Al Iaquinta (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Fighters Do Not Have To Fight; They Choose To Fight

I am a fan of sports. Traditional sports. Combat sports, too. I appreciate the dedication, the effort, the sacrifice and the attention to detail that these athletes have as they follow their dreams.

These warriors are here to make a living. They want to provide for their families or to change the direction of their lives. These guys sacrifice time with family and friends. They sacrifice rest and relaxation. They sacrifice their bodies, too. If you’re competing and doing so at a high level, then it comes with a price.

Fighters have to get in shape. They endure injuries and stretch themselves thin as they find a way to balance family, chores, school, sports and so on. To be an athlete, even just a decent one, comes with physical, mental and emotional prices. These men and women should be respected for what they do and how they do it. They deserve as much.


Nonetheless, they are not forced to do what they are doing. This path into MMA is a choice they have made. This doesn’t mean what they are doing isn’t difficult. It doesn’t mean they aren’t professionals. It doesn’t mean they aren’t working hard. However, these people are not here against their will. This isn’t their only way out. They chose this.

There are better ways to make a living and to financially provide for a family. Should a person be able to do it while also doing what they love? Of course. But that’s usually not an option. I would love to make a living breaking down MMA strategies, techniques, fights and fighters — I’ve even been told that I’m really good at it. However, the fact of the matter is I that I can’t make a living this way. I have to have a regular job to pay for myself, my kids and so on. Even though I am very good at this and it has helped other people make money, it still doesn’t pay the bills.

Now, if I complain about this, what would you say? Go find another job, perhaps? Maybe you’d say I am not as good as I think I am, or that I just need to work harder.

I’m using myself as an example, but it would apply to anyone who is following a dream that isn’t paying off financially. Think about aspiring singers, trainers, actors, artists, entrepreneurs or people who are taking regular jobs that simply don’t pay all that well. If those people complained about their salary or about how much money they wasted, what would you say? If these people said they should be paid more, how would you respond? The vast majority of people would likely tell these people that they made a choice and need to deal with it. Or they might say to find a better job. They might even counter that the person should just shut up and stop complaining.

Regular people like you and I are told these things all the time. We don’t necessarily get to do what we want or what we are good at, because sometimes we simply can’t make enough money that way. No one cares about our dreams or sacrifices — not other working stiffs, not professional athletes, not professional combat-sports athletes.

So, why do you get so defensive and angry about a fighter you don’t know? You certainly wouldn’t show the same concern for social workers who don’t make great money and go through all sorts of trauma. Or for soldiers who are mistreated. Or teachers in bad neighborhoods who spend money for kids who don’t have supplies or meal plans. None of these people are getting paid their value. Since they aren’t entertaining, they don’t get fame either. Instead, they receive criticism.

Athletes — and especially fighters — get sympathy and admiration that we don’t afford to anyone else. We tolerate a line of thought we wouldn’t tolerate elsewhere, regardless of how difficult or dangerous the job.

Now, I’m not saying to not support fighters. They have a difficult job and make sacrifices. They risk their lives, health and financial futures to follow a dream. However, so are a lot of people in less glamorous careers.

You might say these people have choices, but so do fighters. They don’t have to fight. They choose — and want — to fight. It’s not the only way to make a living. Heck, it’s not even the best way to make a living.

Fighters are not being made to take these punches. They aren’t forced to cut weight, or any of this shit. They chose this. That means a certain amount of what they deal with and go through is on them. It’s part of the price they pay for doing what they want. It’s the cost of following their dreams.