Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My inspiration

You can have your Ali’s, Petrosyan’s and your Mayweather’s; I’ll take a Gatti, Corrales or Pornsanae any day of the week over them. What I mean by this is that I would rather watch someone fight who is all heart than all skill. Not taking anything away from those ‘technical’ fighters because reaching that level of perfection in anything is something to truly admire. However, I will always prefer to watch someone who is more concerned about giving every ounce of themselves in there rather than their record.

The fighters that truly inspire me has nothing to do with their records, it’s all about how they fought. The type of fighter that you know no matter what, you are getting your money’s worth when they fight. The type of fighter that can win just as many fans when they lose as when they win, if not more.  

I remember the first fight I ever went to. I was lucky enough to be seated right next to where the fighters walked out. Watching them make their way from the back, hearing their music echo through the venue, the sound of the crowd erupting, the look of determination, and sometimes fear, in their eyes, it was all so real, raw. There was an electricity in the air, you could just feel it. I had always loved watching fights on TV and often thought about maybe one day doing it but it wasn’t until I saw my first fight live that I really knew it was something I wanted to do, even if only once. It awoken something inside of me that, even though I tried ignoring it for years, I could never forget.

Looking back, and still to this day, I would find it interesting that whether the fighter won or lost really had nothing to really do with how inspired I was by them. It had no real effect on how much I enjoyed their performance. What really inspired me was whether or not they were giving it their all. Whether they were fighting with passion, fighting with their soul or just up their making sure they won no matter what.  I remember seeing this guy go out there and give it everything that he had but came up short ended up getting knocked out in the first few rounds. Afterwards I was still just as excited to go up to him and tell him ‘great fight’ as I would have been to someone that won.

No matter how good or bad I feel I performed there will always be people afterwards that come up to me wanting pictures and autographs, telling me what a good job I did. Most times I think to myself ‘Yea right, that was the worst fight ever!’ but I think about when I watch fights and someone might not have the best performance, does this make what they did any less special? Does this negate the fact that they are in their putting everything on the line in there? I realized that I can be an inspiration regardless of how I feel about it. There is someone out there, who just like me when I first started, is blown away just by the fact that I’m in there doing it and they just hope and dream to one day be able to do the same.

I will always find the most inspiration from the ones that go out there and give it everything that they have win, lose or draw. To me, those people not only inspire others when it comes to fighting but when it comes to life. Give it everything that you have and live your life with passion!

-El Presidente'


Monday, October 7, 2013

Pressure

Pressure… It will either crush you, bring you to your knees and turn your entire world upside down or you will face it and use it to reach heights you never dreamed possible. Either way it will show you who you really are and what you are made of. That’s one thing that I love about fighting, it really shows you who people are, forces them to be honest. You can run your mouth and tell everyone how ‘bad ass’ you are but once you are in there the truth comes out. If you are truly a coward it will be magnified that much more once you get in the ring.

In the beginning it was all just fun (still is) no real pressure other than what I put on myself to be the best and to make my trainers and teammates proud, which were all positive things. It was just ‘take it one day at a time, one fight at a time, fight better people every time, push yourself harder every time, and become the best fighter that you can be for as long as possible’. I never thought it any further than that. There weren’t fights on TV, there weren’t big promotions and there wasn’t even anything to really base what was even possible on. There were only a handful of guys in the states to even look up to (Ben Garcia, Melchor Menor, Duane Ludwig and Alex Gong). And getting the chance to watch them fight or even getting footage of them training or fighting was extremely rare.   

Muay Thai in the states was such an underground thing for such a long time, very few people even knew what it was “oh you fight that karate stuff?” Over the years I did start noticing a slight shift in things however. From time to time people would come up to me and tell me that I inspired them or would say how much they looked up to me or how good I was. Most times when this would happen I would think to myself "Who in the hell does this person think I am, how could they have even seen me fight?” Part of the reason I thought this, other than the fact I had no clue why anyone would look up to me (it still baffles me), was back then I was often mistaken for Ben Garcia. We had a similar build, both had tattoos, fought out of Master Toddy’s gym and had short bleached blonde hair (which I had from time to time), so I guess they assumed we had to be the same person. There was a time I specifically remember when a young guy told me he had been watching me since he was a kid and he really looked up to me. I was like “Damn how old am I and where have you been watching?” and this was back in like 07'. As the years went on this would happen more and more frequently. It never got any easier for me to understand however I eventually got to a point where I just accepted it. It was like “Ok, people look up to you for whatever reason so you had better make sure and go out of your way to be the best fighter/person you can be” which I was already doing because that is just the way I am but it gave me that much more incentive to push myself further.

It wasn’t until after my ACL surgery that things really changed, both in actuality and in the way that I perceived them. It was probably having all that time to just sit around and think about where the sport was in this country and where my place was in it. Things had really progressed over the previous couple of years. My fight with Saenchai really being a huge milestone for America and then the ‘Thailand vs USA’ card at Nokia Theatre in LA right after that, it was ground breaking. I looked back and thought ‘Damn, did all of that really happen, how did we get here?’ You could feel it in the air, it was electric, and things were heading in the right direction, or at least seemed to be.  

My first fight back there was so much pressure for me to just see if I could still do this, and at what level would I be able to compete at. After I won that fight and knew that I could get back to where I was is when I think all the negative pressure really started to creep in on me. All of a sudden we were on live national television, it wasn’t just this underground thing here anymore, people were watching and taking notice, all around the world.

In a lot of ways I felt like I was carrying the weight of the American Muay Thai world on my back, not to say I was the only one. I felt this need to be someone that the rest of the world looked at as an American that could fight “real Muay Thai”. I wanted to adjust and ‘fix’ my style. I wanted to be more well-rounded, even though I feel that I always have been. There’s a certain way I like to fight which might not be viewed as ‘traditional Thai’. I had this ongoing battle in my head about being true to myself in the way I fight and fighting the way I feet would give us more credibility as a country. One thing I did notice though was that anytime I tried to fight this way I hated it and felt like I was lying in there.


Going into my fight with Bernie (Mendietta) Kirian, my coach, as well as everyone else, would tell me “You’ve already done enough for this sport, don’t do this for anyone but you. Just coming back from a career ending injury like you have is more than enough, fight your fight, just be you” I would hear this, and know this, yet I had that nagging voice in my head telling me to fight a certain way. Finally it all became clear to me during/after the fight vs Embree. The first round I played the game, started slow, and just felt like the biggest piece of shit liar ever. I hated myself for fighting like that and even though I still think I should’ve gotten the decision in the end I didn’t care, because I knew I at least gave that first round away and wasn’t true to myself and to me that’s a loss regardless of the decision. I told myself from there on out, win, lose or draw, I was going to be honest with myself regardless of the outcome, I would at least be able to look back on what I had done and be proud.

It’s usually the hardest lessons that stick with us the most, unfortunately.

Finally, going into the fight with Yamato, I felt like myself. Mentally, physically, everything just felt right. Maybe it was losing that fight with Embree that took some of the pressure off, or maybe it was just finally realizing who I was as a fighter, either way I felt back, and couldn’t have been happier.

I did still start a bit slower than I would have liked to, and this is what got me clipped and lost me that first round. But after that I really felt like my old self and it came out in the fight. Even though once again I felt like I was given a horrible decision, I finally felt like myself and to me that’s worth more than any win ever could.

Being true to yourself is a constant struggle, some people deal with it easier than others but I feel this is something we all battle with in different areas of our lives.

I feel the only way to ever be truly happy is to be honest. When you’re honest with yourself you can be honest with others and people can see and feel this about you.
The biggest thing for me was always going after my dream of being a fighter. I knew that was something I always wanted and lied to myself until one day I had to be honest and go after it. Obviously there are still things within that dream that I have to adjust and figure out who I am but it definitely makes it easier knowing that I’m doing what is in my heart.

Pressure, like most things and life, can either be a positive or a negative thing, depending on how you react to it. In the end it’s about learning from your mistakes, growing, and being that much better in the future. One day at a time!

