Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oh, I play poker sometimes too: A recap of my WCOOP main event

After the big high of my debut fight, I had a chance this weekend to put the wraps on what would have been by far the most epic 9-day stretch of my life by winning the main event of the PokerStars WCOOP and the $1.4+ million that came with that title. Unfortunately, I had to settle for 36th place and a substantially less impressive $29286.

I was surprised by truly how grueling the event was. The 13 hours of play on Day 1 were very mentally taxing and felt more like two days of a live event. The experience was stressful enough that my skin actually broke out the next morning. And my Day 1 wasn't even really filled with difficult decisions. And I only played one table. I'm not really sure as to why it is the case that I find online tournaments so grueling compared to live tournaments. Perhaps it's the rushed 5-minute breaks. Or maybe it's the increased frequency with which one plays big, important pots. In a live tournament you might only play 1-2 really significant, stressful pots in any given hour, but obviously online (even one-tabling) you might play closer to a half-dozen.

It's also, of course, less fun to go deep in a big online tournament than a live one, because of the absence of a support network (putting aside random shouting in the chatbox or on Twitter). There are no dinner breaks with friends or encouragement from the rail. There isn't really even that weird and awkward sense of camaraderie one develops with one's tablemates, those very same people whose dreams you are trying to crush.

In any case, by the end of the long day, I was fairly drained. I did manage to squeeze some of my good practices from training for the fight into the 5-minute breaks. In general, I want to start bringing my healthy lifestyle approach for MMA into the poker world, by using deep breathing, exercise and better eating habits to feel better and less stressed while playing, which should ultimately result in better decision-making. I feel like readers of this blog are going to think I'm becoming this total hippie, so I'll emphasize that it's still far more important to play well and have technical skill (in both poker and in fighting), than it is to do all these other lifestyle things. But these things can significantly improve performance and have negligible cost, so they're certainly worth doing.

The other thing I did that was new for today was turning off all distractions. At the WSOP in 2009 and 2010 I became known among media and players as the guy who was always reading his Kindle at the table, and I almost never play live tournaments without making sure my iPod is full of fresh, new podcasts. In online tournaments I'm even worse, between the easy availability of chat, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, blogs and just general dicking around on the web. But for an event as big as the WCOOP main, I decided it was worthwhile to embrace the boredom and turn off all of these things. The only things loaded on my computer would be the PokerStars client, PokerTracker and PokerStove, and the only non-poker tools I allowed were iTunes and my cell phone (which I mostly ignored). I don't feel like it helped me that much with information tracking because my mind still wandered a great deal, but where it did protect me was that I didn't make any clear blunders (misreading bet sizes or stack sizes and things of that nature) because I was never distracted by anything other than my own thoughts.

As you might guess, I feel I played pretty well. Since getting back from the WSOP, I've returned to my roots as a cash-game player, and up until the fight I was trying to squeeze in an hour or two of 5/10 NL cash on HeroPoker every day. My results there have been strong but nothing special, but more importantly it's gotten me back to feeling confident playing 50-100 BB NLHE. The tournament landscape is so much different from the mid-stakes cash one, though. I have this theory that a lot of this small 4-bet/5-bet/6-bet stuff that is occurring is not part of optimal strategy but is in fact borne of an unwillingness of many tournament players to play flops. I think people doing this would be better served making more calls and large jams. I will disclaim this by saying I do think that this is a very unpopular opinion in the tournament world and that there are obviously a lot of very talented and successful players who would disagree strongly with that statement.

Going deeper into hand analysis is not really my style; I played a couple of questionable hands that I posted on my Twitter, and I do wish I could take one action back on my final hand. But again, I'm happy with how I played and I feel like even though I've taken a few weeks off to prepare for the fight, that my NL game is as strong as it's ever been. I'll be going to WSOPE in Cannes -- which I've been looking forward to that ever since the 3rd week of training camp -- so this run, while disappointing, at least gives some confidence going forward. Yesterday was, I think, the deepest I've gone in a tournament that paid over $1 million for first. Maybe in a couple weeks I get to join that elusive million-dollar club!

Friday, September 23, 2011

When one (cage) door closes...

One of the silly questions that people love to ask is, "what are you choosing for your walkout song?" Other than a few guys in the training camp, I kept the answer a secret. In fact, I did more than that; I had even concocted a tall tale, a cover story about how Battlefield wanted full control of production and would force me to come out to something of their choosing. But in my mind, I was never coming out to anything other than the classic montage song from the Karate Kid: "You're The Best", by Joe Esposito.

