Saturday, October 28, 2017

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the a baby.

I've come to an acceptance that there won't be an MMA comeback for me in 2017. And with a child on the way, it's uncertain whether there will ever be one. That possibility is so tough for me to admit because it's been such a large part of my identity the last seven years.

Don't get me wrong: I am over-the-moon excited to become a first-time dad. I know there's an excellent chance that seeing a tiny little infant grow into a toddler, a child, and then a young adult means I won't care in the slightest about ever being in the confines of a reinforced caged polygon.

Nevertheless, I love the sport of MMA so much. And if every time I look at my Sherdog record and see the big red "LOSS" at the top of the page, it will always eat at me a little.

(Side note: I'm writing this as I just got back from the gym, doing 1000m repeats on the rowing machine. On my last repeat, the thought, "I want to quit" crossed my mind. My motivation to finish was the memory of Keegan Oliver on top of me, elbowing me in the face. My motivation to go faster was imagining that I had been granted a third round against him, and was down on the scorecards with one minute to go.)

After my loss in March, I took a few weeks off for personal time. We happily conceived (it was planned) and I pushed aside the loss, overjoyed at the news. I have known since very young that I've wanted to be a father, and I finally found the woman I want to be the mother for my child. These two things are without question the best things to ever happen to me. Eventually though, I was faced with the question of whether fighting is still something I want.

And the answer was a resounding yes.

It was probably a month before I redoubled my efforts to become more committed. I determined that yes, I wanted to avenge this loss, take another tough fight against another tough flyweight. I re-focused on the technical aspects of striking, wrestling and jiujitsu while hiring a strength and conditioning coach who would assess all of my strong and weak points. I was excited every time I walked in the door at Lions MMA or the weight room. I stayed the course on optimizing diet, sleep, and self-care.

But the injury bug got me good in 2017. A neck injury I suffered in Vegas during WSOP that still bothers me today. I've re-injured my ankle, and the specialist says it's really not going to get any better. I'm now training at Toshido MMA which has produced four UFC fighters despite being located in a small town of 100,000 residents. But my body has not held up in training, despite the care and maintenance I put into it. I've been getting sick more this month than I've been in years. Even though I've been averaging 10-12 hours in the gym every week, I know that I'm not in fight shape. It will take time.

So the comeback will be delayed until next year, but the future has never been as uncertain, and the numbers continue to look bad. New fathers see their testosterone drop ~30%. Younger fighters consistently have a higher winning percentage.  Everyone wants to think of themselves as an outlier, including myself. And there is a time to say, "fuck the numbers. I am that outlier."

It'll be hard work and the deck will be stacked against me. And that'll make it more fun when I get it done. And if I don't -- well, fatherhood seems like a good deal, too.