It’s nearly two weeks after the fight, and I’ve had time to sulk, throw my toys at the wall, feel sorry for myself, get drunk a few times and eat almost enough ice cream to take my mind off it.
After all that, though, it was time to sit down and think about where this is going.
Needless to say, the fight didn’t go to plan. I know I’m better than I showed that night. I believe I have more to offer as a fighter. I’m devastated that people didn’t get to see that. You’ve heard all this before.
I know so many fighters of my generation who are in a similar position, and feel the same way. We understand the sport better than ever; physically we still have it. But for whatever reason, we’re on a bad run. We could sit and analyse why that is – and I probably will – but it doesn’t change the reality.
There’s a talented new generation coming through. Joanna is one of those. She’s a great fighter, and will go a long way – and I’m not going to take away from her performance by dwelling on what I could have, should have, might have done differently.
Where do I go from here? I could keep chasing after the fight I’d finally feel happy to retire on. I’m afraid that as a fighter, I’ll be remembered for the losses, and not for what I did well. I’m afraid that’s what I’ll remember. There’s a large part of me that desperately wants to go back and put it right, as though I could fix everything with just one solid win.
Happy endings are elusive though. We know how that story often goes. And even if I did manage to produce that spectacular performance I’m looking for – would that be enough for me? Could any fight ever be enough? And what about after that?
I’m fortunate to have some great people around me. I’ve had some long conversations with a few of those people. The bottom line – right now I have more to offer the sport outside the cage than inside it. I don’t want to give up on being the fighter I believe I’m capable of; but there are bigger things going on. It’s time for me to focus on other ways of making a difference. I don’t know how this will play out, or what’s round the next corner, but it looks like it’s finally time to use that “R” word.
This isn’t how I wanted it all to end. The way it did will haunt me for as long as I’m around MMA, but that’s something I’ll learn to live with.
As a veteran coming towards the end of a career, you have a choice. You can fight cans, or you can fight prospects. Anyone can look good against someone who isn’t. When you fight prospects, there’s always a chance you’ll go down in flames. Living with the knowledge that I’d taken the easy way out would have been much harder.
Right now, there’s a new chapter waiting.