I chose this song in large part because I knew people would love it. But it also represents me well. The vast majority of people come out to heavy metal or hardcore hip-hop because they want something intimidating and aggressive to fire themselves up. If you know me at all, you'll know that's not me. "You're The Best" is a great song to get hyped up to, but I love that it is cheesy and decidedly non-threatening. No one who takes themselves too seriously is very likely to come out to this song, and so I'm happy to express that.

I walked skipped out to the song from the Vogue backstage out front with a big silly grin on my face. My song was playing, and it was time to have fun. I embraced my coaches and team, the official applied the Vaseline to my face, and I climbed the stairs into the Battlefield cage, and it was all just as I'd visualized it. I heard a lot of yelling. I was able to pick out a handful of distinct voices of friends, but once I was in the cage, I couldn't see anyone in the crowd. I was under the bright lights, but everything outside the cage was a big black void of noise.

The referee reminded me of some rules. I can't really remember which ones. I checked the firmness of the cage floor. It was softer than I'd expected, which was good given my injury. If we went to the ground with violent impact it was less likely to hurt me. I checked the give of the cage and the turnbuckles. As the first fighter in the ring, I had lots of time to do this while I awaited Tony's entrance. Paulie reminded me to "check my paces"; that is, how many paces (in stance) to the front or the back of the cage. I did all of this with a big smile on my face. There were still no nerves, just energy and excitement. After a rollercoaster eight weeks, this was really happening! It was really going to happen!

Writing this six days later, I remember a lot more than I could remember on Saturday night, but it's still not a lot. Once I see a clear video I'm sure I'll remember more. I remember the signal to fight, and Tony offering to touch gloves. I recall that we touched very conservatively, both of us making sure to protect ourselves as we did so. Little would either of us know that later that evening on a much larger stage in Las Vegas, controversy would erupt because Victor Ortiz would forget that cardinal rule and Floyd Mayweather would have no hesitation in exploiting that lapse.

I don't know who threw hands first, and I don't remember how we got into the clinch, but I know we were there and I took an uppercut from him. That uppercut was that punch I'd always heard about; the one that "lets you know you're in a fight". I cinched a rear waistlock and tripped him to the ground. He got up quickly and I again committed to another takedown, and this one solidified my position on top. As my team and I expected, I had a big advantage once I got to the ground in top position. It sounds bizarre, but there were actually times where I forgot to punch. It was my first fight, and I fought conservatively; there were a number of times where instead of punching I simply consolidated position first. Highly skilled and experienced mixed martial artists use strikes to set up their passes to dominant positions. I could strike, and I could pass, but it certainly wasn't as fluid as you see from elite level fighters.

But my choppy MMA ground skills were enough to get me to full mount, where I finally started to attack with some good ground and pound. My jiujitsu instincts kept me driving my knees into his armpits, making it difficult for him to escape. I felt him bridging hard and using a lot of energy, but I made staying on top my full priority. I transitioned a lot from mount to knee-on-belly and vice versa, those being the best striking positions. I tried to throw as many punches as I could, but Tony was doing a good job of tying up my arms and protecting himself. I was buoyed by hearing my name chanted throughout the crowd. Late in the round I crept up his torso and set up an armbar, but he was able to wriggle his arm free. From there I transitioned to a triangle but right as I locked it in, I heard the 10-second warning clap. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it given that time so I transitioned the triangle back to an armbar and yanked hard. Unlike the first armbar, this one was very very deep and I was confident I was going to get the tap. Tony was in a lot of trouble and I was very surprised he wasn't tapping. The referee asked him twice if he was okay, and he didn't respond. I hipped hard into it but Tony was just incredibly tough and refused to tap, surviving to make it to the bell.

I really managed to fuck this up? Really?

I was tired and stayed on my knees for a moment, but then I noticed that Tony was still on the ground beside me, even though we were in my corner. He was too tired to get up, and that was a great feeling. I only remember saying to Paulie, "I'm tired, but he's more tired," and him responding, "fuck that, you're not tired." I don't remember anything else either he or our wrestling coach Sina said in that round break. The only other part of the break I remember was the "Seconds Out!" call and looking across the cage to see an exhausted Tony. That made me stand up immediately and start moving my feet. He'd shown fatigue and I wanted to show strength and further sap his will. The Round 2 bell sounded and I charged to the centre of the cage.

