Director Billy Corben had nine cameras set up for the big fight between Alfonso "Chocolate" Frierson and Mike Trujillo. It was the crew's first fight, and Corben was in control of a camera in the corner of the ring.
It was in that corner that Trujillo’s body landed after "Chocolate" gave him a sweeping right hook just a few seconds into the fight.
"I just instinctually moved in on him with the camera, to get the shot," Corben says. "He had gone timber. He went straight back on his heels and just fell backwards. His head hit the grass and dirt landing outside the ropes of the ring."
Trujillo lay motionless on the dirt, and there were no doctors present to help him. Corben had to continue filming as Trujillo struggled to regain consciousness.
"We were making this movie, but of course it wasn't a movie, it was a documentary," Corben said. "We were capturing these moments as they were occurring in real time. When you're watching a movie, it already happened. We were there and we were living it, and it dawned on me that this guy might never get up again. … I saw everybody's lives flash before me.'
That was the reality for Corben and the fighters in West Perrine, Florida, a poverty-stricken surburb of Miami. Perrine was the site of Corben’s newest documentary, Dawg Fight, which is being released Friday.
Dawg Fight dove into the violent world of backyard fighting made famous by Mixed Martial Arts fighting star Kimbo Slice. Slice's YouTube videos went viral in the early 2000s and gave rise to the fighting scene in Perrine.
It soon became an outlet for hope in the less than two square-mile neighborhood where unemployment is high and crimes occur every day. This belief made Corben even more interested to film the documentary in Perrine.
"The [documentaries] that we've always done are kind of a twisted take on the American dream," he says. "These guys think that this is their best opportunity. These are underserved communities where unemployment in off the charts, they are ravaged by crime … These guys see this as their best hope, which in a way is kind of an American Dream."
Corben, a Miami native and director of films like The U and Cocaine Cowboys, began filming Dawg Fight in early 2009. Then, he met the crux of his story, Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris.
Dada 5000 grew up fighting with Slice and eventually traveled around the world as his bodyguard. However, he returned to Perrine to become the head of the illegal backyard fighting scene.
"He and his brother dug four holes and buried these posts in the ground and built a 12X12 ring," Corben says. "His mom has a chain-linked fence around her property and so as soon as they would put the blue tarp up; the neighborhood knew it was going down."
Dada 5000 was an integral part of the growth of backyard fighting, yet he made no profit from it. He still dreamed of being discovered by scouts, much like the fighters he worked with in Perrine.
"I have a lot of respect for him and relate to him a great deal," Corben says of Dada 5000. "As a small business owner, as an entrepreneur, as an independent film maker, I have nothing but respect for his hustle. He's a father, he’s a son, he’s a brother, he’s a carnival barker, he’s a promoter, he’s a fighter."
Here is a trailer for Dawg Fight, which is available for $5 on its website and scheduled to hit Netflix in May: