I Said "No"
In this post, I share a little from my history that very few people know about. I've had two people tell me recently how intriguing it might be for me to share some of these things publicly. Well, as some have said, "You get what you ask for."
Almost fifteen years ago, I was approached by someone, whom I'll call XXX (1), and asked if I'd be interested in fighting for him professionally in a series of seasonal tournaments he and his partners were organizing throughout Europe and Asia.
I first met XXX in the fall of 2004 at a martial arts training event. Over the next year or so, whenever XXX was in the country (he lived in Sicily at the time), we spent quite a bit of time together. When he asked me to come fight for him, he'd already done a lot of recruiting from the UFC and other venues. Without even prefacing his proposal, he blurted out one day, "Hey Dave...we're all kind of wondering when you're going to come over and fight for me."
I didn't see that coming.
Intrigued by the request, I thought about it for a day or two. To have said yes, would have required me to uproot from central North Carolina (2) and move to Sicily, where I would have been placed on a very strict 24/7 training schedule. My life would have been immersed in three things: (1) Physical and mental training; (2) Eating healthily; and (3) Sleeping a lot. After giving it some serious thought, I said no.
Why? Because it wasn't what I wanted. (I provide additional reasons below.)
Despite whatever money I might have made, it never would have made-up for the life-altering injuries I would have sustained personally and most likely caused in others (3). Secondly, it never would have made-up for the parts of my soul I would have sacrificed doing something contrary to who I was and to what I was put on the earth to do (3, 4). And lastly, it wouldn't have been a good idea given my age. (At the time, I was in my late-late 30s; I'm now almost 54. In professional fighting, being in your mid-thirties is ancient; being in your forties is, well, like being a walking dead person. I won't even characterize being in your fifties.)
I said no; and, man, am I ever glad I did!
Back in the day, when I trained in amateur cage fighting, I fell in love with two things: (1) Working my own personal training regimen; and (2) Training others. Moving to Europe would certainly have intensified #1, but it would have eliminated #2.
To those who know me, they know I derive significant joy from being a part of another person's growth...from being able to witness some aspect of that person's evolution. The friends I've been privileged to make (and train with) over the years are worth far more to me than some number in a bank account somewhere. For me, when someone invites me to be a part of their process, that's hallowed ground. Being able to help others get more of what they want is pure gold to me.
I said no, and I did so because of the choices I'd already made. Those choices were reflected principally in the many "yeses" I'd already made in life: To God, Christian monasticism, my family, my friends, my mission in life, my personal happiness, and my own training and evolution as a person. Nothing I might have achieved (by saying yes) would have compared to just one of these, let alone their synergistic collection.
To XXX: Even though I haven't seen you in well over ten years now, I wish you all the best. I hope you've finally discovered within you the peace in not fighting you hoped you'd one day find. I hope, too, your relationship with your son has deepened in its richness. And finally, if you ever find yourself back in North Carolina, know you'll always have a friendly place to stay. As I've told you before, you don't even need to call.
To Those I Get to Be with Now Because I Said No: I'm so very grateful to have each of you as a friend. As I wrote above, being a part of your life and being a witness to your individual evolutionary process brings a joy and weightiness to my soul that's difficult to articulate.
As I think on all these things I feel such gratefulness.
God's peace, dear friends...
The initials XXX are, of course, NOT the initials of my friend. In honor of his desires for privacy, this will forever be the way I refer to him. If (and when?) he reads this, he'll know to whom I'm referring.
In 2005, I went through a pretty rough patch. Just upping and leaving felt very attractive at the time. But, if I've learned anything, you can leave current contexts, but you can't leave yourself. I forget who said it, but it's true: "Wherever you go, there you are." The personal problems you hope to elude will always catch up to you. Always. (And, unfortunately, they often do so with a vengeance.) Most of the time (unless you're in an abusive situation), staying where you are and learning to stay with how you're feeling so you can work on you and, out of that work, overcome whatever difficulty you're facing is the best approach to facing the daily challenges of life. Life is part pleasure and part pain; attempting to eliminate one of the two will, invariably, shut-out the other. Paraphrasing Stephen Covey, "Whether you want to or not, when you pick up one end of a stick you pick up the other as well."
Fight Knight Eurasia (FKEA) was not a rule-driven organization. (BTW, if you try to google "Fight Knight," you won't find it. It's basically an underground organization [except where it's been legally sanctioned].) While it qualified as sport fighting, many techniques ruled illegal in the U.S. and in some parts of Europe were still considered fair game. Hence, the reason none of the tournaments were slated for western venues. (Italy, excepting. XXX new someone high in Italy's administration. By writing this, I'm not implying someone in former President C's office was a huge fan or anything.) Even though the UFC has become more brutal (something I've written about previously), FKEA was (in my estimation) several levels beyond what I saw happening in the UFC. As such, I quickly decided this was not something I wanted to step into. Defending myself in a life-preservation situation is one thing; using those same techniques in a money-making sporting event was not something I was willing to do.
"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"—Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 8:36 [KJV])