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tv   This Is Life With Lisa Ling  CNN  October 16, 2016 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT

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>> this is andres yeah, she's 11 years old, loves science and hanging with her girlfriends. >> what's wrong with being a girly girl. she also loves to fight. she is a mixed marshal arts fighter with a dream that denies expectation. >> what do you want to be when you grow up. >> a u thrks q champion. >> it is a dream many are
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chasing now that the world is watching women in the cage. tonight i want to see what it takes to fight like a girl or a grown woman. >> you are athlete. >> i am meeting two warriors, a young@loo young athlete who hopes to gopro and a pre-schoolteacher. what makes these women want to beat each other up?
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in the last decade the usc or ultimate fighting championship has been mixed marshal arts the most televised combat sport. these battles have been fueled by testosterone. then a few face barged on the scene. they call her rowdy ronda rousse. >> there is a big usc fight tonight. the main event women. >> 20-year-old hannah and her friends have come to watch their heroes go head to head. >> this is intense! what are you feeling when you watch this? >> that's somebody's dream come
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true. >> here we go! >> oh! >> the fight lasts just 14 seconds. >> that's it? >> that was sick. >> she's so powerful on the ground. >> in the footsteps of these new superstars, hannah is determined to make it to the usc. she is an amateur fighter who has made mixed marshal arts her life. >> i want to be the best. i want to be the best in my weight class. i want to be the best in the world. >> in her career she's only fought three times. one win and two losses. now she wants another victory. hannah has been training six
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hours a day six days a week for her next match. full disclosure, i actually hate fighting. i just don't like to see people hurt each other. but mma is a huge sport. and in recent years, a lot of women have been getting into it. and i want to understand why. >> so what exactly do you love about mma? >> some people see it as just two people fighting, but i sort of it -- >> two people beating the out of each other. >> it really comes down to the technique, being able to perform under so much stress inside the cage in front of thousands of people. it is almost beautiful. >> hannah lives at her mom's house in long island. right now her entire life is focused on her upcoming fight.
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weigh-ins are just three weeks away. she has to hit 105 pounds or risk disqualification. >> so how much weight do you have to lose? >> i have to lose about, i'd say, 25 pounds. >> what? >> yeah. 25 pounds. >> in a month? >> yeah, in a month, yeah. >> that's insane! >> probably seven or eight of that is all going to be water. >> so do you ever cheat on your diet? >> no. i'm super, super good. i don't cheat. i barely have any bread or anything like that. i stick to my chicken and eggs and that's how i lose all that weight. here we are. this is my extremely boring breakfast, eggs. >> some girls diet to look great in a dress. hannah was always a tomboy. >> my dad always wanted me to wear girls clothes. i refused. i just wanted to wear my brother's baggy jersey.
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>> were you athletic? >> yeah. i played every sport there was. i played soccer, basketball, i skate boarded. i played golf. >> when did you learn about mma? >> when i was 15, my three best guy friends started in this teens mma program. i said to myself this is really cool. i want to try this. seeing the discipline of it, i don't know, something about it just drew me in. i still feel the same way as day one. >> thank you. >> to supporting her fighting habit, hannah works the night shift at a local hotel. then she heads to the gym for some shut eye. >> i'll take a nap for a couple of hours. then i wake up and i train again. it's just the cycle.
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>> to get ready for fight night, hannah trains with two different coaches. joe, who helps shape her ground work, and alex who trains her on her standing game. >> in all honesty, do you see her going pro and going to usc? >> she's got what it takes for sure. it's a long road. but if you keep at it, she could do it. >> she's a purple belt already at the age of 20. most people don't make it to that level. >> how do you think hannah's chances are for the match at the end of march. >> her skins are better than her opponents in my eyes, but anything could happen in a fight. you get hit, and that's the end. it's like, oh, my god. all that two months, three months of hard training and you get clipped and it is over. >> what do you guys think of women fighting mma? >> i think it's good for the
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sport. i think it's just going to blow up. it is going to get a lot bigger. this is the fight right here. let's go. one minute. one minute. come on. >> each training session i give 100% until my arms are sore, my legs are sore, my face is hurting. i want to be exhausted. i want to know that my work out counted. i think that all my hard work will pay off once i'm a professional and get paid to do what i do. one day it will all be worth it. this is what i want my life to be. >> with a fight on the horizon, hannah is pushing herself harder than ever. and a few hours away, so is her
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oppone opponent, a woman in her 40s. >> i may not be the youngest one, but i will be the last one standing. i'm my team's #1 fan. yay. sports. i've never been #1 in anything until i put these babies on. now we're on a winning streak and i'm never taking them off. do i know where i'm going? absolutely. we're going to the playoff. allstate guarantees your rates won't go up just because of an accident. starting the day you sign up. so get accident forgiveness from allstate. and be better protected from mayhem, like me.
