“The world is dying.”

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Courtesy of Marlin Wheeler Photography

This seems a little disingenuous to say now given the current state of affairs and what what thew news has offered but this was also my response when my stepdad asked me why I decided to take a muay thai fight. He wasn’t too happy with my answer and decided that it was because I was bored. He was not wrong. I think my motivation for the fight was a combination wanting to challenge myself, having nothing to lose, and maybe a little boredom.

When I decided to take the fight, I had been training BJJ almost exclusivity for years and competing and not really making any progress (see previous posts for evidence). The majority of the tournaments I enter, result in me being eliminated during the first round and part of it seems to because of some mental blocks. One teammate even told me, “your problem is, you’re afraid of winning.” I’m not sure how true that is but I have noticed that there was something in me that would give up once I ended up in a bad position, usually side control or mount. I would wilt. Part of me also felt that training for and actually getting to a muay thai fight would help me overcome whatever was getting in my way just because of how rigorous training for muay thai is. I don’t slouch on my bjj preparation but the stakes are much higher in muay thai because no one is punching me in the face or trying to kick me in the head.

Training for this fight was one of the hardest things I’ve done physically and mentally. For a long time, I considered getting my life guard certification to be it. To take the course, you to be able to swim 500 yards and I’m not a swimmer but my stepdad was a triathlete and got me into shape so I could pass the pre-test. I think we spent four weeks getting for that. Getting ready for the fight was 10 weeks! This was 10 weeks of hitting pads with my coaches 3-5 times a week, sparring two nights a week, and running 12-15 miles weekly. As the camp progressed so did the intensity. I remember when one of my coaches texted at the beginning of weeks 7 to say it was time ramp up training, my mind almost exploded. How was that going to be possible? It ended up being longer runs and two extra pad sessions. The whole thing was exhausting. This was good and bad because it didn’t give me much time to really dwell on the fight. I just didn’t have the brain space to really think about it. I could only focus on what as in front of me.

That being said, the entire training camp began to blur but having such a strict was super nice except for the part where my five year streak of not crying in the gym was broken. This was a matter of personal pride – not that I don’t cry when training is tough or frustrating, I just try to wait until I’m in the parking lot. It was okay though. My coach emphasized that it was perfectly normal and almost expect because fighting and training for fights is super hard. But he also said, I need to keep my hands up so I don’t get hit so hard again. Even though training was super hard and I had to do things I hate, like running, there was one saving grace. I didn’t have to really cut weight. My fight was set to be at 140lb and I had just come off training for the Vegas Open and moving to 137lb. So I mostly had to maintain my weight and try not to lose too much. I ended up weighing in for the fight at 138lb.

The fight itself was blur in the middle of a day that consisted of lots of waiting. I felt super lucky that I my fight was at the top of the card because I have a tendency towards impatience and just wanted it to be done. It was also nice to be out of the green room and away from all the anxiety coming off all the other fighters anticipating their turn. I did start to get nervous while I was warming and started to worry about getting to tired because my coach/future brother in law kept pushing me. I was also trying not to agitate my left hamstring which I conveniently pulled two days before. When it was finally time to be on deck, I felt ready. My coach gave me one last pep talk and told me that I had done everything I could do to succeed and there was nothing left but to go out there and give it my all.

Time has not really made too much sense for some time now and the fight was the weirdest space of time. It was simultaneously super fast and painfully slow. After the first round, I was dead. The amount of running and padwork and what I thought was a decent level of cardio didn’t matter. It wasn’t a match for the adrenaline dump which was different from the one’s I get from competing at BJJ. I just felt so tired and it took everything I had to keep going. The only good thing about the adrenaline is that getting hit didn’t actually hurt while it was happening. The fight went the distance and I won via split decision. I think the first round could have gone either way, the second was my opponents, and I think I got the third. I haven’t really watched the fight again since the day after but that sounds about right. I just remember Chis telling me before the last round, “It’s just two more minutes, it’s nothing. Two minutes! You can do this!” I think that’s what powered me through the last round. Winning, especially in muay thai, which is a sport that I haven’t dedicated myself to like I have jiu jitsu, was surreal. It felt really good to win and to see all that hardwork pay off.

I hope I can fight again this year and try to better collect my thoughts to talk about how training totally changed my mindset towards a lot of things. One of those things was that I felt an increased sense of gratitude. I felt so grateful for all the opportunities that made up the minutiae of everyday life. I was grateful for my health, my gym, training partners, the fight, my opponenet, my family. I don’t know. I felt super emotional the whole time and wanted to cry because I just loved and appreciated everyone in my life so much more. All of the trivial stuff just melted away and it was freeing.

For now, I’m looking forward to competing next month and continuing to work on the holes in my game and trying to apply the muay thai mindset to jiu jitsu.

“The world is dying.”