On August 23rd when I left Colorado to go to Thailand, I did not know what to expect from my trip. I had a strong suspicion that I was not ready to walk away from the sport after all, but I tried to leave with no expectations other than just finding my passion again. When I retired on the first of the year I THOUGHT it was a sound decision, but I realized a few months later that it was simply an emotionally charged decision based on the unique high stress situation I found myself in at the time. As the months crawled on I found myself missing the fight more and more, but I was still struggling with untangling the strings of some previous negative experiences from the strings that were tied to my passion for my career. The sole purpose for my trip was to make peace with some of those past experiences while reconnecting with my passion for the martial arts.
I have to admit, during my first week back training at Phuket Top Team I remember going through the motions of my bag work thinking how absolutely miserable I was. It was so much harder than I remembered with none of the passion that used to get me through it present in my heart to keep me pushing forward. The thought, "yeah, forget this" temporarily crossed my mind, and I left training that day thinking my trip was in fact my farewell to the sport and not my reintroduction to it. I gave no consideration for the fact that I had spent the previous nine months barely training as I was submersed in alternating states of depression and anxiety; I only compared my current state of physical fitness and mental passion with what I remembered it being the last time I was in Thailand... which happened to be immediately following a fight camp when I was in peak physical condition and very hungry to compete as soon as possible.
Fortunately, muscle memory kicked in to save me from myself, and my body began to remember what I was expecting of it and complied, albeit a little begrudgingly at first. I began smiling and laughing in training again and remembering why I loved it so much to begin with. However, I was still unsure of whether or not I would end up fighting again and made the decision in my second week to not chase it or force any decision one way or the other. I decided I would just focus on training and smiling and if one of my krus felt I was ready to fight, the offer would be made.
It was at the beginning of my third week that the fight offer was made, and I was almost surprised at how quickly I said yes. There was no excitement in my response per say, only a very natural feeling in my heart that said of course, why wouldn't I? It was then that I knew I was back. However, I did not announce anything about the upcoming fight to anyone other than my children and two of my closest friends. While the fight was officially renouncing my retirement, it did not feel like a fight that was a part of my professional career to be shared with the world, but rather an event that was occurring in my personal journey and one I needed to experience privately.
The morning of the fight though, I realized how much fighting for my fans has always driven me. My entire career to date has been spent sharing my struggles and coinciding successes or failures with my followers and it did not feel right to not share my most personal struggle yet, and so I posted a video of the fight poster blowing in the wind with the following caption:
So, there's this thing I'm doing tonight..
It's been a year and a half since I've competed, and the ring has been calling to me for quite some time now. It's time I heed the call. Retirement will just have to wait. I'm back.
I had never experienced nerves before a fight in my entire career, but something about renouncing my retirement added some weight to my shoulders that I was not familiar with, not to mention it had been well over a year since I had last competed and this fight would be completely different from anything I was used to in the past which made it almost feel like my first fight all over again. In Thailand you do not warm up before a fight and instead simply receive a thai linament massage from the trainers. I was used to the mentality that you work up a good sweat and open up your lungs before your fight so when you enter the ring you are doing so with your second wind ready to go. I was also a little nervous about not ramping my punches and kicks up before entering the ring as well. The stadium I was fighting at was one where you do not know your opponent beforehand either. You just show up and fight whoever they tell you to fight. And then of course there was all the ritual and tradition entering the ring that I was not accustomed to in my previous experiences. All of these changes had me a bit in my own head and unable to really decipher how I felt about it all.
However, as soon as we arrived at the stadium, all questions left my mind as I entered into that calm and focused state of mind I love so much about the fight. I admit I had to look to Kru Athit more often for direction than I would have looked at my coaches in the past for the simple fact I needed to be guided through the specific rituals, but otherwise the second the gloves were on I felt home again. Stepping into the ring felt just as familiar and natural as any other fight, if not more so because I was finally returning to where I belonged. As soon as the ref signaled the start of the fight, it was all calm instinct.
Analyzing the fight myself, there was a lot I wish I would have done differently, one being I wish I would have played the muay thai "game" a bit more and drug the fight out into a few more rounds, but as soon as I started finding success in throwing my hands it triggered more of the MMA mentality of finishing the fight as soon as possible. However, I do not think there will ever be a single fight that I walk away from not wishing I would have done things differently. After all, we are our own worst critic and a person interested in improving in life will always be looking for those ways to improve on what they have accomplished so far. I won the fight forty seconds into round two via TKO though, and, more importantly, that night I won my own fight against depression and anxiety. That fight was like a rebirth into the life I knew and loved, and I am happy to announce that since coming home my passion has not dwindled in the slightest and I am actively seeking my next opportunity to get back in the ring.
My immense gratitude goes out to my entire team at Phuket Top Team for taking me from a couch ridden depression to a round two TKO in four weeks. I believe in their training, and I believe in their structure, but more importantly it is the atmosphere they have built that allowed me the space I needed to make such leaps and bounds in my personal journey at the same time as I made improvements in my professional journey.
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.