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.
Why do we fall down? So we learn to pick ourselves up again.
We read quotes, watch movies, see great feats that inspire us, but until we experience something that makes it apply to us, they are just words and moments in time. When the moment comes, quotes take on a whole new meaning.
Two weeks ago I was at the peak of my fitness level. I was reveling in my new found athleticism. Coming off my win in Bellator I was exultant. Few moments in my life will rival how I felt. Then in a routine stretching exercise, my left hamstring gave out, a tear that I felt from behind my knee up to my lower butt cheek. I was in agony, not able to walk for two days. I remember when I fell down, I prayed for whatever was out there to take me, I didn’t want to live anymore. Needless to say no one answered, Jesus/Allah/Buddha/themaninthesky was either too busy with orphans or they just don’t exist. Haven’t decided which, so I’m still here.
Imagine climbing to the top of a huge mountain. You fist pump the sky, leap for joy, then suddenly you slip on a banana peel and go tumbling back down. MFER! You are back down at the bottom. You look up, the top isn’t even visible anymore, the clouds obscuring view. That’s how I felt. Despair. Why didn’t the Alien creators beam me up?
Two weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I broke out the TRX, hooked it up to the door, and started climbing a different mountain. This one is taller. I have a long way to go. Today was my second day back, I got the ok to start Boxing. I can’t really pivot, my mobility at the moment is terrible. My head movement has always been garbage, I’ve relied on my square chin to absorb more punishment than my brain cares to remember. Time to remedy that. I’m learning how to pick myself up. This mountain is taller than the last one, with more risk and more prestige at the top. Thank you to all the people who believe in me. Your support means the world. Bigger thanks to those that don’t. You fuel the fire that drives me upwards.
Here’s what I want you to do, close your eyes and imagine the 1950′s. Think of the malt shops and diners from back then. The fresh, hormone free, greasy, amazing hamburgers and milk shakes that cost 25cents and actually made you full. That was the time to grow up, when men were men, dirty hands and strong backs. Now a days you can’t find that very often, its all about profit margins; in order to maximize profits you have to bring quality down. The mom and pop shops of our parents time, they are gone. My old man told me McDonalds used to be good back then, hard to believe it when today you can’t even be sure what the “meat” really is. I would have loved to have seen it.
My old man and I used to visit my uncle Brad in Lakewood California, a quiet community that has a very retro feel, all the homes are from the fifties, streets are real narrow, you can imagine kids playing stickball in better times. Around the corner from my uncles place was a restaurant called the Heritage cafe, just like the rest of the neighborhood, it was a throwback to a better time. The food was all the home cooked stuff our parents talked about, fresh everything and gigantically portioned. For ten dollars I could eat three meals. I’d order the breakfast burrito that comes with two “sides”, what an understatement. The sides were full plates of biscuits and gravy, a Loaf of cinnabon, a full stack of pancakes, etc basically a side meant a whole other meal.the place had a line that wrapped around the block, on the weekend, forget about it! Needless to say when I was in Lakewood, I was eating at the heritage. But just like any good thing, things went down hill. Owners sold, prices went up, quantity went down, quality started dwindling. The lines aren’t a mile long anymore, the food isn’t the same. I haven’t been there in years. I like to remember the good conversations with my uncle that I had over a gigantic sized burger, the one that would feed me for lunch the next day as well.
My parents were lucky. Yes they had to walk ten miles to school, one way through snow the other way through a scorching desert. But man what a time to live, chuck Taylors and jeans, plain white Tshirt with ray bans. None of this queer skinny Jean sagging down to your ankles stuff. Perez Hilton would have gotten beat up. Kim kardashian would just be another dumb whore, not the sex icon she is today. Beaver cleaver and his wholesome family. We wonder why old people are always so grumpy and calling us young punks? It’s because we let our neighborhoods be bought up, the places they used to love now sell garbage compared to what they had in their day.
I feel sorry for us. We live in a world where we work so hard for very little. Pride in our jobs are gone, whether you work at a gym that caters to dollars instead of results or a restaurant that slaps ingredients together and calls it gourmet. Quality over quantity used to be a common thing, now it’s few and far between. Have you listened to our music lately? Smack that ass all on the floor smack that ass give me some more? I don’t like where we are as a society, we’ve lost touch with what is important in life. I miss the heritage. Carry on.
I’m returning home after a long weekend at the fights. Every fighter/coach/trainer knows what I’m talking about. Nothing is quite so draining as going to an mma event on the road. From the plane ride to the shady promoters(not all, but most, this weekend at ultimate beatdown was good ), it takes it’s toll on you. I hate to say it, but I think I’m done cornering, but I has nothing to do with what I just said.
A few weeks ago I had the honor to help OneFC star Adam Kayoom prepare for his fight against Gregor Gracie. It was a great, focused camp where we drilled smart and formulated a game plan that in the end worked to perfection and he won the fight. The game plan went so well that during camp he caught me with a knee that split my lip wife open. This is the part of MMA that I love, the preparation. The hardest part for a coach are the fifteen minutes watching and being able to do nothing as your friend/training partner/student tests his abilities against another. I compare it to a roller coaster, you know that it’s going to be a Thrill, but you’re never quite ready for the twists and flips that come with it. One second they are getting beat, the next they are coming from behind to steal the victory. I feel so drained after this, the victory is great, you lift the guy on your shoulders, but the cost on your nerves is ridiculous! I’ll gladly fight any day, but cornering, save that for the stronger hearted.
