One difficulty of the MMA Fighter Exchange so far has been based around food.
Personally -- and I'm certainly not alone in this -- I find breaking bread with acquaintances to be easily one of the more pleasurable things in life, and probably the best way to get to know someone, their story, their hopes, dreams, aspirations, follies and failures. However, to say that Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Fernando Bettega are on opposite ends of the diet spectrum would be an understatement.
Bettega has a pretty sparse appetite to begin with. He'll typically eat breakfast and nibble throughout the day. He is already starting to think about dieting, eating clean and being in the best shape he can be for his Dec. 4 bout against fellow Fighter Exchangee Wayne Phillips.
"Nah, I'm not really hungry," Bettega will say when we invite him to eat. "I've got a little bit of food in my room. I'll probably go for a run."
“Jacare,” on the other hand, has an appetite the likes of which I'm not sure I've ever witnessed before. Even Jeff Sherwood, who has covered this sport for almost 15 years and has eaten alongside some folks you'd expect to really gorge themselves, is spellbound.
Example: one night, at Outback Steakhouse, Souza tore through a fat cheeseburger, baked potato and vegetables, in addition to what seemed like two or three loaves of the in-house bread. When his trainer Josuel Distak's dinner was incorrectly prepared, the staff brought another full 20-ounce steak, which Distak then gave to Souza. As the meal wore on and Distak got full, he offered up a giant slab of mashed potatoes, which “Jacare” also devoured.
It would be one thing if he was eating with the frequency of a python. However, “Jacare” eats morning, noon and night. In addition to breakfast, he's typically eating dinner-sized portions in the mid-afternoon, which, apparently, constitute "lunch" as well.
"Do other people think your appetite is crazy?" I ask him.
"Hmmm, I don't know about other people," he shrugs. "I just like food, you know? Anything and everything."
And to think: real alligators, “Jacare's” namesake, usually only eat once a week.
|What's In A Name|
One of the building blocks of Brazilian culture is nicknaming. Personally, I've never had a sobriquet that stuck in my life. Courtesy of "Jacare," Distak and Bettega, this might be changing.
On Sunday, I made the mistake of giving in to temptation when we ate lunch. Considerably thirsty with a raging sweet tooth, I opted to drink raspberry lemonade. Undeniably effete, or at least childish, I know.
As the neon pink liquid sat in front of me, "Jacare" piped up.
"Pink?" he asked, smiling. I knew his intent was mockery.
"Yes, yes. Pink. I know," I said, admitting my lack of perceived masculinity in this case. The whole table laughed.
"Pink... it's the new black," he added. I would have laughed, but I was more amazed that "the new black" was actually a common concept and phrase in Brazil.
The next day, totally by chance, I wore a plaid button down that had considerable pink notes in it. The minute the trio saw me, they noticed the shirt.
"Pink!" cried “Jacare.”
"Yes, pink. Again," I lamented.
At this juncture, “Jacare” and Distak -- Bettega is still straight-laced enough to simply call me "Jordan" -- will often refer to me simply as "Pink." I've slowly started to guard myself against interacting with anything that shares the color. But at this point, it might be out of my hands.
After a long day of wrestling practice, we waited in the truck for Bettega, who now routinely goes to the Big Lots adjacent to AKA to grab water and sports drinks after practice. As he climbed in, bag in hand, I suddenly noticed his arm, thrusting a large bottle of strawberry lemonade Powerade at me.
"For you... pink," Bettega said, smiling.