Blood, sweat and tears (none applied in a good way!). That’s about all I ever thought about the world of MMA up until this last April. I have always been a self-proclaimed Tomboy but the thoug
ht of watching people get punched in the face and swollen shut eyes have never appealed to me….until I met Charles Cheeks III and realized there was so much more to this unfamiliar life called MMA.
I first met Charles through my personal trainer, Dominick Castillo of Cast Iron Athletics, at our training gym and I instantly loved his character and what he stood for. He proudly wears shirts to display his motto, P.R.E.S.S Forward, which encompasses his sense of faith and dedication for physical fitness. P.R.E.S.S. stands for: praise God, relax, evasiveness, strike, supremacy. In my training, we had started incorporating some MMA and boxing work (one of the best cardio workouts out there in my opinion) and I soon discovered that he used to fight and that Charles was a current fighter. I was a bit surprised because with his humble disposition and shorter/stouter stature, I never would have pegged him as an MMA fighter…..until I saw him train. Charles had a fight about a month and a half out and since I had increased my workouts for my personal goals, I watched with fascination as I caught bits and pieces of his preparation for his May fight. The amount of dedication, prep work, focus and nutrition that went into preparing for a fight was so damn intriguing to me.
In May, I had the opportunity to go to one of Charles’ fights and since I had developed a friendship with the fighter, I felt truly invested after watching him train. On the drive there, I was a giant bundle of nerves and as I stepped into the venue, I became anxiously nauseous when I saw the ring in the center of the room. If I wasn’t cleansing at the time then I definitely would have had a beer! I had gotten there very early and was able to watch all of the fights as they worked their way through the weight classes. This was a whole new world for me and although there were some ridiculous theatrics like Batman speedos for intro videos and some horrifying events like someone accidentally getting stabbed in the eye with a thumbnail (yep…your stomach just turned- didn’t it?), I started to enjoy myself and find full appreciation in the sport.
Once it was Charles turn to fight, I was on the edge of my seat…excited yet exhausted from the tension. Thoughts began to race through my mind like, Would he win? Would our cheers be loud enough? Would he even hear them? Was I going to be able to sit there and watch this if things went poorly for him? After all, I had never seen him fight before and didn’t know what to expect (so don’t hate on me and say I had no faith! I had confidence he would win but the unknown is a scary place to be). I sat, stood, yelled, screamed and jumped as each round passed by. I was moving around as if I was the one in the ring! Round 1…a testing of the waters and technique, Round 2…a few more blows and a platform for establishing dominance, and finally….Round 3. The true battle of who could outlast who (a.k.a. whoop ass time). The agility and skills that were applied in the previous rounds were amplified with a sense of urgency and thirst for a win. All hope, desire, talent, and skill was laid out and left on the table for that round. It was truly an art. Charles ended up winning by decision for that fight. He won by purely laying his heart out there and trusting in himself.
Throughout the night, as I had watched the fighters make their entrance into either cheers or boos from the crowd, receive pep talks from their coaches and then step in the ring. I marveled at the fact that when they stepped in the ring, there was a change in demeanor. Although they seemed pumped and ready to go during their entrance, there was a shift that occurred in their eyes once the door closed behind them. It was an intense focus on their opponent. Each fighter stared at each other as if the real battle would come down to a true testament of will. I was hooked. To see such dedication in someone is truly an admirable quality and even if the body size match up was slightly off or one fighter had a better reach than the other (I have learned this can definitely make a difference), both men truly thought they were going to win. Sure they remembered what they had been trained to do but in the ring, a lot of it seemed to be about determination and stamina.
My biggest takeaway from learning about MMA is that I had never thought about how being locked in a ring can apply to so many aspects of life. It truly teaches you to fight for what you want because there is always somebody there that’s ready to snatch it away. In a ring, just as in many life situations, there is no way out but to go through a situation or people. If you stand up and fight, you may not always win, but you are at least giving it your all and that by itself is half the battle.
Blood, Sweat and Tears Imitating Life