But I haven’t told you the part that sucks the most. A week ago a fighter asked me to corner him. This is a guy who hasn’t had the best of luck throughout his life, it’s not my story to tell, but from a fountain pen exploding on him at the airport to customs strip searching him in an office, things aren’t getting much better. I didn’t get a whole lot of time to work with him, a few training sessions, but knowing him well enough and seeing his opponent fight before, I had a pretty good game plan. Fight started off well, everything we had drilled in the locker room/ gogo dancer changing room ( yes they continued to change while we were in there without a though ) went well, we won the first round. Second and third didnt go so well, the almighty fate/poor cardio kicked in and that was that. A feeling of dejection and a very bruised face are all thats left to show from it. I hate this part. I hate seeing people lose.It’s not always like the movies, the good guy doesn’t finish first every time. So instead of having a roller coaster ride that ended with high fives, I got the roller coaster ride where someone smacks their face on the rail. Sucks! Not being able to do anything but try to say words of encouragement, terrible. Nothing you can say is going to change things, the time machine hasn’t been invented, it wasn’t a dream.
I can’t say I will never corner again, but this weekend put me awfully close. I’m much better suited to be a training partner/gym coach than a cornerman, I’m too weak for that, Its meant for stronger men. But on aug31st in Manila, you can bet your life that I’ll be in captain Americas corner as he battles a for victory against the legendary Gracie family. Carry on.
Sometimes I sit and think about what I do and ask myself “Is what I do for a living acceptable”. If I had a son and he told me he wanted to fight, I would try my hardest to talk him out of it. Sign up for jiu jitsu/westling/figure skating, anything but what I do. Yes people fight, it’s in our nature. Since the beginning of time people have been rattling each others brains with fists, feet and elbows. Yes my sport has lots of comradery in it, honor, respect are all part of being a mixed martial artist. At the gym we spar, grapple, punch, submit eachother, then smile and slap hands/ass afterwards. It’s this time that I truly enjoy, the group minded pursuit of getting better and better, pushing each other toward greatness. Training partners can be closer than family, only in the gym do you share blood sweat tears, the thrill of success and the anguish of defeat. We become brothers, like old war veterans that just one look is all that’s needed for complete understanding.
But every ying needs a yang, the darker side. We inevitably fight, producing the one glorious winner and one dejected loser. It’s not like a team sport where you can cry on each others shoulder/ point fingers at the guy that missed the game winning shot. You’re out there alone, the wrong end of a punch/kick, the submitted, the down trodden. I’ve never found more lonely a place than that of the four out of twenty one times I’ve fought. You let the people down around you, without anyone or thing to blame. The thrill of victory is what keeps us coming back for more. We can’t help ourselves, we gladly risk all To chase that intoxicating high that we feel, the exultation of victory. We put our bodies through the torturous training camp, isolating ourselves in our drive. Starvation, dehydration, depression, a lot more ion’s, it’s a rough life that we accept, in moments of clarity we sometimes see that we truly are insane, the drug addicted high chasers.
Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and my brethren who are chasing the dream. Is the reward worth the risk and Life wasted? I don’t know. The lucid part of me says hey man, you can live healthy without the brain damage, eat clean and exercise, get regular check ups, you don’t need this sport or it’s vanity. But when has right mindedness ever prevailed with man? It’s our base desires that win. Lust,hunger,Carnage. The beast will always go to what it desires most.
Am I saying mma/fighting is terrible? No, true beauty comes from it. If the world were made up of nuns and priests, there would be no need for bravery or compassion. A true paradox I find myself in. I’ll continue doing what I do because it is what I know, it is what drives me, it’s what I have been in this life and probably in lifetimes passed. Someday I’ll hang up my gloves and my cape, probably looking back on a lifetime of highs and regrets. But for now, I have to join forces with Capt. America to save the planet from injustice, posers, mcdojos, and flabby stomachs. Carry on.
After a ridiculous week of training, I am exhausted. I’m pushing extra hard so I can do a muay Thai fight mid july and possibly get on an MMA card later in the month. So after a few hours at the beach, I decided to take Juliet to the movies today. The cinemas in Thailand are amazing, not only are they crazy cheap, but for about the same cost of one ticket in the US, you can get a VIP couch. Duh. Anyway so after tearing up a little during the kings intro movie ( the king is legit, no Obama here ) and a couple trips to the bathroom ( her, not me ) we crashed out. Thinking for cheat day I’m going to hit up the pizza company (pizza hut) and destroy a pie by my self.
Today will be the first time I was in Phuket and missed a Tmt BBQ. It feels funny because I put so much time into that place, but it’s time to move on. I’ll always remember the good times, the people that made it great, but now that the magic is gone, it’s walls are no place for me. Onward and upward. Lessons learned.
July 7th will be the start of a new tradition for me. Phuket top team will be hosting pro and amateur fights. Nothing better than a rebound after a break up. The new guys have that twinkle in their eye still, the passion for the sport that is invigorating. Money isn’t the goal, it’s the love of the game. Anyway, I’m going to enjoy my day off, another hard week ahead of me. I’ll see you gents on 7th. Carry on