The rise of MMA in the last few years, particularly the UFC, has inspired many to dream of one day fighting in the octagon. MMA fans, with their branded t-shirts and hats, have helped the sport grow by leaps in bounds, yet many fail to appreciate what it really takes to reach the elite level. What they don't see is the sacrifice and struggle of most MMA fighters.
Having had the privilege of working with both professional and amateur fighters, I can appreciate the dedication necessary to accomplish the ultimate goal of competing on the highest level. I was reminded of what it takes this past weekend as I got lost following my GPS on a drive up to small town USA (I won't trash anyone's hometown).
While navigating past diners and small shops, single lane roads, warehouses, and a slew of dingy non-descriptive buildings, I found my way to a small venue where one of the guys I train was set to battle.
Upon entering the "unique" smelling place, I took note of the collection of twenty or so competitors draped in the gear of their local academies, along with a number of dyed and oddly configured haircuts (obviously borrowed from their favorite MMA stars). No fancy sponsor billboards, no lights, no cameras, no throng of fans, no reporters; just a group of hungry fighters looking to prove themselves in hopes of one day being featured on a big pay per view event. Guys willing to bleed for no money, no fame, just a chance to build their records with the aim of reaching the next level.
After being shown to our dressing rooms, which doubled as the locker room for some sort of sports team, with its broken-down benches and dank floors, I was reminded that this is what true competition is all about. MMA, or any competition for that matter, is not about the plush accommodations of some luxury hotel.
It has little to do with signing autographs and becoming a media and marketing darling, but with testing your skills and training against an opponent. Television stardom is merely the payoff for the long car rides, cheap hotels, and backyard sized venues.
This goes out to those athletes willing to toil in obscurity. To those fighting for peanuts, or no money at all. To those whose names you have never heard of, and those whose names you will hear in the future.
To those that have shed gallons of sweat and blood only to get knocked out and tapped out in a matter of seconds, yet are willing to do it again and again. To those that train for 8 weeks and cut weight, only to have their opponent not to show up on the night of the fight.
So, to all those that aspire to be a MMA superstar, Respect the Grind and appreciate what it takes.
GOAL. PLAN. SACRIFICE.