-El Presidente'




Fear

Face your fears, live your dreams. Easier said than done yet at the same time it is quite simple. Figure out what it is that you are afraid of and why exactly you are afraid of it. A lot of times when you can break things down you realize how simple they can be.
People often ask me how I overcome my fear, how I get in there time after time no matter what has happened to me. Well I'll start out by saying that for one, I've never really had any fear when it comes to fighting. It wasn't till a few years back that I realized that I was an odd one when it came to this. Over the years I started realizing that most fighters, even high level ones, dealt with quite a bit of fear when it came to fighting, even ones with 100 fights. One thing that has definitely helped me from fear is the knowledge that I'm doing what I know I was put on this earth to do. That and the fact I know I wasted so much of my life living in fear and doubt that I feel I have no time to waste on it.

I first learned about Muay Thai in 1993 and immediately knew that it was what I wanted to do. But I let all those fears and doubts that we all have keep me from going after this dream for ten years until I finally had enough and first stepped foot in the gym in January of 2003. Unfortunately for most, as it did me, it will take something tragic in order for them to realize that they are wasting their lives, or following someone else's ideas of what their life should be.
I think what a lot of people on the outside don't realize is that everyone has fear, to some degree, even me, but they choose to go forward anyway. They realize that their desire to reach their goals is way greater than any feelings of fear could ever be. Are you more afraid of trying and failing or failing to try?
It's so easy to look at people that have/are accomplishing their goals and say "oh they were just born with talent" or "they just got lucky and had the right opportunities". The problem is you didn't see the years of trying and failing, the times they wanted to quit and sometimes did, the countless people they had telling them that they would never make it, the fears and doubts that they had just like you do. Go and look into the story of someone you look to that has 'made it', anyone, and I guarantee you that they had been through more pain, sacrifice and failure than you could ever have imagined. Sure it looks easy from the outside, sure it looks like they are fearless, but you didn't see what it took them to get there or what it takes to stay there.
Fear can be a very helpful and healthy thing to have. I always tell people it's better to be too nervous then too calm. I learned my lesson a long time ago that I need to psyche myself up in order to get going for fights because I am just naturally way too calm. I went into a fight totally calm and half asleep. I kept telling myself 'ok it's almost time to go, let's get going' then 'ok he's standing across the ring time to go' and before I knew it we were fighting and I had zero adrenaline going, felt every strike and was completely flat and sluggish. Luckily mid-way through the fight I was able to finally get myself going. Ever since then I always make sure that mentally I am amped up and ready to go. There was a great line in the movie I watched recently Chasing Mavericks-"Fear and panic are two separate emotions. Fear's healthy. Panic's deadly." So true! Fear is what will keep you sharp and keep you safe; it's finding that balance between them that is the key. As anyone that has been in the ring can tell you, no matter what level of fear they deal with, once that bell rings all that goes out the window, you don't have time to be afraid anymore.
One good thing about having fear is that you've already accomplished a big part in the process, figuring out what you want, which is the first step, although I feel most people know exactly what it is they want outa life but allow fear and doubt to keep them from going after it or even admitting it to themselves. So now figure out what is it that you are afraid of. Failure, what other people may think, hard work, looking like a fool? Well more than likely, whether you go after your dreams or not, those things will always be there. All those fears and doubts that I had before I started still creep in from time to time. That's when I have to take a step back and remind myself why I keep doing this, why I push myself as hard as I can. We aren't promised tomorrow, or even two seconds from now, so as long as I'm here I'm going to go after my dreams and give it everything that I have.
I'll leave you with this analogy; picture yourself at an amusement park, and let's just say that there is only two rides available. One is just this boring merry go round that you are standing right next to. Anyone can easily get in line and are guaranteed to get a ride. Then there's the ultimate ride, everyone knows it's out there and has a good idea of the direction the need to go to get there but no one knows how long of a journey it will be or if they will even reach it in time before the park closes. So now you have two options, you can settle for the merry go round, I mean it's good enough, it's still a ride but you see the people on it and know that they aren't truly happy, or you can go after that ultimate ride, the one few will ever get to enjoy. Maybe you make it there and maybe you don't but would you rather spend the time you have at least trying to get to it or would you rather sit on the same boring ride as everyone else?
If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough." ― Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
-El Presidente