Thursday, April 5, 2007

Wang's secret life doesn't have a fighting chance

By Bob Holtzman

Former South Torrance High football player will make his national TV debut tonight on 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality series.'

Andy Wang should see his double life come to an end tonight.

Wang's secret should be tough to keep -- especially since it will be exposed to a national cable audience. Wang is a contestant on ''The Ultimate Fighter,'' a reality show about mixed martial arts fighters trying to earn a guaranteed contract with UFC. But Wang, who turned professional in 2000 and has an 8-6 record, never told his family.

"I don't know how I'm going to tell them, man," said Wang, who was an All-Area linebacker at South Torrance High where he graduated in 1995. "It was a personal journey."

His quest culminates on Spike TV tonight at 10 with the debut of the series' fifth season. Wang, 29, said he and 15 other fighters lived, ate, slept, trained and fought each other over the course of six weeks earlier this year in Las Vegas.

"It adds a unique twist because usually, you don't know the opponents you're going to be fighting," Wang said. "We lived and trained together all day, man, for six weeks. That's what adds to it."

Ultimate fighting fans will see another twist as this season features fighters in the new lightweight division (155 pounds). Wang proclaimed he is "5-foot-7½" and showed his wit when he said viewers will tune in to see a "tall, dark and handsome Chinese guy."

Wang sounds like he already has the braggadocio necessary to become a popular fighter and he'll get a chance to prove he's earned his chance through years of effort. Wang grew up around martial arts, learning tai-chi from his grandfather Shu Liu, but started to focus on it when his dreams of playing professional football were drifting away as a walk-on buried on the depth chart at Hawaii.

"Football was my priority but when it didn't go anywhere for me at Hawaii, I wanted to spend more time on it," said Wang, who graduated from Hawaii in 2000 and is currently working on a Master's degree in education at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Wang taught history at Los Angeles High and served as a substitute teacher because of the impact his teachers at South had on him. Wang said football coaches Don Morrow, Todd Croce and Mike Christensen all made huge impacts on his life. He even spent one year coaching junior varsity at North Torrance under Croce.

Wang said he was expelled from South as a freshman for vandalism and after being suspended numerous times for fighting. But he got a second chance to return to South and made the most of it.

"He was a very bright guy but wasn't always focused classroom-wise and in his life in general in the way you would hope that a guy with his abilities and intellect would be," Morrow said. "He definitely figured all that out under Coach Christensen, obviously."

Croce was surprised to hear Wang was a professional fighter but could understand why he decided to keep it a secret.

"That makes even more sense," Croce said. "He loves his parents and was so concerned about making others proud of him, that it was what drove him to make the right decisions in high school. I'm sure this is something he wants to do for himself now."

Trainer Howard Liu said viewers should appreciate his approach to the sport.

"He subscribes to that philosophy, 'yamato damashi', which is samurai code for 'to the death', " Liu said.

"When they lock that cage and you hear the dead bolt shut, your fear is standing right in front of you," Wang said. "You've got to fight because there's no where you can run. You can't hide."

And with the show, he won't be able to hide his secret life from parents Jeinming and Chein Wang, who run Chef Wang's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach.

"I don't know how I'm going to tell them," Wang said.


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