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for 32 of the town's young children. >> can you give her a turn in a minute, jaky? in a minute? share. i like your blue manicure. it's pretty cute. those ten 3-year-olds are down here learning to share and take turns and make friends. >> and this is all happening in your home. >> yes. >> it's the perfect day job where melinda, a single mother of two teens, can apply her maternal instincts. >> here we go, nice and close. scoot in! >> but every night melinda heads to the gym where she hones her other instincts, the warrior kind. for melinda, fighting is personal. she's battling demons that have hung offer her since childhood. >> you know, elementary school i was so shy. i remember a male teacher used a stern voice and i started crying. i definitely have been that more
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fragile personality most of my life. i would let people take advantage of me or not treat me the way a person deserves to be treated. >> and she endured both psychological and physical abuse. then five years ago she discovered mma and it turned her life around. >> there was an open class at my gym for kick boxing and self-defense. it was kind like my therapy. i was hooked the first night. i was just very weak and fragile and now i'm the opposite of that. >> nice! >> now i'm a fighter in my personal life, my home life and in the gym. it's like i know who i am and i want to stick up for myself. get knocked down and get back up. >> good job. >> how has mma changed you as a woman? >> people i think get the image
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that you're aggressive and you want to hurt somebody, but it's like my every day life i never think of hurting another human being. i don't like seeing people in pain. so it's not about that. it's about pushing yourself as far as you can go. >> i just want to understand what you like about this so i'm just going to try to get you on the ground. >> i know i said i don't like fighting but tonight i feel compelled to try this for myself. >> i'm still standing. >> drop your left hand a little bit, lisa. put your left hand -- >> put your left hand on my right hip. >> what if i get you on the ground? >> there you go! oh, reversal! you got her. >> you have to tap. you didn't tap! >> okay, she tapped. >> yay! whoo! that was good! >> lisa's got some skills. >> i still abhor violence. >> i have to admit, it's kind of
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a rush. >> it's fun, though. it's intense. and you're thinking, what can i do? don't accept defeat. i've now gotten a taste of what this sport taps into, the desire for victory. melinda is determined to take down hannah and get her first win. is she going to be ready when that cage door closes? >> absolutely. she's coming to fight and the girl better be ready. >> how are they going to react? how are you going to find an opening? you got to smash her. you got to find a way to smash her. >> because of our age i thought that hannah had the advantage but seeing melinda tonight, she has got a mean hook and serious drive. this is going to be a fight. back in long island, hannah's trainers are pushing her hard. >> throw a little garbage out there, see what she does back. you want your opponent to step to the left, make her.
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>> i know you love your coaches but do you think they treat you differently from the guys? >> absolutely not. if i get hurt, come on, hannah, let's go. let's do it again. they could be rough but they just want me to do well and i know that. when they're hard on me, i know it's because they love me. >> but every fighter, male or female, can be caught off guard. >> ah! >> what happened? >> right in front of my eyes, hannah gets injured. >> [ bleep ]. >> what happened? >> she's got to wear a cup. you wear a cup? >> no. >> just because you don't have junk, you still got to wear a cup. you're not going to make the fight if you keep getting hurt like that. >> i don't understand why this only happens to me. >> because you are an animal. good hit. >> so what happened? >> i got kneed directly in the
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pelvic bone, which sucks because there's tons of nerve endings in there. it's super painful. >> you've been hurt a lot, i assume? >> yeah. i've had tons and tons injuries. i train really, really hard. accidents happen and you recover and you heal and, you know, you start again. >> at least you don't have balls. >> at least i don't have balls. exactly. there's always a plus side to every situation. >> exactly. in a violent combat sport, injuries pose a constant threat to a fighter's career. hannah knows the risks involved and has chosen to put herself on the line. but mma fever has spread beyond ranks of seasoned athletes. even children are now taking up the sport. critics call it kids cage fighting.
