The jabs and kicks are delivered with unforgiving force, and each time a face-blow lands direct, the crowd at The Library lounge on Higuera Street - some thirty-strong - erupts in applause. Fierceness doesn't begin to explain the battle raging on the television set between Anthony Torres, the Hawaiian corrections officer with a tribal arm tattoo, and an introverted Taoist fighter from New York named Luke Cummo. The two battle it out in three five-minute rounds, an eternity as far as fighting goes, and the crowd at The Library watches in fascination as the blood begins to flow.
It was the latest chapter in Spike-TV's "Ultimate Fighter- reality TV series, which brought together a robust group of men to a house in Las Vegas where they train and fight their way to success.
And although the crowd at The Library relishes the fight, it was relatively tame because the hometown favorite wasn't fighting; he was tending the bar.
In the ring, Jason Von Flue is 175 pounds of piss and vinegar, but at the bar he's just a friendly bartender. As the Hawaiian and the Taoist kicked the crap out of each other on the corner TV, Von Flue shuffles around in his green team jersey pouring Long Island iced teas and vodka tonics. Shooting for the reality TV series ended weeks ago, and for the last two months Von Flue has been playing host to the airing of the reality series at The Library. Friends come in each Monday night to grab a cocktail from the same guy who's brutalizing fighters on the TV set.
"It's surreal,- Von Flue says about seeing himself featured on the Spike-TV series "The Ultimate Fighter.- "It's one of the greatest experiences of my life.-
SLO loves ultimate fighting and Von Flue is the latest homegrown warrior to gain national acclaim. So far he's closely following the footsteps of Chuck Liddell, the Mohawk-sporting Light Heavyweight champion known as "The Iceman.- Not only does he work the same bar that Liddell used to bounce drunks from, but he also trains at SLO Kickboxing, Liddell's SLO martial arts and fitness center.
And even though the nickname is cold, Liddell couldn't be hotter. He sports a Hummer awarded to him when he successfully coached an ultimate fighting team in Season 1 of "The Ultimate Fighter,- and he's coming off a successful defense of his Light Heavyweight title in Las Vegas.
SLO seems to be a breeding ground for Ultimate Fighters, and the short answer for this would probably be Chuck. In some circles the Central Coast is known for its grapes and wine, in others it's known for relentless face-kicks.
While Von Flue pours drinks to cheering fans, his PR manager, Junior Isbell, sits in the corner booth watching the TV. He says since the show aired some two months ago, visits to Von Flue's web site (JasonVonFlue.com) have increased tenfold. At first the site was receiving a couple hundred hits a day, but once the first show ran the hit count jumped to 3,000. The next day it hit 6,000, and now it averages 16,000-25,000 hits a day.
On Nov. 5, the four semifinalists from the "The Ultimate Fighter- will fight in a live TV broadcast, scraping it out for the top prize: a contract with the Ultimate Fighting organization.
Although Von Flue can't discuss the outcome of the show, after Monday night he seemed confident that he would eventually face the Taoist New Yorker. He quieted the crowd at The Library and then pumped everyone up, yelling, "Who wants to see me take on Cummo!-
The crowd cheered, and the fighter raised his arms. Von Flue's got skills, and the crowd knew it.
Staff Writer John Peabody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.