye stated. "You need one for the other. I mean...god**n. It's simple mathematics. It works perfect. We asked them if they wanted to give us a ticket and they haven't offered so I think we'll be hitting a restaurant tomorrow night."
With throngs of the paying public lined up for the chance to take pictures with the MMA veterans I wrapped up the conversation by asking Frye what was the best and worst thing he has seen change in the sport since the early days of heavyweight tournaments and rock'em and sock' em slugfests with Japanese heavyweights.
"You don't want to ask me that. We don't have time for me to answer that question," Frye laughed before finally giving in. "MMA is great. It's like NASCAR and this sport has developed to such a high state that I feel like one of the old moonshine runners back in the 30's. You can't have NASCAR without the moonshine runners but it's a different game when you have cars that are running with 500 horsepower if you get what I'm saying."