One Opportunity Lost and Another Gained, I guess

Something I never talk about is that I almost went pro as a MMA fighter when I was in college.  Honestly, I don’t really like to bring it up because there are a lot of ideas attached to someone being a fighter. Most of them ideas that I’d rather not have associated with me.

In any case, I trained with a coach and gym that is known around the Southeast for being authentic and tough.  I was 6 – 0 as an amateur, had a background in wrestling, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I was even offered an opportunity to fight in the Governor’s Cup in Russia – which was considered a big opportunity at the time.

Long story short – I hurt my knee. I down-played the severity of the injurt, of course.  I told myself that it was just a strain and I would bounce back.  Eventually I had to cancel the upcoming fight.  I limped around for about a month without seeing the doctor because I was also uninsured.  Looking back on the whole thing I was taking a big risk doing a sport like that with no insurance (duh!), but at the time I had never in my life had insurance so I had no choice but to never let it hold me back. (I guess that’s another story.)

About a year and a half later after I started my career, gave up fighting, and had health insurance for the first time in my life – I went to the doctor after I re-strained my knee (again) playing flag football.  The doctor informed me that I had tore my ACL and meniscus.  Without surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process I would never be 100% again.  The whole situation was a lot more serious than I thought.

I haven’t forced myself to have the surgery yet either. I hate the idea of spending a year in recovery before I’m back to normal. It would be at least three months before I could even exercise.  The doctor also explained the process is very painful – great. Right now I’m “rehabilitated” and can run and lift weights normally.  I’ve even ran a marathon recently.  So it’s tough to talk myself into getting the surgery – it feels like moving backwards.

The real tragedy isn’t the knee injury though. I can handle that.  Rather my biggest problem is hearing about a few of the guys I used to train with who are now going pro and doing pretty well.  I used to beat up (in the friendliest way possible) those same guys at practice every day.  I could be on TV right now, who knows.  

From a young age I thought I was going to be a pro athlete.  When the “usual” sports didn’t work out and I excelled in high school wrestling MMA seemed like a natural fit. It was.

Now I can’t even watch the sport on TV because I kind of feel like “that should be me.”  Almost like I missed an opportunity.  It’s just kind of hard – like seeing an old girlfriend with another guy or something.  I know its for the best.  I would probably end up brain dead with Parkinson’s Disease or worse.

My interests have changed, but that disire in the pit of my stomach to do something “great” is still there.  It feels like nothing can replace that feeling I’ve felt 100 times after training so hard and then getting a win.  I mean its hard to describe training for 6 weeks, running miles, taking hits, losing weight, not drinking when your friends are out having fun, hitting pads for 2 hours then going home to study – literally blood sweat and tears – then winning.  Fighting is pure. Not many things are. I like that.

Today I heard a guy from my former gym is fighting in Madison Square Garden in a month or so.  I started fighting before him and at the time when I was still training I was the one teaching him – so I might of  had the same opportunity if circumstances been different.   I’m happy, very happy, but I can’t help but feel those old stirring feeling every time I realize I can’t do that stuff anymore.  Kind of sad, but with the realization its all for the best.

Now I have to find something that can put out those flames in my stomach – I wonder sometimes if that’s something only a fighter former fighter can relate to.

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2 thoughts on “One Opportunity Lost and Another Gained, I guess

  1. jon

    It’s interesting Att. I can picture how you feel watching these guys on TV. I had a feeling like that – not with sports -but with music. Some guys I used to play music with became successful (at least for a while) in music. One guy (Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers) got a big record contract, and another guy toured with some really big groups. I don’t know if I would gone so far (so few do) — but I do remember deciding at a certain point in my life that if I pursued that type of thing, ‘age’ would eventually work against me — most guys that make it in rock music or sports become less valued as they get older (the ones that stay relevant as they age, even in music, are so few). I liked the idea, instead, of going into a career where I’d be valued more over time, instead of less. It seems like the same would be true with sports.

    Reply

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