I once dreamt of being an MMA champion

I once dreamt of being an MMA champion

I was around 14 when I got into Judo, and like many young kids I had a fancy idea that maybe I could be an Olympic Judo champion, while I was really serious with practice things, I knew it was something that goal might require more sacrifice than what I was willing to make for it. Then, around three later, I watched my first UFC videos on TV (this was before YouTube). After watching UFC, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to become an MMA Champion.

Like many young boys, it became an obsession. This was before there were weight classes in UFC and there were only two rules: no biting, no eye gouging. Watching the sport was a spectacle. I was hooked, this was the sport was what I always wanted, a true test of combat ability. Imagine my happiness when I found out that the UFC introduced weight classes (I’m Filipino so I’m on the lighter side).

I had lots of other sports and activities, and there weren’t that many competitions at that time, but over the years I joined quite a number of Judo, Wrestling, BJJ and MMA competitions as I could. I trained hard. For a college kid I was doing great, and had my own small victories. I even joined a local MMA Reality TV show (ala the Ultimate Fighter) where I was up for the championship, but I was disqualified at the last minute due to medical reasons. I knew with each passing year my skills got sharper, I got physically and mentally stronger.

Maybe you had that dream too. Maybe like me, you imagined yourself to be the next Ken Shamrock (is that too far back?) or perhaps Randy Couture? Perhaps if you were into boxing it was to be the next Muhammad Ali? Or maybe the next Bruce Lee? Or the next Dan Gable for wrestling?

But then there were obstacles
After college, other things entered my life. I started working a full-time job. I met the woman I wanted to marry. I was pressured to earn money to help out my parents and siblings. It didn’t help suffered a serious knee injury in an underground MMA fight. My dream of being an MMA Champion was like a photograph with layer after layer of shadow cast over it, till it sunk into darkness.

Maybe you couldn’t pursue our dreams too. Maybe you had no parental support. Maybe there wasn’t enough money in the house. Perhaps you lacked a nurturing environment. Maybe you had kids. Maybe you got permanently injured. Maybe you got sidetracked in drugs, gangs and vice. Maybe you focused on finishing school. Maybe you had to get a job. Obstacles came at you. Life threw rocks at you. You had to evolve.

Our dreams change
I now work a full-time job. I have wife and two kids and a couple of naughty dogs to deal with and who need my time. I don’t have a lot of money, but I try give them a good life. I’d like to report I’m still quite fit (I try train every Saturday when I don’t have work-related stiff on weekends), and I can still put up a good fight on the mat or in the cage, with much wider skill set. I’m saving up to buy a house and a good car. My priorities have changed. My dreams have changed. I look at my little girl playing with her Peppa Pig toys and I think of college tuition fees.
Maybe your dreams grew beyond yourself. Maybe your dream now is to climb the corporate ladder, and provide more value to the world. Maybe you now want to building a Fortune 500 company. Maybe you dream for a happy, stable family life. Maybe you dreamt of changing the world for the better.

Some things never change inside
It’s been seven years since my last MMA fight. Some of the people I used to fight in MMA or were on the same fight card have had their time to shine in MMA. Few have even made it to great leagues like the UFC and ONE Championship. I can’t help feel a bit of envy for them whenever I watch them fight. But what I was left with that I know will last me for the years to come is a lifelong commitment to martial arts.

My martial arts goal are now: fitness; improving my techniques readiness to use my skills to defend me and my loved ones if ever that unfortunate day comes; and learning more so I can pass on what I know to my kids if ever they decide to pick up a combat sport or learn self-defense. I also try bring what I learned from my time as an MMA fighter into my day job. I try attack challenges with the same mental fortitude that it takes to drag yourself to training day after day.

Looking back
I sometimes come across some of the few pictures I’ve managed to keep back from when I was actively competing in MMA. (Lesson learned: keep pictures and videos of your training and competitions for posterity, it’s much easier now than back then when Neanderthals ruled the earths and phones didn’t have cameras.) While there is a feeling of nostalgia, I always smile. There was something magical about those days when my number one aspiration in life was to be an MMA champion.

What were your martial arts dreams in your younger years? Did you ever have any martial arts idols growing up? Were there any turning points in your life that affected these dreams? How are you pursuing martial arts now?

About Duke Villanueva 17 Articles
Duke is full-time career diplomat assigned in China. He is a two-time collegiate Judo champion. He's also done quite well in Wrestling, BJJ, MMA and Fencing in his years as an athlete. Once a week, he still trains and coaches in grappling and MMA. He's married with two wonderful kids, and a couple of naughty dogs.

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