Ferraro takes a wrinkled silver body suit out of his gym bag. He wrestles it over his head, then puts his Temple Owls sweatshirt back on. He says he’s going to take a walk around the block to sweat the rest of his weight out.
Terrel Hobbs, who rode up with Carter, is overweight by 10 pounds. His dark, hairless face is emotionless as he quietly insists he thought he was fighting a 145-pound match. Hobbs says he’ll give his opponent, Ferraro, $100 if he agrees to a match at 140. “Fuck that,” says Ferraro, shaking his head. “Nothing against you, but fuck that.”
It’s what those in the MMA world call cutting the deal.
“The negotiations all happen at the weigh-ins,” says Miles. “I’ve seen a fighter five pounds over, hand his opponent $100 per pound, when he was only taking something like $700 for the entire fight in the first place.”
Fighters are paid based on their experience, name recognition and whether they’re professional or amateur. Promotions the size of Locked in the Cage often pay fighters anywhere from $300 to $5,000.
A few minutes later, Ferraro agrees to fight Hobbs at 140, instead of the original 135. Which means Hobbs still has to make weight and lose five pounds before the night is over. “I’ve got you,” says Red Corner manager Josh Husak, a black phone sandwiched between his ear and shoulder. “We’ve got a bunch of fighters here who need a sauna,” he says into the phone. “Is it OK if they come down? They’ve got a fight tomorrow.” Huzak agrees to give the City Fitness manager with whom he’s on the phone free tickets to let the fighters in. He hangs up and tells Hobbs to go to the gym at Second and Spring Garden streets.
“Weigh-ins are just like that,” says Travis Collins, an MMA blogger who covered the event for Bonesnapper.com. “No one ever makes weight.”
By 8:30, Miles is standing outside the shop in a daze.
The line down Swanson Street in South Philly is a block deep. It’s going to take a while to get into the arena since the guys working the door are practicing TSA-style pat downs and searches. Once inside, you’d be hard-pressed to find an unhappy customer in the house. Except, maybe, Phil Ferraro. His fight against Hobbs was eventually canceled at the behest of his trainer. So he’s sitting amongst the fans with his younger brother and girlfriend.
The night moves on without him. The first eight fights, amateur contests, consist of three two-minute rounds, or three three-minute rounds, based on the amateur fighters’ experience. Unlike their professional counterparts, amateurs have to wear leg pads and no fighter can punch another in the face if they’re on their knees. Most of tonight’s matches end in judge’s decision, though heavyweight Chris Ostoyic will pass out from exhaustion in the third round of his match, resulting in a Technical Knockout. After Matt Nice puts Vantassel to bed, Kyle Holdsworth, a local MMA blogger, insists he saw Vantassel’s eyes roll into the back of his head. Later, the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission suspends Vantassel for 45 days, as is required after a fighter gets knocked out. He’ll be allowed to train again after a state-regulated neurological exam.
Backstage, Aaron Carter won’t let the Tavares name thing go. After an hour of brow beating, Evans takes out his phone, scrolls through his text messages and shows Carter one between himself and Carter’s coach, Rick McCoy. In the message, Evans explained the confusion. But McCoy apparently forgot to relay that back to Carter.
“He was mad about the name thing and when I showed him the text he got even madder,” says Evans. “He felt like an asshole.”
Carter loses to Tavares. Caught in an arm bar in the first round, he taps out.
Afterward, coaches, announcer Adam DiCarlo and Evans head into the ring to congratulate the main event fighters and declare Tavares the winner. But when Evans goes to shake Carter’s hand, the fighter mouths off. Evans gets in his face and they’re pulled apart by others in the ring.
Evans says these things happen. “You’re going to get into an argument with a guy. It’s going to happen,” he says. “[Carter] put his life into that fight, just like I put my life into the show.”
“It’s just business,” Miles adds.
As soon as the fight lets out, Evans and Miles begin preparing for Locked in the Cage’s next show: Thursday, Aug. 4, at the same venue. Two days later, the UFC will host the month’s largest MMA event in the world at the Wells Fargo Center, where tickets will go for hundreds of dollars.
The two won’t admit they’re worried about putting on a show within three days of a UFC show, in the same city. Evans goes so far to say he’s happy about it. It shows there’s a huge interest in Philly. “I owe the UFC,” he says. “They built this whole thing up for me. They had balls to make it what it is today and they made it easier for me to get where I’m at.”
Local mixed-martial arts promoter Fran Evans, 28, hit a bump early this year with his local outfit Locked in the Cage. The South Philly arena, where he’d been holding his fights, folded. His public relations assistant left, and a match he later held in Bucks County flopped. It made him ponder his future in the business, and come to a not-so-shocking conclusion.
Training out of the Philadelphia Fight Factory—with an impressive record of 16-2—the prizefighter is a long way from his scrappy, street-fighting days in the hood: He no longer spends his Friday nights pummeling his way through impromptu melees, with nothing but the will to win. These days he prepares for fights diligently and professionally, and spends his weekends taking on highly skilled opponents for ESPN Bellator’s new lightweight tournament.
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4