This time I didn't need to get punched to know I was in a fight, because I smelled blood. I shot in for the takedown and managed to press Tony into the fence. I was not very technical along the fence. My head was too low, which would not only put me in danger against someone with a good guillotine, but it also makes it hard to finish the takedown. I also took some knees and punches to the body; luckily the hardest blows landed on my uninjured ribs. Sina would later tell me that I was wasting a lot of energy against the cage. In truth, I figured I needed only one more takedown to win, so I was charging up for it. I can't tell you anything about how I got the fight to the ground in the second round; I just know I did. It was not anything technical; I simply grinded it out and got it there by being the fresher guy. The one thing I knew from the first round is that once I got the fight to the ground, it would be lopsided. Confident that I would not be reversed, I threw a lot higher volume of strikes in the second round in an effort to stop the fight. I had multiple opportunities to finish by submission, but remembering how resilient Tony was in the first round, I decided to keep flurrying with punches instead of taking the gamble. At one point I thought it was almost the end of the round and moved my hips forward for another armbar attempt but heard Paulie's voice cut through the noise with a sharp "NO!" and went back to the ground and pound. My arms were definitely starting to get tired from hitting him so much, but the referee was warning him to fight back -- ref code for "I'm close to stopping this fight." Hearing that was all I needed to get a little extra energy to continue firing hard punches. Paulie's voice rang out again, this time yelling "FIVE SECOND FLURRY". Dutifully following instructions, I postured up one last time for what would be the fight-ending salvo. The official result was a TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 2:52 of the second round.

Late 2nd round, the beginning of the end.

It is, as you would expect, a tremendous feeling to feel the ref push you off your opponent to stop the fight. No matter how tired your arms are in that moment, the weight of the world has been lifting off your shoulders. I turned towards my fallen opponent and bowed, an homage to Genki Sudo's famous win over Royler Gracie. I trotted around the cage, not quite sure what to do. I considered scaling the cage, but my honest thoughts were, "I'm short, the cage is tall, and my legs are tired. I might make an ass of myself."

The Battlefield cameraman got directly in front of me in the midst of my celebration, clearly expecting something from me. It was at this point I finally did the one cliché thing and spouted some babble into the camera about how Battlefield fans can expect a lot more of that from me, or some such. I dunno. I can't be unique and self-effacing all the time. :)

Backstage, I was giddy. It was a tremendous feeling and I wanted it to never go away. I loved anyone and everyone. Everyone I ran into said, "great fight". I took some time to relax backstage and then went out to say hello to everyone in the stands who had come out to watch me. My handwraps were still on my hands. For the first hour or two, I simply didn't want to take them off. I was enjoying it too much. By the time I decided I actually wanted them off, it was the co-main event, everyone was gone, and we couldn't even find a pair of scissors. So I wore them all the way to the burger bar where I finally got scissors from one of the restaurant staff.

It was truly and unquestionably the best night of my life and just incredibly magical. It was just too much fun. Levon won his fight as well -- in dramatic and impressive fashion -- so aside from Zach's illness, it was a great night for the team. MMASucka.com called us "the biggest winner" of the night (and if you scroll down, you'll see I got an individual award too).

In truth, I could go on and on about what a great night it was for me. This is something I've wanted to do for so long, and in a sense going through the injury and the recovery and finishing up with the fight going exactly the way we'd planned made it even sweeter. I'd gone through the worst case scenario and made it through. I'd taken one thing I'd always knew I'd had, smarts, and combined it with the one I wasn't sure about, guts. It was a storybook ending.

Only it's not an ending. While I'm sure some readers out there would prefer I take this experience and walk away, that won't be happening. I'm officially hooked (if I wasn't already hooked long before the fight). I want to see where this thing will take me. I'm 30 years of age; not young, but not too old. In a few weeks I should be okay to resume full-intensity training. There's another Battlefield card in mid-November. If I can fight on it, great; if not, I'm okay with that too. I'm still a passenger on the ride, and I don't know where it's going next. But if last weekend is any indication, it'll be fun.

* Photo credits: Creative Eye Media, VanFighter.com and MMASucka.com

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

getting ready to ruuuuuumble

In my fight week post, I outlined my basic weight-cutting strategy, modified by little nuggets of information I would read here and there online. By Thursday morning, I'd cut as much sodium as possible from the diet and my water intake was minimal. I weighed 134 and felt good throughout the day, if perhaps a bit cranky. My friends started to filter into town and while you might think that would just add to the anticipation, they served as a great distraction from the event. They were also, of course, greatly supportive. Gavin Griffin's wife, Amy, compared my Saturday night to a bride on her wedding day, and "do you need anything, Terrence?" was perhaps the question I heard the most through Thursday and Friday.

