What’s up. I’m Hannah Rodriguez, retail reporter for the Des Moines Register, and so far I’ve spent this summer chasing my dog while she’s chasing squirrels.
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Here is the deal: I don’t know anything about martial arts. The only martial art I was ever exposed to was my brother’s karate lessons when I was growing up, and no offense, I was a bored 5 year old. Now my brother goes to jiu-jitsu classes and sometimes I go to watch mixed martial arts (MMA) fights with him.
My boyfriend Gage Miskiman is also a fan of MMA and martial arts. He currently writes for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and also covers MMA betting and boxing for playiowa.com.
A couple of weekends ago I went with him to Mason City for an event hosted by Fighting in Northern Iowa. It was my first time watching the fight in person, and as Gage talked about it, we sat next to the cage. When I entered the arena, I was a little nervous. I didn’t want to see a really serious injury and was nervous for the fighters.
It. Was. Wild.
It was brutal, intense and exciting. For many fighters, this was their first fight and it was really cool. All I know is that I can never do what they do.
At one point, the man sitting next to me asked, “Do you really enjoy watching this material?” Ever since I went to fights, a lot of people have asked me what I think, especially what I think about being caged. I usually just joke that I’m glad I didn’t get blood or sweat on me.
I’m confused; watching people literally beat each other up is a brutal form of entertainment, and paying per view is almost wrong. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t be interested in sports at all if my brother and boyfriend hadn’t attracted me to their interests.
I could philosophize and try to explain the appeal of MMA or why people are inherently violent. But the fact that competitive fighting is one of the oldest sports is explanation enough.
As long as people exist, we fight each other. No fighter has a perfect track record, and the unpredictability of a fight is exciting. Traditional martial arts also have a rich and deep intricate connection to religion and spirituality, in part as a way to help bring awareness.
Personally, I think what I like most about the sport is the respect that fighters have for each other. Obviously this isn’t always the case, but fighters entering the ring face their opponent in one of the most intimate environments in the sport.
Tapping gloves at the beginning, squeezing each other at the end, slapping each other on the back after a round: stepping into the ring and getting hit is just a humiliating experience.
Three of my best MMA connections in Iowa
1. The UFC has only been to Iowa twice: Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the largest MMA promotion company in the world. Although it was founded in 1993, only two UFC fights have been held in Iowa out of the hundreds it has hosted. Both times were in Cedar Rapids; the first in 1999 and the second in 2000.
2. UFC Owners Now Own Iowa Cubs: Plot twist: UFC and Des Moines’ Iowa Cubs share the same owners. In December, Endeavor Group Holdingswhich is also the parent company of the Miss Universe organization, announced a new division to buy the Iowa Cubs, along with eight other minor league baseball teams across the country.
3. The first UFC Welterweight Champion was Iowan: In 1998, Pat Miletich emerged from Bettendorf to become the first UFC welterweight champion, and in 2014 he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Last year, Miletich was fired from the Legacy Fighting Alliance after participating in protests in Washington DC on January 6, 2021, which later escalated into a violent U.S. Capitol uprising.
Eat this, drink that
Rice with bean stew and mofongo pork, $26.74: Nothing ever beats my grandma’s Puerto Rican food, but I’m so grateful Are there restaurants in Des Moines? that remind me of home. My favorite dish is white rice with habichuelas guiisada stew, like a sauce. Made with pinto beans, sofrito, potatoes, and olives, it’s the perfect tonic and can be a deliciously satisfying meal on its own.
Mofongo with meat is usually the main dish, it is very savory and filling. Bananas are fried, mashed and seasoned. It’s like puree, but better. I recommend getting it with salted pulled pork.
Take: Restaurant Puerto Rico at 6611 University Avenue in the city of Windsor Heights open Wednesday through Saturday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Holiday hours may vary, so call 515-274-1690 for more information.
Coffee tea with milk and tapioca boba, $6.95: The creamiest, tastiest creation on earth. Milk tea is usually a combination of black tea, milk, and a sweetener. The bean bubblegum drink is of Taiwanese origin and I am very lucky to have a local shop here. I like making pseudolattes and drinking coffee with milk and tapioca boba, but there are dozens of options on the menu.
Take: Not too sweet drink found in Eden Tea at 5828 Douglas Avenue. I’m already back and will probably go today. Fortunately, they are open all week from 11:00 to 20:00.
Give me all the recommendations: I need more Puerto Rican bean food and drinks please. Send me an email at [email protected]
48 hours off
Thursday evening: Lemonade, fireworks, carnivals: festivals are the best part of summer. Thursday is the opening night of the 26th annual Johnston Green Days, a community celebration held at Terra Park at 6300 Pioneer Parkway. Festivities start at 5:00 pm and activities continue until 10:00 pm, with more planned for the weekend. Don’t miss the fireworks on Saturday.
Friday evening: Feed your creative curiosity and get involved in Des Moines Arts Week a showcase of local art and artists. A week of free public events starts as early as 7am Friday in the Avenues area along Ingersoll and Grand Avenues. But if you have to wait until work is done, there are poetry readings and refreshments at Beaverdale Books at 6:30 pm Stop to hear from four poets. Readings are free, but books can be purchased.
Saturday evening: Celebrate June 10th, the celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, in downtown Des Moines! For over 30 years, Iowa’s June Celebration has been Neighbor’s Day Holiday at Western Gateway Park along 1000 Grand Avenue. Pop in for food, vendors, and performances.
hit the road
Gage and I love to do mini trips around Iowa, so being able to go to Mason City was a great way to spend a weekend. It’s about an hour and 45 minutes from Des Moines and 20 minutes to Clear Lake where we had lunch at Kitchen and bar on the lake, which is located on the beach and offers burgers, blackened shrimp po-boi and fish tacos. The lakeside town was so strange that I didn’t want to leave.
It was especially cool to see Surf ballroomlast place where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson played before. The day the music died and where countless presidential candidates have delivered impassioned speeches.
RAGBRAI is also going through Mason City this year! Check it out early to make the most of your stop.
Where should I go next? Email me about stops in Iowa at [email protected]
In the city
My day job
I am very happy to work on Des Moines Storyteller Project with my wonderful colleagues. You just missed our show on Tuesday, but our next one is in August! I’ve always been so inspired by our storyteller’s ability to get on stage and tell his stories to the audience. I’m biased, but I think this is one of the best social events in town.
Nobody is a professional; If you are interested in participating, please send me an email at [email protected]! We will be happy to see you.
Next week, Registrar of Business and Investigations Editor Bill Steiden canoeing…