On Sunday, Aug.7, David Mitchell plans to take a break from his day job and head up to Laytonville for the Gaia Festival, a "music and sustainable living fair" featuring good-vibe acts like the Wailers and India.Arie.
Twenty days later, Mitchell will step into an octagonal ring in Rio de Janeiro and attempt to kick, pummel and bend his opponent into submission in a UFC 134 bout.
It's a contradiction, or would be to most people. Not to Mitchell, who sees his upbringing on a vestigial hippie commune as a natural lead-in to a pursuit that he sees more as an art form than an act of violence.
"It's the opposite of war," the mixed martial arts fighter said recently at the Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance gym, where he trains quasi-religiously with Eli Stravrinides, Raul Guerra and gym owner David Terrell. "You go in there and you battle the guy, but then after, I've never seen a fight where they don't just hug each other. Backstage, these guys are just chit-chatting even though they're about to go out there and fight. There's a lot of respect in this sport."
The cement-jawed Mitchell looks younger than his 31 years, but carries himself with a calm that makes it easier to reconcile the boy who traveled with his family to visit the redwood-borne protest of Julia Butterfly Hill with the guy who dispatched one opponent, Tim McKenzie, with a move called a "guillotine choke."
Mitchell was 3 years old when his parents, Martin and Joanie, moved from Oakland to the Hog Farm, a Mendocino County commune legendary within the counter-culture. Founded by activist-clown Wavy Gravy, the Hog Farm cooked and handled security at Woodstock and established communes in various locales around the country. The Mendocino property, called Black Oak Ranch, sits on 200-plus acres outside of Laytonville.
David Mitchell was known as Daudi growing up there, named for a friend the Mitchells met in Tanzania. (It's a Swahili word that means "beloved.") Mitchell rode horses, raised sheep and chickens, and cooked and ate organic produce grown by fellow Hog Farmers.
"It was a great experience — the land, the spring water coming right out of the mountain," Mitchell said.
Joanie ran a shop in Laytonville called Nobody's Business, and started up an import-export trade. The family traveled the globe in search of crafts and adventure — to Africa and Bali and the ruins of Machu Picchu. One summer the Mitchells loaded up their wood-paneled Pontiac Bonneville station wagon and drove to Guatemala and Belize. Closer to home, they backpacked in the Sierra.
There were disadvantages, too. David traveled enough to know that he didn't have the same access to computers, TV and other media that most children took for granted.
"Sometimes I just wanted to be more like the normal kids," Mitchell said. "Maybe I felt a little isolated by my different lifestyle. But looking back on it, it just seems amazing."
One drawback, from his current perspective, is that Laytonville High didn't have a wrestling program. Mitchell played soccer and a little basketball there, and ran track at Shasta College.
He started to drift as a young adult, though, and after getting a DUI, committed to changing his lifestyle. He got himself into great shape, with no idea where it was taking him.