I woke up at 133.6 lbs on Friday morning and headed out to the gym to cut weight. Due to a communication mix-up with the team I got there 90 minutes before everyone else. Aside from me, two of my Universal MMA teammates, Levon Kinley and Zach Koch, also fighting on the card. All three of us were within 4 lbs of our target weight on Friday morning. Zach preferred to lose the weight through exercise while Levon and I chose to wait it out and head for the sauna. After yet more somewhat stressful hassles, including a flat tire, we headed over to coach Paul's building to sweat out the last few remaining pounds. After about 30-35 minutes of misery in the sauna, we were on weight with about three hours to go to the weigh-in.

The weigh-ins were pretty uneventful. I'd cooked some food the night before and asked my friends to microwave and bring it to me. Though the weigh-in was scheduled to begin at 4:30, I stepped on the scale probably around 5:15. The scale was slightly heavier than the electronic one we'd been using to cut, and I had to strip down to my underwear to get to 131 lbs even, the absolute maximum allowed. I began to chow down and drink Hydralite, although to be honest I was unable to put back very much food or drink in that first hour. But by 8pm, I was pretty ravenous. Although I didn't weigh myself on Saturday, I probably stepped into the cage close to 140 lbs that night.

This is clearly my "Can I just go eat now?" face.

I fell asleep around 12:30am the night of the fight and woke up just past 8am, my first solid interrupted 7+ hour night of sleep in a few weeks. It felt wonderful and I was full of energy. I was ready to run out and get breakfast, walk around, be a Vancouver tour guide for my visiting friends, anything... but everyone was still asleep! I was stir-crazy in my apartment, just absolutely full of energy; all amped up and nowhere to go. But it wasn't nerves, simply anticipation. It was a lot like the feeling of waking up on the morning of a major final table and being in the chip lead, only better and more intense. Finally everyone was awake and we headed for some sushi. I ate a light meal, figuring undereating was superior to overeating.

At 4pm, I went to the gym and found out the awful news that Zach had gotten sick and would be unable to fight. It was a huge downer. The guy is just a beast in the gym who stomps all over me in every practice and I was stoked to see him fight. But I had to put that aside and focus on myself. We got to the Vogue Theatre and set up shop in our dressing room [pic], which was more functionally designed for touching up makeup than warming up fighters. Still, it was pretty cool, and I loved taking it all in. I wish I had taken more pictures or video, but with so much to think about, it never really came to mind.

As the first fighter on the card, I was worried that I wasn't going to have enough time to warm up. Everything was running late, and we hadn't even had the rules meeting finished by 6pm, when the first fight was scheduled to get underway. This is where having an experienced cornerman and teammates on hand made a huge difference. Paulie quickly and professionally wrapped my hands (it takes a lot more work than you think!) and I started to warm up quickly in the small backstage area. It was kind of weird, because right in front of where I was getting warmed up, Tony sat in the chair getting his own hands wrapped by his cornerman. So we were hesitant to go over the exact combinations and techniques I was supposed to use in the fight, but that's what we ended up doing anyway. Instilling the muscle memory in me and making any necessary last-minute adjustments seemed more important than tipping our hand at that point.

I had just started to break a sweat when it was time to go on. I snuck a quick look at Tony and he didn't seem as well warmed-up as I did. That would be the first little boost of extra confidence I got as I headed out into the bright lights.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roasted Ribs: Confessions of a debuting MMA fighter

It's hard for me to think about how to begin this blog entry. Normally when I write, it's because I'm inspired to do so. This time, I feel compelled to do so because such a significant event in my life has come and gone, and now I don't know how to start or what to say.

I suppose one way to begin is with confessing a secret that I can finally divulge. I was fighting hurt. On August 24, twenty-three days before the fight, I was in the hospital, and I was badly hurt. I took the body shot from hell from my teammate, Zach, who was also scheduled to fight on the card. I can't express this level of pain in words. I was down on the floor for 40 minutes in the most incredible agony of my life. I've been hit by a car. I've trained martial arts in some form or another since I was 16. Nothing has ever been this bad. It was simply the perfect shot in the perfect spot at the perfect time. I was given a bunch of painkillers but they didn't help. I didn't sleep that night at all and slept poorly for a week.

That's what family is for: capturing pictures of your most horrendously painful moments.

For the next week, every movement was excruciating. I was in my cousin's wedding and managed to tough it out. Breathing hurt. Moving hurt. Sitting down and standing up hurt. Lying down and getting up from horizontal was absolutely horrifying. Bowel movements hurt. Sneezing was out of the question; I did not sneeze until about September 13.

When the calendar turned to September, I was pretty sure I was at best 20-30% likely to fight. But I didn't tell anyone. On August 30, I blogged on my private blog:
"I'm confused, conflicted, ambivalent and tortured this week and likely for the next few days as well until I get pressured to finally make a decision. For now I've been able to forestall things by just saying 'I'm gonna to try fight!' as convincingly as possible, but don't know how much longer I can hold on to that."
My coach Paul gave me until the last possible opportunity, but by the end of the first week of September he wanted to see how I could perform in the gym. I didn't think I was ready to return to any kind of activity, but I understood his demand: he needed an assessment of whether I could fight or not on the 17th. So on September 4th (Labour Day), I went over to my cousin's house so he could hold pads for me. It was painful, but something I could work through. On the 5th, I stepped in the gym for the first time, hitting the bag with tempo and practicing wrestling shots. On the 9th, I did my first real practice. He had me work pads a little and try to do a takedown or two on a partner. It went better than I thought; I was able to take down my partner who was offering just 20-30% resistance. But I was able to do it. I was able to move and scramble a little. I am incredibly grateful to two particular teammates, Oliver and Kirk, who both took an hour out of their training time to basically be little more than my grappling dummy for the few days up until the fight.

I decided -- or we decided together -- that I was good enough to fight. We devised a game plan around the injured left ribs. I would pin my left arm to the body, the hand protecting my face and the elbow protecting my ribs. I would not throw any jabs or lead left hooks. I would continue fighting orthodox, but would lead combinations with my right hand only: straight right-left hook-straight right, right uppercut-left hook-straight right, and so on. And, most importantly, I would not "stand and bang" with my opponent. I would get this fight to the ground as soon as possible, where we felt (from having watched his debut fight) my opponent was likely to be weakest. We practiced takedowns off of his left and right hooks as well as off of his kicks. We practiced takedowns out in the open and up against the wall. It was all about takedowns. Paul and I were both confident that getting the guy to the ground would be the main concern; once I had him there, I would have an overwhelming advantage.

It was a good game plan. Still, I was concerned about the ribs. It would really only take one good shot to the ribs -- which were still only about 40-50% on fight day -- to put me on the mat. Not only that, a lot of heavy lifting motions, so critical in wrestling, were still causing a lot of pain. I did have doubts. What if he cracked me to the body? What if I couldn't get him down? What if I favoured the ribs so much that I left an opening upstairs and he knocked me out? Whenever I was alone with my thoughts, I had doubts. I turned to meditation and visualization. That helped a lot to ease my doubts. When I visualized the fight, I would often go through some adversity early in the first round, but drag him down eventually, dominate on the ground, and win a stoppage in the second round. And when I was in the gym, working on the takedown drills, I felt great. I only got four training sessions in after the injury, but after each one I felt only one thing: this guy is mine.

In truth, I recovered from the injury much faster than I thought I would. Everything on the web -- from medical sites to forums to personal blogs -- said anything from 6-12 weeks, and I had just over three. I shouldn't have been able to recover that quickly. But I have a ton of advantages. Not having a job is a big one. Those first few days, I was able to just laze around at home and recover. As boring as that was, I didn't give myself a chance to re-aggravate the injury. I spent all day researching rehabilitation: supplements, foods, positions, behaviour, everything I should do. I got acupuncture. I continued to do breathing exercises. I gave myself every possible advantage. The nice thing about this is that there was no conflict between getting fight-ready and just getting healthy because they are one and the same. So even if on the 17th I was not ready to fight, I should be doing the same things anyway.

