I’ve gone from a nobody to a recognizable fighter in the last 4 years and it’s been a roller coaster ride. I think one of the things I’m known mostly for now is my Sagat weigh in costume, followed by probably my best performance of my mma career, where I lost a back and forth battle against Jessica Andrade.
Even now a year later it feels strange to be complimented for a thing that happened that didn’t exactly go my way, and there’s a lot of moments like that in life where, despite losing, you end up impressing people simply by unwillingness to give up. Not giving up is one of those things you’re told as a kid to do, but it really is a hard concept to grasp as adults who fail.. a lot. Here I’m going to talk about a few instances where I very well could have given up but didn’t, and now I’m in a position where I could possibly accomplish the goals I initially set for myself, despite it talking a bit longer than I expected.
So the reason I’m calling this blog “leveling up” is because I’m constantly having epiphanies on the parallels drawn between real life and video games, particularly role playing games.
For instance, take a look at the 2008 non-Fighter version of me:
I was what I now call, a bobble head, a skinny girl with a big head and no muscle. Skinny fat is another word for it, but basically I was weak, not super confident, and didn’t know the first thing about defending myself aside from holding my keys in between my fingers when I’m walking home by myself at night (which apparently can break your hand so don’t try that at home ladies).
My plan was just to get in shape and be strong enough to carry cases of beer up from the cellar when I restocked the bar I worked at after my shifts. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I started taking Muay Thai classes (art of 8 limbs! Punches, elbows, knees, and kicks) I started earning xp towards my eventual career as a UFC fighter. After 4 years of Muay Thai for fun (you don’t get paid much, even as a pro) and a 16-0 record I finally started playing with the idea of making a career out of fighting. This was that pivotal moment in a game where you’ve learned the basic game mechanics and have to start exploring different worlds to gain more advanced skills and take out those harder foes. I left the comfort of my small gym, Evolution Muay Thai in NYC, saved up enough rupees to quit my bar job and moved to San Diego to train with some new party members.
It’s when you leave the Sector slums in FF7, arriving at Diamond City in Fallout 4, realizing you’re Dragonborn in Skyrim. This is when the world unfolds and you realize all those wild boars you killed in the forest have only allowed you to scratch the surface of the amount of skills you’ll need to acquire to reach your ultimate goal. In my real life case, it’s becoming the best fighter I can possibly be and hopefully winning some prestigious championship belts on the way up.
But like any game worth playing mistakes will be made and hard lessons will be learned. Let’s look at my intro to the MMA world. My first fight was booked right before the tryouts for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 20. If you’re not familiar with Teh show TUF just think American Idol or Top Model, only you fight each other to make it to the next round. Before the show tryouts I won my first MMA fight via TKO, showing off my Muay Thai pedigree with several knees landed to finish my opponent in the second round. After that fight I thought I was hot shit! No lie I thought I was gonna go in there and KO every girl on the show and become the first UFC champ with only 2 fights. (FYI the fights on TUF are exhibitions, they don’t count towards your actual record) 2 Days later I arrived at the tryouts and after impressing Dana White (Shinra President of UFC) with my striking and being picked as 1 of 16 Woman in the tournament my ego was huge!
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t reeeaaady (Kevin Hart voice) Imagine leveling up one stat up to level 16 (16 Muay Thai fights, why not?) in my case it was striking, then once I hit level 17 decide to level up my grappling 1 point. That’s still going to be a huge weakness against any fighter that’s been leveling their other skills the entire time. Yes I may have the advantage on the feet, but the disparity of skill was much greater when you compared us on the ground.
And what do you think happened when I went up against Carla Esparza, college wrestler who was currently the Invicta FC champion? (Spoiler alert!!) I got choked the fuck out. She saw my weakness and used it against me the same way you’d attack a frost dragon with a fire destruction spell. Thus the roller coaster began. That humbling first defeat was tough to take, especially after getting getting that far in the game without dying yet. Especially on national tv! I was devastated.
So after that fight and my bubble being burst, it wasn’t a total loss because what I did learn from training with the girls who made it further than I did on the show was that I could hang with some of the best, the character build I chose for myself was a good one, I just need to up my skills in other areas and maybe buy a walk through. I may start getting ridiculous with these metaphors, this is my first blog entry to bare with me! The day after my loss I wasn’t hurt, nothing but my ego that is, so I was right back in training trying to fix my mistakes and helping the other girls left get ready for their fight on the show. We were there for a total of 6 1/2 weeks and I used working out to keep myself sane. I the end it helped me physically and mentally get to that next level, and my next fight showed that I was in fact the beast I thought I was, it’s just going to take some time before I’ll be skilled enough to take out those final bosses.
I go on to have even more ups and downs but the thing that makes me proud the most when I look back at my career is that I never stopped working towards my goal. Yes I had days where I wanted to quit, I thought all the hours I put into the gym weren’t adding up, but those moments of weakness were followed by small victories as long as I kept at whatever I was trying to do. This childhood notice of not giving up is so simple yet it can be the hardest thing to do after failing over and over again.
You just have to surround yourself with positive influences and remember that if your goal was easy, everyone would be doing it!