Life Swapping

“And your winner, by Unanimous decision!”

I couldn’t hear the announcer’s voice, despite standing right next to him. My body was coursing with enough lactic acid to bring down a horse. Needless to say, I couldn’t hear that I had lost my first kickboxing fight by Unanimous decision. The loss didn’t surprise me.

The first round, of the three round fight, I dominated by flooring my opponent with a looping left hook. The second round was close, but I knew that he had gotten the better of me. The third round was all his though. I had completely gassed myself out by the time I reached the third round. My arms felt like they had lead weights at the ends of them, keeping me from punching. I could have sworn I had cement shoes on my feet because I couldn’t move my legs to save my life.

The third round consisted of my opponent walking me into the corner and beating me senseless for two minutes straight. So, when it came time to announce the winner, I didn’t need to hear the announcer to know I had lost.
I was sixteen when I started training in kickboxing. I had my first kickboxing fight three months after signing up. To say that was ambitious was an understatement. I had never been in a fight before in my life, but that’s why I took the fight so fast. I wanted to prove to myself that I could hold my own in a fight. That first kickboxing fight, where I spent the last round getting mauled in front of hundreds of spectators including my family, got me hooked. That adrenaline rush, the feeling of being fully alive, I couldn’t get enough.

Since that night, I have known that I am a fighter. It’s in my blood. Nothing makes me feel more alive than going toe to toe with another guy that is my equal. In those moments, everything else in life becomes irrelevant. All of the importance put on having a high paying job, fancy cars, and worldly possessions is lost during a fight. The person in front of you doesn’t care if you make $100k a year, or if you drive a BMW because all they care about is connecting their fist to your face. It’s extremely humbling to have your ego shattered by a right cross.

Up until that first fight, I had a very different idea of what the picture perfect life looked like.

The picture perfect life check list:

– MBA degree from a top 25 University

– Six-figure job with a fortune 500 company

– Three bedroom house with a white picket fence and a tire swing

This is what I imagined the “good life” looks like. I can’t argue or deny that this is a good life. To be making more money than anyone knows what to do with, the sense of importance and prestige that comes with having an MBA while working for a major company. Truly, this is a life of safety and luxury. A person would be crazy not to strive towards this life.

I was on the path towards the picture perfect life. I have a bachelor’s degree in Finance, and I was going into my final year as an MBA Candidate at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. I had one of the highest paying MBA internships in the country, and had six-figure salary job offers on the horizon when graduated. To put it into perspective, I was given a $10,000 signing bonus just to work a summer internship! $10,000 signing bonus for a summer job?!?!?! For being a freshly 23 year old kid, I was living out a life most people can only dream of. That is, until I decided to leave it all behind.

I’m leaving behind the corporate life for the fight life. I’ll be swapping out my three piece suit for raggedy workout clothes. My dreaded commute through traffic will now be a brief walk to the gym. My morning routine won’t involve checking my emails, rather running sprints til my legs collapse. Business meetings won’t hold any more passive aggressive comments by coworkers. Instead, my coworker’s fists will do the talking for them. Also, my happy hour will include a lot more protein shakes and a lot less margaritas.

I’m leaving the cushy office job, I’m leaving the MBA program, and I’m leaving my friends and family. I’m leaving everything in my life behind to chase a wild and possibly even stupid dream. I am baptizing myself by fire.

I am moving to D’Iberville, Mississippi to fight for the Alan Belcher MMA Club Fight Team. I am taking the biggest risk of my life. There is no clear path here, and no guarantee that it will work out. I am as scared as I’ve ever been. Yet, in my gut, I know I am making the right choice.

Oddly enough, this is the most liberated I have felt in a long time. I am doing what I feel I should be doing. I am doing what I want to do. My goal is to be the UFC Lightweight Champion, and I’ll be damned if I don’t give it all I’ve got.



The Hammer & The Nail


That is my only thought as the 6’4, 250 lb “Vanilla Gorilla” launches his body into the air, with the intent of crashing his bowling ball sized knee into my pretty, little face. The knee grazes past my head, and I let out a momentary sigh of relief. My relaxation lasts only a second as a dinner plate sized hand crashes into my sternum, knocking the wind out of me.  I stumble backwards, failing to regain the air that has been stolen from me. I’m in survival mode as this behemoth of a man barrels towards me. He winds up another punch, but my instincts kick in. I duck under his arms, and explode into a textbook double leg take-down. Unfortunately, physics was not on my side as he didn’t budge. I bounced off him as if I’d run into a brick wall, falling firmly on my ass. The Vanilla Gorilla stands above me, ready to pounce. Then the bell rings, and I am saved from a barrage of punches.

I pull myself to my feet and wipe the blood away from my nose, thankful for the end of the round. Then I remember that I have four rounds left. Shit. I could be drinking margaritas on the beach or hiking through the mountains, yet here I am, in a fist fight with UFC Heavyweight Chase Sherman.

During these practices, where I find myself on the receiving end of an old fashioned butt kicking, I ask myself “Why the hell am I doing this?”. Then I remember that I have some big dreams to reach. I also remind myself that this is still way more fun than sitting in a cubicle.

Since moving to Mississippi, this is largely what my life has looked like. Most of my time is spent training. Some days I’m the hammer, but most days I’m the nail. Yet, one thing remains constant. Everyday I am improving.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come train with the Alan Belcher MMA Fight Team is that the team’s strengths and weaknesses are the opposite of my strengths and weaknesses. The fight team here is known for their world class striking paired with slick off the back Jiu-Jitsu. This is a perfect fit for me as I can bring my wrestling expertise to the table while developing my weaknesses in striking and Jiu-Jitsu. Each time I show up to striking or Jiu-Jitsu practice, I’m training with fighters much better than myself in these areas. It forces me into a sink or swim environment. I’m either going to develop my striking and Jiu-Jitsu quickly, or I am going to continue to get my butt kicked. There is no way for me to hide from my weaknesses.

So, I’ll deal with being the nail for now. I know that it’s only temporary because everyday that I am forced to improve my weaknesses, I get better. Soon enough, my weaknesses will improve to where I am no longer the nail. Then, when fight night comes around, I get to be the hammer.