To be a fighter or not to be a fighter – why it is not a question

I have been fortunate enough to spend four years working for a professional football team. I have spent more personal time with athletes than most people can hope to. This has led to inevitable conversations on a range of topics.

One of the most memorable was when I debated one of the players – a guy who stood a chiseled 6’1″, 200 lbs. – about whether he could beat a UFC fighter. He claimed he could beat anyone fighter 145 or lighter. I said he could not.

I made the case that Jose Aldo – all 5’7″, 145 lbs. – was my size and is one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Aldo would wipe the floor with the football player. We argued until it was clear neither of us was backing down. I’ve thought about that conversation many times. It spoke to a total ignorance to what fighters are capable of.

Then, as fate would have it, the UFC came to town. As part of a joint promotion we invited a number of fighters to the stadium to conduct on-field drills while sending a few players to a gym to train MMA.

During the stadium promo, I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with (via interpreter) the man I had referenced: the featherweight champ, Jose Aldo. As a former amateur soccer player in Brazil, Aldo wanted to test himself with a few field goals. After shanking a 30-yard field goal try, he knocked dead-center four consecutive kicks all the way as far back as 50 yards. It me quiver to think that he snapped those kicks off opponents legs.

A few of the other fighters tried their hand at standard football drills and looked downright goody. They appeared uncoordinated and inefficient in their movements.

Days later, I took a pair of our players (not the one I had argued with but a pair of bigger players) to an MMA gym where they trained with former UFC fighter Jason ‘The Athlete’ McDonald and welterweight Nick Ring. Afterwards, the players were suddenly very aware of their mortality. They were in awe of the fighters. In describing their grappling exchanges, they likened it to being blocked by an offensive lineman who was allowed to hold on every play. Sparring was like trying to catch a quarterback pass from five yards away. It was an incredibly jarring experience.

It only affirmed my position: not everyone is made to be a fighter the same way not everyone is made to be a football player.

The skill set, training and objective of combat sports immediately divides athletes from fighters. The football player’s job was to run precise routes, catch footballs, and run for yards. A fighter’s job is to inflict damage on another person. See the difference?

The size does not make a difference. Between trained fighters it certainly does. Between you or I it certainly does. Between trained fighters and you, it certainly does not.

You or I is not mentally or physically capable of throwing a punch. Even if you are capable of throwing a punch when you must, getting hit is not an experience akin to anything. If it is a challenge just to throw and take a punch, what about a kick, an elbow, a knee? What about a grappling match where that sudden feeling of hopelessness sets in as someone efficiently breaks down your defenses until you’re staring up at their fists?

I don’t care how good an athlete you are or what level you practiced it, no two sports are alike. If you think you are a fighter, go to a gym and prove it.



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