Train, eat, train, sleep, train, eat, sleep, train, eat, sleep. Repeat the process. Repeat the process. Talk, gym, gym, gym, salad, green juice, train, train, train. Hotel, cut weight, hungry, thirsty, now time is moving slowly, waiting, hot, thirsty, weakened, whisper, “Let me drink water,” then scream in the hot box angrily. Strip sauna suit off, “This is the work part, it’s gonna be fun.” Hell, now hell, “I got it, let me take this suit off.” Coach says, “You know your body better than me.” 184.9, relief. Happy. Fun soon, walk to the weigh-ins, tired and relieved. See fans, industry people. Stare down. Cheers. Water, water, water, rehearse, talk, “I was being an asshole, sorry about that.” I’m thirsty, water. Food. Food. Food. Water. Laughing, thinking. Talking. Eating. Laughing. Relaxing. Ok, yeah, goodnight. Still awake. Fun day tomorrow. Happy. Relaxing. Sleeping. Wake up, food, relaxing. Bed, tv, door knock, coach, van, crew, laughing, locker room, shadowbox, hear the crowd, shadowbox, did he win? Gotta pee, hands wrapped, shadowbox, wrestle, hit pads, one burnout, 10 seconds, time. My name, walkout, dancing, cage, he walks, I stretch, center, stare down. “Let’s get it on!”
Ever since the moment I stepped off the scale, time has been moving increasingly fast, but here in the cage, in the blindingly bright halogen lamps that encapsulate the arena of combat, suddenly life moves very, very slowly, as if the entire world has slowed its rotation through space. Rightfully so, because at this time, every moment counts. A fist hurtles through space and zips against the air molecules, pushing through the invisible water molecules that surround our atmosphere, making it’s way toward a relatively motionless face, and upon impact, sends shockwaves that are dispersed, first at the site of impact through the loose skin around the face and jaw, then throughout the skull and toward the direction the fist was headed. The fight can change direction that fast—a millisecond. I don’t even really know how fast that is, and my Internet is down so I can’t Google it. Just know this, it’s fast. The fact that everything moves that fast makes everything that much more important.
Every moment and exchange in a fight is significant to the entirety of the match, down to the minute details. Each fight is mini-battles for each position. Exciting changes of position are met with “oohs” and “aahs,” despite the fans’ lack of insight to what is actually happening. Most uneducated fans are unaware of the intricacies of what is going on—not the readers of FIGHT!, of course, but the guy sitting behind you screaming, “Poke him in the eye!” like some mindless buffoon. Well, at times, fighters heed the buffoon’s advice, and sometimes do get poked in the eye—a fighter has to do two things: take advantage, and don’t lose focus. Take, for example, the case of Anthony Johnson vs. Josh Koscheck at UFC 106. Both fighters get poked in the eye—first Koscheck, who took his injury time after an illegal knee from “Rumble.” Koscheck took his injury time and came back out focused and ready. In the next round, Johnson gets poked in the eye. Johnson, the less experienced fighter, appeared to lose his focus, and soon the seasoned vet won in impressive fashion. Now, who is to say that the fight would have gone any differently either way, but I’ll tell you, I’m sure Johnson wishes he made more use of the splitsecond opportunities that arose for him during the fight. Koscheck, who ended up getting win bonuses, had to be shaking his golden curls in happiness that he capitalized on the opportunities that presented themselves.
When you have an opportunity, you cannot miss it, or you risk losing the event you’ve spent your whole life preparing for and the last two months focusing on, even down to two seconds. You see, the common fan—and not even my close family—is privy to the trials and tribulations that a fighter has to go through to even make it to fight night. Any of these details—moans, groans, or complaints about the training camp leading up to the fight—are simply written off as excuses. All that matters to anyone is that ONE night, down to the milliseconds, and no one wants your reasons for what went wrong in training camp or why you didn’t fight well that night or the multitude of problems, including staph infections, injuries, domestic disputes, anal fissures, drug problems, hang gliding accidents, children’s birthdays, Jewish holidays, or lunar eclipses that may have occurred while you were preparing for the fight.
We, the howling masses, just want you to get your ass in that cage and show us what you can do. “Dance for us monkey. And don’t cry about it either, Tito. I don’t wanna hear about your cracked skull. Just destroy your entire body for our entertainment, and don’t fucking cry about it. Don’t worry, we looove you, and we are paying cash.” In all seriousness—don’t cry for me Argentina— I chose this life. I knew that this would be this way. I knew that I chose a rollercoaster ride of a career for myself, where one day you are on the top of the Milky Way Galaxy, swinging on a exploding red comet made of naked supermodels and fat stacks of dollar bills, and the next weekend you can feel like you’re cleaning a musky Tijuana whorehouse with your tongue all weekend, having to suppress the voices in your head that urge you to stick your hand into the garbage disposal—if only for the fact that it would be disgusting to clean up, for sure.
“MAN! TWO MORE SECONDS,” a random boob says to me, his striped earth-tone sweater making me want to punch the pathetic jaw line his goatee is trying desperately to define. “You would have had him. The damn bell!”
“I know man, I know,” I solemnly answer, realizing I’m unfairly def lecting my anger toward myself on him. He’s talking, of course, about my recent title fight in which I had my opponent’s back, had the rear naked choke sunk in, and as it appeared he raised his hand to tap, the bell rang and Big John screamed for me to let go. The next two painstakingly boring rounds involved me getting taken down and held onto for the rest of the fight—controlled and on the losing end of those mini-battles for positions. I could go on a tirade about how I woulda coulda shoulda this and that, or bitch that Big John didn’t stand us up enough without any action, say that the lights were in my eyes, or regurgitate the rhetoric that my entire family has spewed over the holiday, but what good does looking back do? “Two more seconds, man.” I play a game of milliseconds, so in my world, two whole seconds is an eternity. The only thing left to do for any fighter after the fight is rest, relax, and recover, then train, train, train, repeat the process.
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