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Action Sports Report

2/12/2009

[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]

THE GOOD FIGHT

Until last Friday night, skateboarder Jason Ellis was known mostly for his turns on the X Games mega ramp and his loose-lipped take on music and action sports as the host of his own afternoon radio show on Sirius. Then he stepped into the Octagon.

At a fundraiser hosted by Ryan Sheckler at the Grove in Anaheim on the eve of the Anaheim III Supercross race, Ellis made his professional MMA debut against Brazilian Jiu-jitsu expert Tony Gianopulos. Ellis has been training with Team Quest of Murietta, Calif., and was cornered by two of his training partners, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal. He fought in the 185-pound division and weighed in at 183.8, which he says is the lightest he's been in his adult life. It's a testament to how hard he's been training. But even seeing Ellis in fighting form, most folks in the audience still questioned whether he could fight.

As the 37-year-old Aussie walked to the stage, a front row crowd made up of mostly of freestyle motocross riders, including several members of the Metal Mulisha—the Mulisha sponsors seven MMA fighters, including Erik Apple and Dan Henderson—were jumping up and down, pounding on tables and screaming like seventh graders at a Hannah Montana concert. "I just hope he makes it out of the first round," someone at the MM table said as Ellis and Gianopulos tapped hands and the first-round bell sounded.

That he did. Then, about a minute into the second round, the referee stopped the fight and awarded Ellis a win by submission. As the ref raised his arm into the air, emcee Sal Masekela informed the crowd that Ellis had won his first pro fight, "with a guillotine choke in the second round." You can bet that elicited the loudest cheers of the night. (Click here to watch the entire fight.)

(An aside: While Ellis is the biggest name in action sports to cross into MMA fighting, he's not the only pro to do so. Former inline skater Mike Budnik, who competed in seven summer X Games, made his MMA pro debut in the Extreme Fighting League on September 8, 2007. He also won his debut fight. )

Though Sheckler's event provided a night full of entertainment—Lil Jon performed between fights—it had another purpose. Proceeds from his event, called "Down 4 Life - Fight For a Cause" were distributed between two charities: Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and Road 2 Recovery, an organization that raises money and provides support for motocross riders who have sustained career-ending injuries.

The juxtaposition of that night's celebrations and what happened the next day, 2,700 miles south of Anaheim, was sobering. Less than 24 hours later, Metal Mulisha member and 2008 X Games freestyle champion Jeremy Lusk crashed while competing in an event in San Jose, Costa Rica, and suffered severe head trauma.

The work of organizations like Road 2 Recovery and the Athlete Recovery Fund is one of the most phenomenal aspects of a sports environment where few athletes have the medical insurance, or personal funds, to support the cost of a catastrophic injury. By Sunday morning, they were spreading the word about Lusk's accident and fundraising to help pay for the cost of transporting him back to the States and treat him once he arrived.

Unfortunately, at 11:03 p.m. on Monday night, Lusk passed away before such assistance was needed. A Jeremy Lusk Trust Fund has been set up through the Athlete Recovery Fund to raise money for his family. Donations can be made via the website athleterecoveryfund.com and a memorial service is being held Monday, Feb. 16 at 1 pm at the Revival Christian Fellowship Church in Menifee, Calif.