By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
Then again: MMA parents.
"Kinda makes you cringe," Oyama says.
He'll probably think about that one, come the end of the year. There's a lot to think about. Where is all of this going, and does he want to go along?
There are so many good things about the fight game. The discipline and sacrifice, the pure simple truth of it all. Then again, there's so much that has showed up to spoil that. Money and agents and branding and clothing lines.
When he worked with Rex, he sparred in a ring half the size of a normal one. That was no accident: With nowhere to run, Rex's students were going to learn how to fight.
"That was his mentality: 'You're here to learn how to do this,'" Oyama says. "The greatest things I learned from him weren't the skills—you can learn skills any place—it was thinking. He instilled a way of thinking in me that was instrumental. The No. 1 thing that helped me succeed was the way he taught me how to think about fighting people, how to execute strategies. You know, this guy is built a certain way, and he's significantly better than me, but I can beat him. By doing certain things, I can lure him into a certain kind of fighting that favors me."
He'll have to find that for himself, for his career. His gym is starting to feel a lot like Rex's half-sized ring: The world outside keeps pushing its way in, taking up all the space with its money and what-ifs and excuses, crowding it with folks who are not fighters but like calling themselves such, like what fighting can provide for them while giving precious back. In little more than 15 years, his world has gone from something that felt separate and pure to something that could be losing its way.
He'll think about that, too. About engineers who fancy themselves architects and fighters who think they're above fighting. In every career, he says, you're going to run into those who should beat you, but somehow, you have to find a way to overcome them. Rex always said there was a way. Maybe that way is Richard Alarcon, and maybe it's some 10-year-old who will show up at the gym tomorrow. Regardless, what Oyama is liable to find when he takes time for himself—perhaps back home in Hawaii—is that the way will be how he has always found it: clearly marked, black and white, unequivocal, indisputable, and unapologetic.
Dude, shut up and fight.