Robin Black has been one of the most vibrant minds in mixed martial arts for quite some time now and in a recent chat with us here at Pundit Arena MMA, he delved into his plans to take his years of expertise to the stage, with a June date in Dublin, Ireland on the horizon.
Robin Black is a true rarity in the world of martial arts. Even without knowing the intimate details of his life, seeing the lead-singer of a popular Canadian glam-rock band transition from the world of music to martial arts and make his professional MMA debut well into his late-thirties is admirable. When you factor in his work in the commentary-booth, his breakdowns and his unique approach to the analysis of fighting and the art behind it, however, it’s clear that Black’s love for the game runs deep.
Robin Black Live! will see Dublin’s Liberty Hall treated to a night with the man himself and while he is no stranger to the bright lights of a stage show, this time around Robin explained to us how he plans on using his platform to take his audience on a journey unlike anything else found within the medium.
“I got the idea when I went to see Joe Rogan do his stand-up in Vegas. I watched it and in no way did I think to myself ‘I could do this’ – because he’s an expert with 25 years experience. But then I went to Brendan Schaub’s show and he was really good. He probably practiced and worked hard for a year or two. Just because you see someone mastering something doesn’t mean you can’t do it very well yourself. Brendan was evidence of that.
“I’ve lived a pretty fun life so far. I’ve sung in a rock band, I’ve travelled the world, I fought in a cage. I’m 5-foot-6, I have a lisp, I don’t speak particularly well, I don’t have any predisposed physical skills, I’m not a good singer but if I can f**king do all of those things then you can too.
“Ultimately there are four acts of me telling you stories from my life as a singer, as a fighter, as a martial arts commentator and for my Irish date I’ll actually have a guest, John Kavanagh, SBG Ireland coach, so I’ll sit with him for about 25 minutes and then we’ll do a Q&A with the audience.
“My friend describes it as ‘four ridiculous TED talks’. In a perfect world, I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you cry, I’ll inspire you and I’ll answer your questions and we’ll have a killer time.”
Tickets to the June 22 event can be purchased here.
But that wasn’t enough, of course. After delving into the makeup of his upcoming live debut, it didn’t seem right for us to leave it at that and with the recent happenings over the course of UFC 223’s fight-week, there was plenty left to discuss.
Funnily enough, our chat with Robin was originally scheduled for the evening that fell the day after the former-lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s now infamous run-in with the fighter-bus carrying the current-champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, but with the chaos that was virtually unavoidable in the 48-hours that followed that incident, we decided a later date would suit our aims better.
And it did.
It’s easy to get swept up in something that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with martial arts but again, the more sensational aspects of the modern-day UFC managed to take control of things once more. And while on the surface McGregor’s outburst seemed simply to be a loss of control, Robin was at least able to shed light on what we learnt from the skirmish and how it may have a bearing on Conor and Khabib’s eventual clash.
“Every day I am more interested in the art-form of fighting. If you take that art-of-war mentality to something – Nick and Nate Diaz said this years ago – the fight begins way, way, way in advance of the physical interaction.
“Culturally, we tend to go to a place where people want to react, so we reaction with emotion. Let’s say in this case we’ve got Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. We’re connected to one of them in some way because that’s the nature of our culture. I am a huge fan of both, I really am.
“When Conor McGregor throws a ‘dolly’ and you like him and you’re a part of that ‘camp’, you’re like ‘aw, but the other guy started it’ and it’s nonsense. Only because you’re connected to him. If you were not you’d see how ridiculous it is when a person doesn’t have the impulse control to not do that.
“I can’t endorse that, but you start to because you are a part of the crowd. But when you remove all emotion and look at it objectively, the purpose can be to win fights, make fights or generate money or sell fights and this is part of how these guys see their jobs.
“Khabib has said that he is mad that people thought he was scared or said that he was scared. He shouldn’t have said that. McGregor knows that now. McGregor knows that you can make this seemingly ice cold man upset if you suggest that he’s upset. That’s a valuable tool.
“On one level Conor lost control but on another level, Khabib let out a little piece of information he didn’t want to let out. But all this getting mad at each other and screaming where one half hate it and the other half… what are we, children?”
A typically interesting take as always and thankfully, as UFC 223 came and went, the focus gradually moved away from the show’s frankly insane fight-week. Khabib Nurmagomedov, however, remained and still remains a hot-topic following his main-event victory against Al Iaquinta to win the lightweight title.
It says a lot about the standards that we hold him to when even fleeting moments of vulnerability are often criticised to a level reserved for some fighters’ losses, but yet again, when the Russian’s shortcomings on the feet were supposedly ‘exposed’, people flocked to explain exactly how Khabib – though a winner in dominant fashion – would almost certainly struggle with a polished striker like McGregor in the standup.
“I’m not looking at something as flawed. I’m not looking at punches or kicks or how they use their energy, I’m not ever looking at those as flaws, I’m looking at those as ‘works in progress’ and moments.
“Let’s just say for example that Khabib has two rounds where we think we don’t like how his striking looked. That’s entirely through our eyes. The truth is he won. The commentators were looking for weaknesses or cracks in the armour, they have every right to do that. You have every right to go with it or to disagree with it, it’s just perspective.
“Someone will say ‘CM Punk sucks’ or ‘CM Punk is bad’. Compared to what? Compared to 99.9% of the world, he’s a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, has been striking and improving every day. That’s a truth. But we see him in a fight and we say he sucks.
“Then we put him in against Mike Jackson (at UFC 225) and maybe he wins and looks good and we say, ‘aw, his striking has massively improved, he has underrated wrestling.’ It’s all contextual. It’s all momentary.”
From there, our discussion took an interesting turn into the common fan’s perception of what they are about to see and how – even with a plethora of shocking upsets, impossible comebacks and freak KO’s fresh in the memory, everyone still seems so set on making definitive predictions.
Outlining a fighter’s path to victory is all well and good but to say that one ‘knows’ exactly how a fight will play out is bordering on ridiculous at times and all things considered, the internet has become full of conflicting opinions from people so set on their version of what will happen that any type of reasonable debate is rendered pointless until the actual fight comes along.
Thankfully, that’s exactly why we have the fights themselves.
“If you have one hundred guys on one side yelling that Khabib is going to take McGregor down and destroy him and another hundred on the other side yelling about how Conor is going to move his feet and land his left-hand, and they yell that at each other for six-months, the only way that is going to end is when the fight happens.
“I think this goes back to how we share information the same and then emulate it. Whether it’s sport or politics, you get one of each – this one believes this and the other believes this – and they argue.
“I would try to set the table. I can show you both sides and then leave it to you. But my producers would say, ‘you’re the expert, pick a side’. There are thousands of variables and none of them are certain but I would pick one and the other guy would say no and we would argue.
“And this what we have watched over and over again since we were children and we believe that the way to talk about sports or politics or whatever is to pick a side and defend it at all costs. We’ve been taught to be this way but I believe that kids that are 14 or 15 are not going this way, becoming analytical instead of argumentative.”
If that doesn’t give you a sense of the type of thinking that Robin Black brings to the table no matter what the subject is, I don’t know what will. What began as a short conversation about the attractions of touring a truly unique live-show morphed into something rather different but our main take-away from the discussion was that this man was put on the planet to entertain.
Whether that be within the area of music, martial arts, general discussion or in the form of June’s show in Dublin’s Liberty Hall, I suppose it just depends on whatever day you catch him on.
Tickets to Robin Black Live! can be found by following this link.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena