This is very likely the last time I will ever write about one of my own fights. I certainly plan to continue following the sport and being more involved in it from the broadcasting side and whatnot, but it feels like my run as a competitor has come to an end. Unless something incredible happens, and somebody comes to me with an offer I cannot refuse, I’ll leave from the sport’s highest level, never accomplishing what I hoped I could, but grateful that I at least got a brief shot at it.
I went up against the #9 ranked Light Heavyweight in the world on Friday night. I made him look like a top 5 guy. It’s awful, and embarrassing. Not because he isn’t a great competitor. It’s embarrassing because my hideous performance served to confirm the opinions of the pundits and oddsmakers who said I had no real chance at winning that fight. There were no big surprises. I knew what he was going to try and do, I just couldn’t stop it. I am not a bad wrestler, but against Corey, I sure looked like one. Congrats to Corey Anderson. I know that nobody else really ever believed that I could be a top 15 Light Heavyweight in the UFC.
But I did.
I am slightly too short, definitely not a freak athlete, not fanatical enough about preparation and training, started a little too late compared to most guys at that level, etc. But I actually believed that I possess just a couple of traits as a fighter that would put me up there next to them. I have always been okay with doubt from others because it didn’t exist in myself. Despite my rather unremarkable status as a physical specimen, I held on to the belief that I could prove to be elite in the UFC. In a sport where fans and even your bosses doubt you after one loss, write you off after two, and forget you completely after three, I truly believed I could win this one and prove that the Latifi loss was a fluke, and the Bosse loss was a bad call. Instead, I finish 2016 winless, having fought the last bout of my second UFC contract, and with no chance that the organization still wants me. Most MMA insiders never expected my UFC run to be better than this.
But I did.
In an attempt to salvage a little dignity from the situation, I start to try and convince myself that I was contemplating retirement no matter what the outcome on Friday night was. I internally spin some BS about getting a little older now, having a lot of mileage on my brain and body, and wanting to do some other things with my life… Truthfully though, I had designs on a win, a bonus, a contract extension, a spot in the Top 15, and whatever perks came with all of the above. Rather than deluding myself and anyone who I talk to, it’s better to just face the disappointment and ride the roller-coaster of “what-ifs” until the mental energy for it is gone.
What if I just landed one takedown against Gian Villante back in New Zealand? The judges probably don’t give him the fight (which I will always believe I won). What if I slow down and focus on controlling Steve Bosse on the ground so I can pound him out the way Corey Anderson did to me? Suddenly I am 4-2 in the UFC instead of 2-4. Then maybe my matchup with Anderson is not truly “do or die” like it turned out to be. I’ve spent the entire weekend going over all of the things I could have and should have done differently in this fight, in the last fight, in every fight I have lost. The mistakes you wish you could go back and correct are indelible though. Just like with everything else in my life, I made my own bed in the fight world, and I will lie in it without complaint. I earned my wins and I am responsible for my losses. I had some great chances, and unfortunately came up short. I’ll probably always wonder “what if?”
I guess this is what it looks like when you are just a regular guy trying to live an unlikely dream.
It’s not always a Disney movie ending. I’ll take it though, because I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t at least make a run at it.