Was it smart to fight last Saturday? Honestly, no. I should have asked for the fight to be pushed back to the November card. It was dumb to fight. So why did I? It's tempting to say that the reason I fought was that I felt pressure with all the friends I had flying in from all parts of the continent, and other friends and family who had already bought tickets. And to be sure I did. But the real reason was that I wanted to do it. It was something that I wanted for myself. The training camp was so hard. There had been so much anticipation. The fight was always the light at the end of my tunnel. Every day when I walked out of the gym, no matter how beat up, there was always the excitement that I had made it through one more day, and that the fight was one day closer. To pull out would feel like throwing all that work away. Perhaps that is not very process-oriented of me, but I couldn't help it. I wanted, needed, and was desperate for this fight. I'd thrown everything aside and sacrificed so much for this fight that it would have been immeasurably painful to give it up, even if it meant the potential for serious damage. And this was something I knew as soon as the injury happened. I tried to tell myself that I was smart enough not to fight if I knew I couldn't. But I also knew that if I could, I would, and fuck the consequences.

But I know it wasn't smart, and I won't do it again (I hope).

So that's the truth about the last few weeks up until training camp. I hope that explains a bit of the silence on weeks leading up to this post. That post doesn't contain any lies, but as you can tell now from this post, it didn't contain the full truth.

In my next entry, I will write some more about the night before the fight and, of course, the fight itself.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fight week - what I'm doing

Since this blog is mostly read by poker players, I figured some people might be wondering what I'm doing a few days out from my fight.

Physical training: Nothing too hard. Yesterday I had a moderate to moderate-high intensity session working with one of my teammates. At this point it's less sparring than it is working specific things that I want to do, both offensively and defensively. Things that I have seen my opponent do and the best counter to those things. You might think we spend the whole training camp doing this, but in fact, we only spend the last couple weeks doing this. I think this is correct because at this lower level, overall skill development and improvement is more important than exploiting your own strengths or your opponent's weaknesses. Just like poker and other zero-sum games!

Mental training: A few weeks ago I resolved to start getting more sunlight, and the weather in Vancouver has been nearly flawless for the last two months. My building has a common garden too, so I've no excuse. So I've been going out there with some mats, sitting in the sun, doing some breathing, meditation and visualization. Maybe only 10-20 minutes a day, but it's more than I've really ever done consistently in my life. I'm also not playing poker at all this week. Don't really want the potential stress/cortisol dump if I ran bad.

Weight cutting: It's a fairly easy cut for me in part because of my fortunate metabolism, but also because I've been extremely strict on diet for the whole 8 weeks. I've never gone on a carb binge so I never got over 141 lbs this entire time. Sunday morning I woke up at 135.6 lbs. That day, I began going very low carb, and also began sodium and water loading (i.e. consuming large amounts of both). Tomorrow I will start sodium and water reduction. Adding lots of flax to the diet to get (more) regular. I won't drink anything on Friday and I'd guess I'd be down to 132-133 or so before even setting foot in a sauna. So this should be easy. Yay for staying on the wagon.

Nerves: Almost none. Kinda surprising, really. I mean, I'm aware of the fact that it's a fight and I could get hurt or knocked out. But nothing resembling nervousness and anxiety. Probably won't happen until a couple hours of fight time.

Miscellany: Last real training is probably tonight. Massage and acupuncture also scheduled this week. Weigh-in is at a sports bar at 4:30 on Friday, will prepare myself a small meal to consume, go out to a nice restaurant with out-of-town friends around 8:30, and hope to get to bed before midnight.

I'll probably do a v-log of my last few days as well with the weight cutting, fight prep and that kinda stuff, and post it after the fight.

Friday, September 9, 2011

from 8 weeks out to 8 days out

It's been quite the journey. Eight days from now I will have fought my first MMA fight in Battlefield Fight League's 11th event. There are only a few more days of training, which are more skill days than conditioning days. The hard work has been put in and the serious blood and sweat have been left on the mats (figuratively, of course). Now all that remains is a little weight cut and a lot of mental preparation.

If I'm to be brutally honest, this training camp hasn't gone so perfectly. There have been some rough times. Not everything went as smoothly as it could have been. There's been a lot of adversity. I questioned myself a lot. There were times where I didn't think I'd be able to do this or to get to this point. But here and now, on this Friday night just one short week away, I truly believe that I am going to win next Saturday's fight and move on up in the promotion. And that's pretty big for me.

One thing I do know in my heart of hearts is that I have done absolutely everything within my power to put the best possible me out there on September 17. I've been disciplined, diligent and intelligent in training, diet, and mental preparation. If it's not enough to win, then so be it. The process has been a good one, I've learned a lot about myself and what I'm capable of, and I've grown. In some sense, I've won already by getting to this point.

In another sense, fuck that hippie bullshit. There is no outcome that I am allowing to penetrate my thoughts other than the following one:

On Saturday, September 17, I'm going to win violently and decisively. End of story.