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♪ ♪ >> it's 9 p.m. in uma, arizona. i'm in a hot, stinky gym with a bunch of boys and one 11-year-old girl. while many young girls take ballet or do gymnastic, andrea is practicing her arm bar. >> you need to rotate side ways.
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>> andrea comes from a fighting family. her parents own a gym and her father, hector, is her coach. >> very good. push forward. >> this is mma for kids. and andrea is the only girl in uma who competes. i just can't believe what i'm seeing for the last half hour, andrea has just been going so hard against all these boys and she is holding her own. >> get your hand in there. you got to get your hand in there. stay strong. don't let go. >> before you started doing this, you were more girly? >> yeah. >> and do you miss being like that? >> no. >> growing up, andrea was a typical little girl. she loved dancing and dressing up. but two years ago her mom signed her up for kick boxing and she shed her pink dresses for gloves and shin guards. it wasn't long before she expanded into other martial arts and began to compete. are these all your medals? >> yeah. >> what are they for?
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>> this is for my first kick boxing tournament. >> these are all judo. this one is mma. why mma? why do you love it? >> i don't want to be like all the other people that do all the same sports, soccer, football and dance. i want to defend myself. >> andrea used to get picked on at school. not anymore. you had a situation in which you got bullied. >> yeah. >> can you tell me about it? >> there was this girl in school, she picked on me, called me stupid and she started pushing me around and i just threw her and then she was on the floor and i'm like you can't pick on people like me. >> she was able to defend herself. i'm not going to say it's come to a stop, but if she ever got put in a situation, she has a discipline and she will be able to defend herself if she has to.
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>> what would you do if you heard that andrea was using her skills to bully another kid? >> i'll tell you what, if i ever found out that they're the ones starting anything or bullying anybody, your butt is mine, okay. and they know this. >> there are people who think that this kind of mma obsessed culture ignites the desire to want to fight. do you believe that? >> it does get anybody's blood pumping, you know. but the ones that really truly love the sport, those are the ones that are disciplined, the ones that are humble. it's not a thing of dominance, it's a thing of skill. >> as long as everything's in place as far as rules and discipline, i don't think
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there's a problem with it. >> after four weeks of training, andrea is competing in her third youth mma competition. >> can i have everybody's attention, please. >> she joins over 58 other kids and their families from all over the country. >> big guy, how you doing? >> i'm good. >> excellent. >> they've come to california, one of the only states in the u.s. that sanctions and regulates youth mma. before the fights even begin, the kids have to go through a whole battery of inspections. all of their gear is checked and every competitor is obligated to get fully checked out by a doctor. >> hi there. oh, my first girl, excellent. right on! girl power. >> while organizers, competitors and their families see these precautions as just part of the
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sport, critics claim they're a band-aid on what is really a junior version of the brutal ufc. >> take a deep breath. yeah! no pain, right? all right, i think you're good to go. all right, have fun. be safe. >> head referee kyle olson wants to set the record straight. so how different is this from adult mma? >> it's probably the biggest difference that you can't hit to the head at all. >> no strikes to the head, no strikes behind the rib cage. >> you can't slam. very illegal. >> even though striking to the head is not permitted, kids can still get struck and there are critics who say that kids are still developing, their bodies are still developing, they shouldn't get struck at all. how do you respond to that? >> this is a sport. it's just like every other sport. and it has its risks just like every other sport. statistically speaking, it is safer for children than football, soccer, cheer and gymnastics combined.
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>> so why do you think people think it's so dangerous? >> there's a cage. >> despite the differences between youth mma and the ufc, both put on quite a show. with theatrical announcers, weigh-ins and even face-offs. andrea's opponent is 13-year-old unity. she's been practicing mma since she was 9 and competing since the age of 11. so you're fighting andrea today. how do you feel about it? >> i feel excited. i'm ready to go in the cage and just fight her. >> how many fights have you had? >> i've had like four or five. >> and have you been pretty successful? >> yes. >> who got you into this? >> my dad. >> are you a big fan of mma? >> yes. we started watching it and she said she wanted to get into it. when rhonda made it to the ufc, she cried.
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she said like now my dream will come true, too. >> well, good luck. >> thank you. >> the first fight begins and two tiny young boys go at it. while the battle ensues, i check in with andrea. hey, you guys. how you doing? >> good, good. >> how you feeling, andrea? >> good. >> are you nervous at all? >> no. >> you're not nervous at all? how come? >> i'm nervous. >> good luck, honey. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> in just a few minutes, andrea will have her turn in the cage. >> no matter how much technique and skill is involved, it's fighting. people get hurt. i'm slowly coming around to watching women in a cage. i just don't know if i ever will
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>> and making her way to the cage, andrea rivera.
