I started MMA in 2011. What started as fulfillment to compete turned into this goal to be the best I could be and make it into the big leagues. I love everything about this sport; training, mental toughness, courage, strength. However, it is not an easy goal to accomplish to say the least. There have been many things I have had to endure on this journey. If I could go back, I would tell my younger self to do things completely different. If you want to compete, by all means go for it! If you want to try to go somewhere with it, here are a few suggestions I wish I would have learned early on in my career and could have helped.
When I started fighting, I wanted nothing more than to train. I wanted all my focus on fighting. I half assed school to satisfy my parents’ wants and got a degree I do not use today. I was only 19 years old; not even an adult. Looking back, if I would have established myself a little more, I could have saved immense amounts of stress and anxiety. Looking back, I wish I would have found a foundation that kept me afloat while training. I am not saying to go out there and go to college and find a career. I do suggest having something to lean on so it will be easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle off the mats. Do not put pressure on your coach about not being able to pay month to month. They are trying to make a living too. Yes, in an ideal world, a fighter would do nothing but eat, sleep, train, fight, while living comfortably. For some, that has been attainable, and I envy the ones who have that. As for the rest, having a backup plan to keep you on your feet is not a bad idea. Do not put yourself in a position to struggle.
Understand your worth
I made a post one day that said, “I define myself as a fighter and if I lose that then I am nothing.” I wrote this to reach out and relate to how many fighters and athletes in general feel. The response was impressive. There were many athletes who felt this way. In addition to that, one of my instructors responded with the opposite. He said, “You are more than what you do. Don’t sell yourself short”.
Fighters and athletes take pride in what they do because not everyone can do it. Only those who have dedicated themselves to it understand the time and effort put into fighting (blood, sweat, tears). Being in a contact sport means the longevity will only last so long. So, what is next after that? I had to take some time soaking in what my instructor said. What I found was there was more to me than just a fighter, and I took comfort in the fact that I will be okay when it is all over. I was not born with one talent, but many, and I can do anything I focus my mind to, just like I do for MMA. I guess double legs and punching people in the face really isn’t the only thing out there. Do not be afraid to go out there and give it your all, but know when one door closes, another one will open as well.
The biggest struggle I have ever had: getting fights and sponsorship. It is frustrating trying to get on a card and all the time is wasted getting an opponent. It is even more frustrating when you see someone with a padded record who has a million followers and sponsors, and you are begging to get even one. My suggestion for this is to find someone who will do these for you. Find a manager worth your time. You might have to pay a little more out of pocket, but sometimes you have to spend to earn. Make sure to do your research and before you sign the contract with your manager, read the fine print. Also see what athletes are under then and their successes as well. Do not hesitate to ask questions.
Find the right gym for you
When I started training, I believe I was in the right place at the right time. I loved and cherished where I was, but as time went on there were certain components missing that I needed. I always had a feeling in my heart that I needed to be somewhere else. It took me four years until I decided to leave my hometown to pursue something more. When I moved, I doubled the amount I fought, and surrounded myself with people who had the same intentions as me. My suggestion to you is to find a gym that fits your needs. You should not have to feel like you are stuck in one place. If you feel like your ground needs work, find it. If your stand up needs a little extra, find it. Do what is best for you and never settle for less. Talk to your coaches and be open with your wants. If they are not able to work with you, it is time to find someone who will.
If I could go back to the beginning, I would have done things different. I can only look ahead for my future, but I hope yours will be better. I hope you will not struggle as much I did in the beginning, even though in no way is making a career in fighting easy. All in all, remember to enjoy this life you have and embrace the wonderful memories that will come with it. I hope you go far in your aspirations, and like I said before, never sell yourself short. There is so much you have ahead of you, and the best is yet to come.