I’ve had some pretty bad nightmares in my time, we all have. Sometimes there is a monster, others we are falling. The one with the plane crash always scares me because I fly so much. But there is one that has haunted me so many night since march. It’s the one where I go into the cage after a perfect training camp, I feel great. Then suddenly after a little bouncing on my feet, my leg pops. I’ve torn my hamstring, but I’m there, I fight anyway. Two minutes later the agony of my leg is unbearable. They carry me out of the cage in a stretcher. I wake up, I feel the pain in my leg, I toss and turn a bit, it’s real, it happened. A deep sorrow and depression threaten to overcome me.
Weeks went by before I could walk normal again. It’s been months and I still can’t run. I sat on my couch for three weeks before I got up and did anything. I began to understand why samurais commit seppuku upon defeat, the shame of defeat is too much. No amount of sessions with my mental coach Scott Stevenson were going to pull me from this. Xbox and subsistence eating were all I did, I wanted to escape. Bad.
I received an email one day. Do you want to fight the Egyptian again in may? YES. I went to Bjj class with Prof Olavo that day, I’m terrible with a gi but it’s the only thing my leg could handle. I went everyday for weeks. It was all I could do between upper body workouts with Mark Mariani and woody at TFW(training for warriors). Anger and self loathing drive me where my body couldn’t, I didn’t want to be the person that had just lost. I couldn’t live a full life, I was a shell of my former self, no superman at all.
By the time the fight rolled around I was as ready as I could be. Sparring had gone well, with rob lesita and the leone bros, and giom and Olavo overseeing everything, giving advice where they could. My leg isnt healed, not even close. I couldn’t kick, explosive movements hurt. I’m sick with a chest cold, breathing is difficult. Doesn’t matter, either live in shame or die on your shield. The shield it was.
The day of the fight I was a nervous wreck. For those who have never fought professionally, it’s not the fight that scares us, it’s the unknown. We don’t mind getting hit, it’s in the back of our minds. Anxiety is powerful, the waiting saps our energy. Even the best fighters like GSP have pre fight jitters, it’s part of the sport, it’s what separates us from bar room fighters (that and a bit of training). The internal demons are strong, they attack all of your weaknesses at once. Doubt creeps in easily.
The warm up is good, I had veteran Ray Elbe (recently moved to Kuwait to teach Bjj at Kuwait Combat Athletics) in my corner. I’m glad he was there, his experience helped a ton. Blake Grice was the referee, an experienced ref from the states. This made me feel a lot better, the last fight saw me get soccer kicked on the ground with barely a warning for my opponent.
My opponent is confident now, having beat both Ray and me (both of us took the fights injured, hubris). He has a right to be. He doesn’t respect jiu jitsu.
The fight starts, gloves touch, I shoot right out of the gate, taking the fight to the cage. My nerves were running wild, I’m sure I look calm but inside I’m churning. I secure the takedown after various punches and a knee, landing in side control. After a few transitions I take my opponents back with ease, a testament to my months in the gi that I had previously neglected for Nogi training. I secured the gable grip choke (variation of the rear naked) and my opponent taps, I hold until Blake stops me, a habit picked up from opponents tapping and protesting/acting like they didn’t. Fight until the bell rings or the ref stops you is a good rule of thumb.
I do the normal pre fight interview except with the Kuwaiti flag draped over my shoulders (they make me feel more at home than the US, we aren’t a loyal people anymore ). Fights over, I’m the welterweight champion with a pretty new belt. My soul is cleansed, I don’t have a dark shadow that will haunt me for the rest of my days. My heart can be happy again. I can lift my head up. I owe my daughter lost time. I’ve neglected her these past few months, anger and shame drove me insane. It’s time to go to the beach and build her castles to destroy again. Good days are ahead. The sun is back, it’s time to smile again.
Thanks to all that put up with me and believed in me, I appreciate you all,will see you soon. Shukran.