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>> when you really want the best for your kids, your soul fights with them and you don't ever want to see them lose. >> and her opponent, unity "karma" soria cordova! >> after several rounds. boys, andrea is put to the test. what does it feel like to be in that cage? >> actually it feels like i'm a different person. like i'm fighting for my life. >> push, push.
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>> but that fight doesn't last long. >> there you go, dig! >> less than two minutes in, unity gains the upper hand and it's over. unity got andrea on the ground and andrea just couldn't get out of it so she tapped out. >> referee: tap. >> the fight didn't even make it past the first round. >> referee: winner by submission, unity! >> let it go, let it go. andrea, it's okay. let it go, let it go. breathe, breathe.
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>> while there haven't been any injuries, defeat comes with its own kind of pain. >> andrea, andrea, wait for me. relax, relax. it's okay. relax, relax. >> look at me. andrea, look at me. it's okay. it's okay. it's okay. remember, you learned, okay? this is just for fun and you learned from this, okay? >> in a fight there's one winner and one loser and tonight just wasn't andrea's night. honestly, it was really hard for me to watch. andrea's dream is far from over. in no time she dusts herself off and can't wait to hit the gym. >> ready? okay.
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>> on the opposite coast, melinda is hitting the hair salon. she's not getting a fancy up-do. this is a boxer braid. >> i don't know if they think we're going to use it as a weapon or something. >> the countdown to her fight is on. she's competed twice in the last two years and lost both times. >> my goal is to get my first win. i want to be strong. i want to be the winner. >> her daughter, briana, has come to every one of her mom's matches and tonight will be no different. >> looks so nice, mom. >> oh, good. >> i'll get you a mirror so you can look at it. >> i love that. it's very pretty. >> but down state, hannah has had a setback. just a week before her face off
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with melinda, she hurt her shoulder in a training session. >> relax, breathe normally. hold nice and still. please don't move. >> after several tests, the diagnosis comes back and it's not good. >> on this mri, you can see the ball is sitting in the socket and around it are several different muscles and ligaments. from using your arm a lot, from punching and things like that, you're constantly pulling on that tendon, pulling on the rim of the socket. over time it's like rubbing a rope on a rock where you can injury that tendon or fray that tendon. it leaves you exposed to possible further injury. >> that's sort of what's been happening. it's been hurting a lot in the gym. >> getting in the ring to face an opponent right now is not the
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best idea because of your ability to defend yourself. the last thing you need is to not be able to put this arm up and somebody puts a foot to your head. >> gotcha. >> i've seen the work that hannah puts into the drills, diet, long weekends at the gym. but this time there will be no payoff. hannah is out of the match.
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back in upstate new york, a showdown is the talk of the town. >> 1,500 people will be coming to schenectady this weekend to see fighters from across the country enter the octagon. >> it's called cage wars. it's one of hundreds of amateur mma events taking place each year across the country. in the wings contenders strut between check-in points man after red-blooded man. then there's melinda. this could be the fight of her career. her contest is one of tonight's main events. the winner takes home a belt and the adam weight championship. of ten battles, only one is between women. >> that speed is what we want.
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>> melinda, how are you doing? >> good, good. >> hey, coach. how are you doing? >> how are you feeling? >> great, great. >> when you found out hannah couldn't fight, how did you feel? you guys have been waiting to fight each other for months and months. >> i'll be honest, i was a little upset. to be honest, i got injured first, and was out for three months. i slipped three discs in my neck and hurt my shoulder. >> and why do you want to do this? >> it's all about the heart, passion, goals, dreams. a lot of it comes down to who puts the time in, if you put in the work. >> now melinda will take on a new opponent, a woman half her age. cara weighs only 102 pounds but her ambitions are massive. she set her sights on the pros and needs a winning record to get there.
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>> hi. >> hey. >> how you feeling? >> pretty good. >> nervous? >> i'm a little bit. to do good in a fight you have to be a little nervous. you can't go in too cocky. i feel pretty good. >> you have always liked to fight? >> wrestling my whole life against guys. i've also been in sports that are dominated by men. i like the aggressive sports i guess. >> this won't be the first time they face off. just last year they brawled it out in the cage. at the time cara had only been training at mma for six weeks. since you last fought her, have you been training pretty rigorously? >> couple times a week, two, three times a week, boxing and jujitsu.
