Fighting Words

Growing up in Westport, Addison Freeman didn’t fight much.  The son and grandson of dentists — Adam and Stan, respectively — he didn’t fight a lot at George Washington University, either.

“Bar and street fights are foolish, childish,” he says.

But like many young men, Freeman watched boxing and mixed martial arts on TV.  “You wonder what it’s like,” he notes.  “You idolize the warrior mentality.”

Addison Freeman, at his fighting weight.

Which is how, last week, Freeman found himself locked in a Denver cage, punching and kicking a man he’d never met.  A crowd of 1,500 roared its lusty approval.

Freeman does nothing partway.

At Staples he was a 2-year wrestling captain.  He graduated in 2004 with the 2nd highest number of wins in Wrecker history.

At GW he majored in pre-med, then moved west to install IT systems in hospitals.  He’d done Ju-Jitsu in college, and in Colorado realized he wanted to learn more about martial arts and hand-to-hand combat.

Freeman gravitated to Muay Thai — an aggressive form of kick-boxing (kicks to the leg are allowed).  He was good at it, but after months of training he felt the urge to kick it up a notch:  Cage fighting, in front of fans.

He worked for months with coach Jason Lee, and was nearly ready.  But a knee injury set him back.  Five months of rehabilitation, followed by 3 more months of brutal training, were rewarded when Lee recommended Freeman for a “Rising Stars” card.

He was scheduled for 160 pounds — just below his normal weight. But his opponent backed out.  Freeman had already told friends about the bout — and his parents were flying out from Westport to watch.  His only chance was at 150 pounds.

For 2 weeks, Freeman worked with a nutritionist to cut weight.  The night before the bout, he stripped to his underwear at a bar to weigh in.  He made it — by 1 ounce.

Addison Freeman's headgear and mouthguard being checked by the athletic commission. (Photo by John Burkard)

A week ago Friday, Freeman entered the National Western Complex.  He wore headgear, but shin pads are optional — both fighters wear them, or none.  He and his opponent, Josh Martinez, decided against the guards.

“The point is to not be safe and protected,” Freeman says.  “I wanted to feel everything.”

Thirteen other fighters stood on Freeman’s side of the gym.  Some had 20 bouts under their belt; others, like he, had none.

“I didn’t expect all that camaraderie,” Freeman marvels.  “As bad a reputation as these guys have for being aggressive thugs, they treat themselves as athletes.  And they really want to help each other out.”

Muay Thai is “not easy to watch,” Freeman admits.  “People get hurt.  But it’s completely voluntary.  You can stop at any time just by falling on your back and tapping out.”

All of a sudden the music Freeman had chosen — Lupe Fiasco’s “Solar Midnite” — came on.  Tumultuous cheers accompanied him into the ring.

Immediately, a surge of adrenaline kicked in.

Handlers removed his shirt.  He hugged his coach.  Lee told him he was ready, and urged him to have fun.

Suddenly the cage door closed behind Freeman.

“What the hell did I get myself into?” he wondered.  “I’m a rational person.  I went to a good school.  And I was about to get kicked and hit inside a cage.”

But he couldn’t back down.  The referee called the fighters into the center.  The bell rang; they touched gloves — and instantly battled.

Addison Freeman keeping Josh Martinez against the fence with a punch-kick combination. (Photo by John Burkard)

Freeman’s strategy was to throw combination punches.  Martinez stayed on the outside and kicked.  At the end of the 1st round Martinez connected low — men, you know what that means — and Freeman went down.  He did not know it, but the blow had broken Martinez’s foot.

In the 2nd round Freeman used his shin to block Martinez’s own shin kicks.  The debilitating strikes caused Freeman to lose feeling in his leg.  He felt no pain though, and thought his own punches were finding their mark.

The final round exhausted both men.  Martinez’s nose bled badly — it was broken — and Freeman kept attacking his head.

“It’s a weird emotional mix,” Freeman says.  “I took pride in doing damage, but I didn’t want Josh to be in pain in the end.”

Both men, of course, were in plenty of pain.  Martinez broke his other foot too, and when it was over each fighter needed help leaving the cage.

The judges awarded Martinez the match, 2 rounds to 1.  “They liked his kicks more than my punches,” Freeman explains.  “Most people thought it was a draw.  But his strategy worked.  I should have been more aggressive.”

The men spoke briefly before Martinez went to the hospital.  Later, on Facebook, they congratulated each other on a great fight.

Addison's leg, post-fight.

Meanwhile, Freeman’s leg swelled to twice its normal size.  His head was having issues of its own.

