Dada 5000 — the Mohawked, muscled monolith born Dhafir Harris but better known as the P.T. Barnum of Miami's backyard fisticuffs — spotted them through the window.
It was July 5, and the promoter was chilling at home, the same "Famous Green House" where thousands of knuckle-busters and bloody noses have been recorded. The lawn out back was scheduled for another of Dada's blowouts, a seven-card fight. But then two men from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) came bearing a cease-and-desist letter, ordering him to stop staging his popular — but unlicensed — brawls.
Dada, though, says nothing will slow backyard fighting now. "This is one of the greatest shows, if not the greatest show on Earth," he says with proper Don Kingsian panache.
Dada 5000 got his start in the ring with backyard pioneer Kimbo Slice, and then, in his weedy lot in West Perrine, he innovated the form by putting fighters inside a tight, roped-off triangle, which cut down on fighters' second-guessing their decision to risk their face for a few bucks and bailing on the brawl.
But Dada's real role has been as an articulate evangelist for the form. "I'm a backyard maestro. These individuals come back here, and I paint the picture of what they can be if they believe what I'm telling them," he explains.
Many news outlets have beaten a path to the Famous Green House. Dada was first discovered by New Times, and since has been featured on ESPN and in Vice and Maxim; he'll also star in Dawg Fight, a Rakontur documentary coming out later this year. The nonstop curiosity about backyard fighting is due to the sport's undeniable — even primal — appeal.
"These are finished fights. You can't see this type of stuff elsewhere," Dada says. "See, there's too much politics in boxing and MMA. We don't stage or fix nothing back here."
But the pro boxing and mixed martial arts circles are where Dada's problems with the state lie, he says. The growing popularity of backyard is a threat to mainstream fighters, he says, and they're the likely source of the recent complaints. The cease-and-desist letter informed Dada that holding an event without the right license and certification is a third-degree felony.
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Chelsea Eagle, a spokeswoman for the DBPR, confirms an anonymous tip sparked the letter, which was also "forwarded to the local State Attorney's Office for prosecution, as required." Despite running fights for nearly a decade, Dada has had only one other run-in with the department.
Coincidentally, the July 5 beatdown was meant to be his goodbye fight. For him, the old days of backyard brawling are done, he says.
When Dawg Fight hits theaters, he figures the sport's popularity will take a quantum leap. He wants to be ready for the next step and is already plotting to hold brawls on boats outside the state's jurisdiction. "Like LeBron James said he was taking his talents to South Beach," Dada says, "I'm taking my talents to the ocean."