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so i feel pretty confident going in. >> new york was the last state in the u.s. to allow mma but amateur fights like tonight have always drawn a crown. fans from around the region have come to witness the carnage and one woman has traveled four hours to watch a former rival take the lime light. >> why did you want to see this woman who is supposed to be your opponent? >> well, how i look at it is we're not actually opponents outside the ring. i feel bad that i had to pull out but i'm glad she got an opponent and i'm happy to just watch fellow athletes who love to do what i do. as soon as i'm ready to train again, i'll be back in the gym, i'll go through my training camp, stay healthy. if melinda's available, maybe we can make it happen again. >> you're still as gung-ho despite the injury? >> yes, i'm gung-ho. how everybody has a dream, this is mine and i'll continue to do it forever.
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>> first of all, let's go over what you can't do. no knees to the head. >> the locker room looks like a frat house. among 20 challengers, just two are female. >> no elbows whatsoever. no grabbing of the flesh, no twisting, no hair grabbing, no sticking your fingers or toes in any of the orifices of the body. >> that guy doesn't have teeth! the battle is on. nine bouts between dudes.
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once the ref calls "fight," a primal struggle takes over. liver shots, jabs to the face, choke holds. they're channelling an ancient instinct and the crowd is hungry for action. i just spent the last half hour watching men pulverize each other. i still -- i still don't understand why women want to do
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this. at half past 10, the gloves come on. it's show time. at stake is the championship. five ruthless rounds. the title belt goes to the highest scoring fighter or the last one standing. i'm sitting front and center next to hannah and melinda's daughter brianna. >> it's got to be pretty cool that your mom is an mma fighter. >> yeah, she's pretty cool. i'm just really proud of her after everything that she's been through, i know she really wants this. i hope she accomplishes it. >> cage sports women's 105 pound championship. fighting out of the red corner, cara stronah!
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and her opponent melinda "the diva" giffey! >> melinda's strength is kickboxing so she's hoping to stay on her feet. tara is at her peak on the ground. she can't escape the hold. it's clear round 2. it's anybody's game.
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it's the first break between rounds. >> let's go. >> when the fight continues they
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can summon any martiah arts they learned. anything to force submission. round two, the fighters have found their stride and their fury. once again, her wrestling training gives her the advantage. only this time melinda is landing some hard blows and blood starts flying. it turns brutal and i start to see the design in the chaos.
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hook cross and clench is the result of years of training. but in this moment there's only one objective, to destroy. my heart is about to beat out of my body. >> it's really good. that's a lot of points in the judge's eyes. >> you keep doing that. she turned away from you. >> round three as exhaustion sets in, it's a war of endurance.
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in a tangle of limbs they're pushing themselves past fatigue. past their own limits. maybe this is what is so irresistible about fighting. but beyond mma rules strategy and height it is at heart, a test of will. >> it's on you howell you juan to be or how far you want to go. i'm not going to break unless i allow myself to break. nobody is going to break me.
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three rounds in, the ref calls the match. kara has thrown up twice and he didn't feel it was safe for her to continue. >> good job. good job.
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melinda is never going to fight in the ufc but for her, that's not the point. mma has shown melinda the strength she never knew she had. melinda, congratulations. >> oh, thank you lisa. i feel great. >> that was a crazy fight. so what happened in the end. >> she pretty much exhausted herself trying to keep he down. >> did you feel tired? >> no. >> you didn't look tired. >> even though we spent a lot of time with melinda i tried to be impartial because i admire both of those women from getting in the ring. you can't overestimate the 40-year-olds. we got some kick in us. >> fighting isn't for everyone and it certainly isn't for the faint of heart. but at a time when women are demanding a place at the table in so many arenas across the
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nation it's clear they earned their place in the cage. >> anthony: you know what i like? i like sichuan. man, i love the food here. you know what else i like? torturing my friend eric ripert. i don't know why, maybe it's because he's so damn nice. you high, man? you look high. >> eric: i am. but i liked it. >> man: yeah. >> anthony: you can pretty much tear his toenails out and he'd still find something nice to say about you. he's so polite, yet, if you look closely, and i do, his discomfort can be exquisite. >> eric: he's the devil. look at him. ♪ i took a walk through this


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