Adam Gentile is a 260-pound, 6-foot-2 “Dungeons & Dragons” nerd who owns the legendary Palomino strip club, and in his spare time he beats the stuffing out of large men in King of the Cage bouts.
He has the looks of a bruiser, the courage of a fighter, the acumen of a businessman, and the voice of a nerd.
I interviewed Gentile, 40, on the second floor of his all-nude Palomino, to talk about his retirement bout this Saturday in Eastside Cannery.
Three beautiful naked women walked behind him. They wanted to practice pole moves.
“Ladies, we’re doing an interview up here,” Gentile said politely. “Can you give us a half-hour and it’s all yours?”
The ladies abided.
I told Gentile many men may wonder why he signs up for face-punching MMA fights instead of cozying up to these strippers day and night.
“I’ve been doing this 18 years. You don’t notice they’re naked. It just becomes their uniform,” Gentile said. “They’re more my daughters than anything else.”
I said, in essence: Surely a stripper could get a rise out of him.
He answered, yes, in theory, “If I’m having a lap dance, I’m having a great time.”
Gentile, raised in Vegas, got in his first fight at age 5 after kids teased him for playing video games.
“It was not nearly as socially acceptable 30, 35 years ago. Now everyone owns an Xbox. Back then it was, ‘Oh, you’re the ones who play those funny games.’ So we got picked on a lot. As a child, I didn’t have a good reaction to that,” he said.
He was put into mixed martial arts when he was 8 for “the discipline.”
After playing football at Bishop Gorman, he became a bouncer at the San Diego and Vegas outposts of Cheetah’s strip clubs.
Gentile calculated some nerd math for me and estimated he broke up or finished 208 Cheetah fights per year, for four years. Throughout his life, he’s probably won or ended well over 1,000 bar fights, (although the Palomino isn’t fighty).
He saved his money, and eight years ago, he bought the Palomino, turning it into one of the two best strip clubs in Vegas, and getting a reality show for it on Playboy TV.
He and friends used to play “Dungeons & Dragons” in tunnels under the Palomino.
“I turned it into my nerdery,” he said, but games got too popular and moved to someone’s house.
Two and a half years ago, in his late 30s, Gentile decided to put his Japanese jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai muscle memories to use in King of the Cage.
“I’m watching the people inside the ring, and I’m thinking, ‘I know I can beat these guys in a fight.’ ‘Sign me up.’”
How’d that first fight turn out?
“I came out with a broken nose, two extraordinarily black eyes, I had been swallowing my own blood, because it was broken. Afterward I was like, (in a strained voice), ‘I wasn’t quite ready.’”
This is what he realized:
“A street fight — if it’s a long-ass fight — lasts 30 seconds. I’m extraordinarily good for 30 seconds. But I was not prepared for three minutes” per round.
His record is 3-1.
“There’s such adrenalin going. You’re scared to death. Everyone should be. Even champions like Georges St-Pierre are scared to death when they walk to the ring.
“I throw up after every fight, even after I win. It’s such a relief.”
I told him most guys’ goal in life is never to get punched in the face. But he welcomes it. What the hell?
“It’s counter-intuitive,” he said. “I don’t particularly like getting hit in the face, but for some reason, it’s a situation I handle better than most.”
His signature move is the Von Flue Choke, a shoulder choke that reverses his opponent’s choke, which makes Gentile think, “You’re going to go take a nappy now.”
He feels good about his short MMA career:
“I am the warrior I wanted to become.”
Saturday’s fight is his last. Why?
“It’s too emotional,” the thoughtful giant with stripper authority said.
“Another reason its my last fight is, my wife said, ‘Uh, yes, it’s your last fight.’ I’m big and scary,” Gentile said and laughed, “but she’ll hurt me.”