“It was just this incredible emotional dump,” Freeman reports.  “After that insane adrenaline rush, I had so much to deal with.

“At first I couldn’t believe what I’d just done.  Then I couldn’t decide whether to be sad or mad at the outcome, or what.

“But the professional fighters told me not to worry.  They said some of them bawled after their first fight.  They all congratulated me and said it was a great fight.  But it was a real rollercoaster of emotions.”

Within a few days, Freeman “discovered a lot about myself.  This was pure 1-on-1.  There’s no one to bail you out.  You find out if you’re a coward, or if you go after someone else.”  He realized he is definitely not a coward.

His friends and family “think this is a litte crazy,” he admits.  His mother was “not thrilled” — probably an understatement — but watched nevertheless.

“She was nervous, but she knows this is what I do,” Freeman explains.  He’s competed in an Ironman, and run with the bulls in Pamplona.

Freeman was invited back for another match at the end of the month.  “I respectfully declined,” he says.  “I need a bit of time.”

So how does he feel now?

“A lot of people think about doing this,” Freeman says.  “But most of them don’t step into a cage.

“That’s the rational decision.  I don’t think it’s wrong, but I don’t think my decision is wrong either.  I followed through with something that’s important to me.”

He had “an incredible workout.  I found a level of respect with other competitors that was inspiring.  This is a sport I love.”

Now, though, “it’s time to get serious about my future.  It was never my goal to be a fighter.  I’ve done the irresponsible things.  Now I have to take care of the responsible ones.”

He hopes to attend Columbia University dental school.  He’d like to be a maxillofacial surgeon — and return to Westport to practice.

That’s good.  He’d join the family business.

Having a 3rd Dr. Freeman in town would be quite a kick.

(Click here for a video of the fight.)

23 responses to “Fighting Words

  1. The Dude Abides

    Wow, hats off to young Freeman and nice job of reporting it. Very nice job of reporting. I don’t share his need for such an adrenaline rush, although I still find solace in marathons and triathlons, but admire his courage. Lance Armstrong was once asked if he finds pleasure in his 8 hour training runs for the Tour de France. His response: “I don’t do it for the pleasure. I do it for the pain.” I would imagine Freeman could relate to that. Not sure I will be going to him for a root canal however

  2. Hi I just wanted to confirm, he did lose the fight, right?

  3. Yes. As noted in the story, the judges awarded Martinez the match, 2 rounds to 1.

  4. Having seen the fight it was much closer than the score. I would have scored it two rounds Freeman to one round Martinez. Freeman went home and ordered a pizza and Martinez went to the hospital with a fractured nose and two broken feet. One of the feet most likley fractured on the accidental low blow to Freemans cup.

    All in all a very imressive feat!

    • Curtis E. Bear

      Wow, that is impressive. And at the very least I imagine they paid Adison Freedman pretty well for the fight so at least there’s that, right?

  5. highschoolgrrl2011

    OMG! So hot! I’d love to get into a cage with you!

  6. Dan,
    You better start checking age on these posts… things are starting to heat up. Better not be a sting operation !

  7. The Dude Abides

    Yeah that bruise on his leg is a big turn-on!

  8. Come on, Dan. Valorizing a potentially deadly sport without emphasizing the consequences these activities have on the health care providers who have to clean up the mess afterwards? I think we can all agree that hospital personnel have better things to do than attend to the broken bones of a sadomasochistic adrenaline junkie who intentionally subjects himself to serious injury. And who’s paying Martinez’s and Freeman’s hospital bills? Hopefully just their private health insurance providers . . . but how do we know? If I was a Colorado resident, I certainly wouldn’t want my out-of-pocket hospital expenses to be raised because of an influx of hedonistic “Fight Club” fans in the E.R.

    You’d think an aspiring surgeon would object to creating a patient out of an otherwise healthy individual.

    • Becky: You must not have read the article. The fighters fight because they choose to. You might be forced to pay for their injuries, but that is not their fault, it is the fault of a government that engages in wealth transfers. BTW using your reasoning anyone who engages in any sport should be pursuaded or forced to stop; tennis, bowling, golf, squash, soccer, all such activities are capable of producing injuries.

  9. Becky –

    I appreciate your concern over the ‘consequences’ these activities have on healthcare providers. I work for a hospital here in Denver and would like to think my day to day work helps the healthcare provided run more efficiently and economically.

    I’m curious if you have these same feelings towards football? More injuries and DEATH are sustained every year – especially concussions – in football than in all of kickboxing and MMA. Is a running back – generally 200lbs and being hit by a 300+lbs man running at full speed – sadistic? I certainly don’t think so and neither do the majority of American’s who enjoy watching on a weekly basis. Is a female gymnast sadistic? They maintain dangerously low body fat percentages and launch themselves into the air – sometimes landing incorrectly and hurting themselves. The bottom line is most sports are dangerous and if unprepared, or unlucky, injuries can occur.

    You seem to make the same mistake many people do. Clearly you have little information other than to view this sport as a “fight club” yet feel you have the authority to make over-arching statements about anyone involved.

    I appreciate that this sport isn’t for everyone but I find it a bit sad that someone so ignorant on the topic would decide to make such hard-line statements about those who participate.

  10. Of course all sports have their respective risks of injury – but very few have as their primary objective inflicting blunt force traumas to fellow athletes. I respect that the athletes who engage in the latter sports do so out of free will, and with full knowledge of the consequences. However, we must ask ourselves whether to condone (as Dan’s glowing account appears to do) activities that so consistently rob the resources of our health care system. When does the notion of the “greater good” kick in? Why should we pay for the foolishness of those fighters who refuse protective gear? We don’t relish covering the expenses of patients who sustain injuries as the result of driving while intoxicated. How is this any different?

    I may not know much about fighting for sport, but as an emergency medical worker, I know enough about the diversion of precious resources to reckless patients.

    • Whose greater good? Yours? Once again your are concerned about the externalities that are not inherent in the sport, but are forced on you by the government.

    • How much time and money is spent on repairing the bones of gentlemen like Addison each year? Compare that to the amount spent on diabetes, heart attacks and other ailments due to obesity. Surely Addison is not the problem in today’s health care system. In fact, as the article notes and he retorts, he is part of the solution. What aboutnlung cancer and those who smoke? Or those that drink and drive?

      Please venture to see the bigger picture.

  11. Becky – you still contradict yourself. You seem to be stuck on the visually violent nature of fighting. It still remains fact that football has a higher rate of injury. The average life expectancy of a lineman in the NFL is only in the 50’s. If MMA is too violent than is football as well? It certainly cost our country more in medical bills, if that’s your issue.

    I think you should stop and think about your argument. Maybe you personally are not a fan. Fine, no one is forcing you to watch it. But to claim it is somehow offensive from an economic or visual standpoint is ignorant, plain and simple.

    As an aside MMA fighters have health insurance. They are sanctioned by state athletic commissions and as such have insurance on events, not to mention ring side physicians.

  12. Another side of the argument not being discusses is the fact that Type 2 diabetes and other dietary related illnesses make up an overwhelmingly greater percentage of healcare costs than organized sports. regardless of any cost of injury I’d postulate that Addison is actually lowering the overall cost of healthcare by simply being healthy.
    In addition, you may have missed the point of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel if you choose to demean MMA by referring to it simply as a “fight club”. There is an inherent part of the male species that requires a phyiscal outlet to the day-to-day stresses of life (and pressures to model one’s home to mirror a Pier 1 Imports catalogue). Think of it as your equivalent to buying shoes or eating Pink Berry.

  13. The bigger picture is that there are no externalities associated with the sport that are not created by the government. Your argument is to restrict freedom of choice because the government has created unfortunate externalities. Kill 10,000,0000 kulaks for the greater good. See how that works.

  14. This is not a theoretical argument; rather, it’s one that does in fact take in to account the “externalities,” whether we agree with them, or not. These fights don’t happen in a vacuum.

    As for the diabetes/obesity argument – there are plenty of organized sports whose primary objectives do not involve inflicting blunt force traumas on one’s opponents.

    Appealing to gender stereotypes, jonspiv? Now that’s a low blow. And not even worthy of further response.

    • All personal choice does not take place in a vacuum, however you have not demonstrated that inherent to this activity are externalities that are not priced into the activity. Drinking a beer does not take place in a vacuum. Eating ice cream does not take place in a vacuum. Which of your activities would you like to have curtailed because of imagined externalities? How anti-choice are you?

  15. Becky –

    You didn’t respond to the diabetes/obesity argument at all. You are correct, plenty of sports are less violent but what does that have to do with anything discussed. You’ve made it a point that fighting must cause higher medical rates for the rest of the country and JonSpiv made a great point about medical costs and their causes. Please respond to an actual argument rather than just continuing to appeal to the violent visual nature of the sport. Again, if you don’t like watching, dont. However, trying to depict the sport as a “fight club” or having an impact financially on our country is ridiculous.

  16. Hi Becky,
    Can I assume you’re single and aging?

  17. Becky. I hate you.

  18. Elliot Bell Krasner

    Becky, I am a good friend of Addison’s. what is your problem.