My goal for this journal is to chronicle my experiences before, up to and after a mixed martial arts fight. Win or lose I intend to share all of my hopes, fears, thoughts, revelations and everything in between.
That being said, I need to wax poetic for a moment. Man is a determined animal, aware of his mortality, who struggles in a world that is not of his design. He is perpetually stuck between hope and fear. This is admittedly a little esoteric but I think it is important to frame an experience with a philosophical underpinning.
I think that I should address fear first. For me, in the most basic sense, fear is born of the pair-bond between physical harm and embarrassment. The possibility of being hurt, at least superficially, is ever present but to be honest, skiing is more dangerous--about 60 people a year are killed. MMA has topped out at a meager handful in its entire existence. The threat of pain is not really an issue as I have sustained serious injuries in practice and have always returned as soon as it was possible. I will even go so far as to say that if I knew my arm was going to be broken in a fight, I would still go through with it. So why did I even bother mentioning physical harm as a fear? Well, imagine a post loss scenario in which one runs into an old friend or a co-worker. Can we all agree that there is no better conversation starter than a black eye? I don’t like to explain myself, and I certainly don’t want to recount losing a close decision or worse, how I had my ass kicked. Losing or not measuring up to expectation is what lies at the heart of my fear. Bruises and cuts are like scarlet letters, a constant reminder of one’s public shame.
Winning a fight is the equivalent of being a lion that runs off a competitor so that he has exclusive mating rights with all of the attractive lionesses but there is shame even in winning poorly. Watching heavyweights fight often means two flabby guys throw hay-makers for 30 seconds and then clinch up against the fence until they both gas for the remainder of the fight. I think for posterity purposes, I don’t want the only evidence of me as a fighter to be some video where I wallow around on the ground like a walrus trying to pry a seal carcass out of the mouth of a killer whale. In the short-term, I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I have been wasting my time all these years.
Fear is never alone. We always hope, if only for the thing that we are afraid of not to happen. All great fighters have strengths, usually to such a degree that we can describe them as a paragon of one trait or another. Lyoto Machida is aloof, Brock Lesnar is possessed of great strength, and Georges Saint Pierre is a master tactician. For me, what lies in hope believes that each of them were in my place at some point, looking inward before they went on to be great. Fighters, by virtue of what is at stake, set themselves apart from almost all other athletes. I want that. I want to set myself apart, to prove that I am the superior man.
Photo Credit - Patrick Hennessey