Danny is also known as “Shinigami”, joined Michael for a chat about his mixed martial arts career & turning Pro.
Chris “Scarface” Wilmore is the dictator of “The Yard” — a narrow lot behind Wilmore’s two-story home in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where tree trunks are covered in vines, rusty clothesline poles stand next to a charcoal grill and punching bags hang from the trees. Sometimes people refer to it as “Satan’s backyard.”
Wilmore, 40, isn’t shy about his own criminal record, which includes assault and drug possession. By his own count, he has spent nine years in and out of jail. It was in juvenile detention that he learned to box.
His Street Beefs idea has evolved into something of a club. Wilmore calls it a “safe zone” where ex-convicts and recovering addicts “can be part of something.” Last year The Yard hosted upward of 180 fights, and it has a YouTube channel boasting more than half a million subscribers and 142 million-plus views. The YouTube revenue has allowed Wilmore to quit his day job as a personal trainer to run Street Beefs full time. He says he hopes to soon start paying those who staff security, referee or assist with Street Beefs social media. Wilmore started the channel in 2009 with a handful of posts each year. In 2014 the video production increased and by late 2015 the channel was monetized. Street Beefs produced more than 220 videos in 2018. Its top video, with 20 million views, is from 2013.
Fighters aren’t paid and there’s no admission fee charged, so Street Beefs falls outside the jurisdiction of state licensing, according to state and local officials. Harrisonburg police report occasional noise complaints, but besides that, the gatherings are left alone. There are no professional medical personnel present, no physicals required and no blood testing. People just show up and fight. “It’s essentially the same as if we want to go play backyard football,” Wilmore says.
The men — and yes, it’s primarily men — who gather are manual laborers, construction workers, furniture movers and the like. Most live within a few hours of Wilmore’s renowned backyard. But some, having discovered Street Beefs via YouTube, drive from as far as Miami and Boston. One recent fighter said he’d flown in from Milwaukee.
They come to release stress and anger, or to pursue an improbable dream of being discovered online and embarking on careers as professional fighters. A few say fighting is simply in their nature. But they almost all talk about the test in the ring, how much they respect one another’s willingness to fight for no money, the punches in the face, the focus, the pain, the adrenaline — and more than anything else, in the calm aftermath of it all, the surprising bond they feel with their opponents.
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