What We Can Learn From Champions

Champions of combat sports have fascinated me since I was about 3 years old. My Uncle Mike was in the professional wrestling circuit in the southeast, and even had a ring in his back yard. I don’t recall seeing him perform when I was that young, but remember thinking he was so brave for getting in the ring with those killers. Little me as “Mike’s Man” for a number of years, and I love my uncle still.

I continued watching pro wrestling, boxing and eventually kickboxing, but never participated in any of them. In November of 1994, my friend introduced me to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and my entire outlook on fighting changed. Finally, martial artists of different disciplines would fight under a specific (and minimal) set of rules. Maybe we would finally learn which of the arts reigned supreme in combat sports. We did, but what “that” is continues to evolve as the competitors improve.

To me, the Ultimate Fighting Championship represents the most intense and purest form of competition on earth. I’ve said if you expect to retain and improve your relationship with your kids from a distance, you need to cultivate a champions mindset. Today I’d like to try to take you into the minds of some of the UFC’s greatest champions. Then, I hope to show you how developing a similar mindset gives you an incredible edge in a distance parenting situation.


The Champions

*Photos are not my property, but included under Fair Use.

Photo from UFC 205: McGregor vs. Alvarez at Madison Square Garden, NY. (WME-IMG)

“The Notorious” Conor McGregor – First simultaneous 2-weight world champion in UFC history (145lbs/155lbs)

This Irishman is, arguably, THE champion of champions in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. While several other fighters in the UFC have won titles in two weight classes, none of them were champ of two weight classes at the same time. This isn’t to say others couldn’t do it (we’ll meet one or two of them later), but Conor was the first, and only so far. He is the biggest star the MMA (mixed martial arts) world has ever seen.


Photo from UFC 192: Cormier vs. Gustaffson (Zuffa, LLC)

Daniel “DC” Cormier – UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (205lbs) *former champion at Heavyeight; would be serious contender at HW today.

For some reason, the fans don’t seem to like DC that much. That’s cool. DC keeps winning anyway. US Olympian wrestler, NCAA Div 2 All-American, Strike Force Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion (206lbs-265lbs), now UFC LHW champion with only one loss to Jon “Bones” Jones in 20 professional fights. I’ll explain later why DC belongs here instead of the one man who defeated him.


(Zuffa, LLC)

Georges “Rush” St. Pierre – Former UFC Welterweight Champion (170lbs) *Fighting next for 185lb title after nearly 4 yrs off

GSP walked away from the sport in what many would say was the middle of his prime. 3+ years later, he’s back and will fight champion Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight Championship. GSP fought and beat the best in the welterweight division when the division was STACKED. He avenged his two championship losses in spectacular fashion, and is one of few names mentioned in the conversation about “best ever.”


Anderson “The Spider” Silva – Former UFC Middleweight Champion (185lbs)

Widely considered the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), Anderson Silva is the most dominant of champions in UFC history. He defended his title a record 10-straight times. Silva’s dynamic striking is, arguably, the benchmark by which other strikers are measured. More than this, we have watched Silva get pummeled for 23 minutes of a 25 minute fight, but hang tough and win by submission anyway. We have seen him come back from horrific injury, and though he hasn’t had the same success, his heart and champions mindset are beyond reproach.


(Zuffa, LLC)

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson – UFC Flyweight Champion (125lbs) *Immediate danger at 135lbs, and threat at 145lbs.

Consistently ranked the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth, Demetrious Johnson recently tied Anderson Silva with 10 consecutive title defenses. Another of the four names most often mentioned as “best ever,” Johnson will likely break Silva’s record in his next fight and cement himself in history as the most dominant of champions in UFC history. Who would then argue with the claim he was the greatest of all time?


Why These Men Are Champions

In lieu of putting words in these champions’ mouths, I’d rather you see and hear a couple of them tell the “how” and “why.”

Conor McGregor – The Mindset Behind the Success

Daniel Cormier – Warrior Code

Daniel Cormier – His Father’s Murder and the Death of his child

*Mr. Cormier is a true champion of life, in my opinion. I don’t know him personally, and I know he’s no angel. What I do know is he has overcome two of the most difficult tragedies a man can endure. As Anderson Silva said, a champion is defined by the adversity he overcomes. I can think of no greater adversity for a man to face than what this man has dealt with. The one man to defeat him, Jon “Bones” Jones (another arguable GOAT), doesn’t belong here. The reason Cormier belongs here over Jones is because Cormier trains, fights, performs and behaves like a champion. Cormier doesn’t take his talent, ability, drive or success for granted. Jones seems to. “Bones” is, maybe, the best fighter to ever step in the cage. One can only hope he learns to apply that champions discipline to his personal life.



The Champions Mindset

When someone sets out to achieve a goal, they face the same problems as other goal setters. They must properly and efficiently manage their time. They must take action each day, and on massive scales to achieve the loftiest of these goals (like becoming combat sport champions). Champions learn to focus on what they can control, and not allow themselves to be sidetracked by what they can’t. They must face their doubts, and the doubting of others. Champions believe in themselves, no matter what. And champions know that excuses never put a championship belt around anyone’s waist. Or helped keep it there.

Most people face traffic, co-workers they don’t care for, customers and executives they must please, office politics and such. That’s the arena in which most will compete for professional success. UFC fighters face different challenges in their pursuit of professional success. Each chance they have to climb the ladder, they face a hungry, highly-skilled combatant looking to hurt them. Badly. They climb into a cage in front of thousands of people with anywhere from 300,000 to 1.6 million watching at home. The referee says “fight,” and everyone will see how well or badly they perform in the end.

I can’t even imagine what its like to make that walk to the Octagon. I’ve been punched, kicked, kneed, elbowed, strangled and had enough joints hyper-extended in training to know that fighting is quite painful. Champions fight through that shit. And all of it is a fight: the motivation, grueling preparation, overcoming their fear of failure, sparring injuries, media obligations, fans wanting pictures and autographs, making weight… All so they can climb in a cage to hit, kick, elbow, knee and choke another man. And endure lot of that being done to them as well.

No one leaves a fight without injuries, soreness and fatigue. If not the fight itself, the training camp before will always leave its marks. Still, I’ve never heard a champion say their championship wasn’t worth the training, the injuries, the fights, the frustrations and the pain endured to earn and keep it.


How This Applies to Fatherhood

I mentioned before that cultivating this mindset toward parenting is necessary. This is doubly true for fathers trying to parent from a distance with a difficult ex. If I have to pick one part of the champions mindset that’s most important to successfully fathering from a distance, it’s commitment. A committed person consistently makes progress. A non-committed person consistently makes excuses. The truly committed person takes their situation by the balls, and finds ways around, over, or under the obstacles before them.

Fighting in the octagon shares some similarities with trying to parent from a distance with a difficult ex. Though you’re (most often) not going to be eating punches, kicks, elbows, knees and chokes from your ex, the roadblocks and bullshit games they play can hurt like a cheap shot to the nuts. Though this is getting better, too many men still walk away after they get that first tough gut check. And years from now, like contenders who got close, then faded, they will languish in mental agony over the knowledge that they gave up. Blaming their ex won’t assuage their grief then. Cursing their situation won’t make their children respect them, or understand.  They’ll miss so many opportunities to demonstrate their love and commitment to their kids, and won’t understand the true cost of that kind of cowardice for many years hence.

Yea, I said cowardice. If you’re not committed to being the best father you can be for your kids, then you have a big yellow streak on your belly. And it isn’t the yellow gold of a UFC championship belt.

I have never won a championship in martial arts. I have seen the first fruits of all the work I’ve put into being my kids’ dad over the last 9 years. Even that little bit made every moment of hardship, struggle, frustration, dedication and sacrifice so much more than worth it.

If that gut check caught you unawares or pissed you off, shoot me a message. You don’t have to wallow in cowardice, or bounce like a pin ball to all the bullshit your ex pulls. You can start making progress with your children and quit making excuses today. Right now. I can show you how.

If you’re in “that” situation, please contact me today!



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