Competition is the backbone of our nation. We compete for jobs, for attention from a potential spouse, and to get into schools. In general, we compete to acquire what we desire (if you’re a Jay fan, you see what I did there). As fans we fall in love with sports, because we can identify with the feeling of wanting to win. It's a love affair that's been ongoing since the days of crowds filling the Colosseum in Roman to watch gladiators fight to the death. It's no coincidence the fans are now swarming arena's to watch the new age gladiators of the UFC.
The NBA, NFL, NHL, and the MLB have long been staples in American sports culture. As time progresses, there’s always room for additional entertainment. The UFC has proven that today; mixed martial arts now has a place in mainstream sports. Is it the high impact and violence that catches our attention? The bright lights and intensity of fight night that grabs our focus? Perhaps it’s the endless techniques that we can’t fathom or get enough of. Either way, the UFC is only getting bigger along with our love for the sport.
On Saturday (April 8), the UFC will return with a Pay-Per-View match between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson. The winner will take home the World Light Heavyweight Championship. REVOLT TV spoke with both fighters--Cormier, outspoken and focused on cementing his legacy and Johnson, a man of few words intent on becoming the champion he feels he’s meant to be. Through our conversation we gained an understanding of the culture of the UFC, what’s at stake on Saturday, and how music is infused with their pursuit of greatness. You may not know much about the livelihood of mixed martial artists, but you’ve got more in common with them than you may think.
The Work Behind The Scenes
We’ve all had to work hard for an accomplishment or two in our lives. From the outside looking in, most folks can’t totally appreciate what you’ve achieved. They don't understand the behind the scenes work you had to put in to win that trophy, earn that degree, or get that promotion. The same sentiment rings true in the UFC.
As fans, all we get to see is fight night. The bright lights, the gorgeous ring girls, and the huge crowd make such an interesting spectacle. Powerful blows are exchanged, limbs are twisted to the breaking point, and somebody comes out on top. It looks awesomely painful and we cheer for the winner, because we could never do such a thing. Little do we know, that the work put in before the fight is really what deserves a standing ovation.
Cormier: “Fighters live just like every other athlete. The work that goes into sparring, running, lifting, and the overall training schedule is a lot heavier than most sports. We train 5-6 days a week, almost two times a day.”
Along with the work behind the scenes, there’s the persistence the fighters have to display in the moment. It's similar to the countless hours you spent studying or the overtime you put in on that big project at work. Once inside the octagon, every fighter has to endure pain and fatigue that would break a normal human being.
Johnson: “I’ve got an 'on' and 'off' switch when it comes to pain. I can be there and not be there if I feel like it. It doesn’t take much for me to get there.”
Cormier: “It’s instinct to ignore pain and fatigue. Your body and mind has to respond. Your trained to respond when you’re in trouble. It takes a special person to be a fighter. Anybody who steps into the octagon is a different human being.”
When you’re working hard to achieve any goal, it’s easy to get caught up in the process. In those times, you’ve got to get back in touch with reality and stay down to Earth or your workload can wear you down. Things like family and spirituality tie us all together in some respect. We need these things to remain in a healthy state of mind.
Cormier: “To keep ourselves in the right headspace, we let it all go. You’ve got to have a safe headspace. Mine is at home. I try to separate sport from life. When people bring their work home they lose their families.”
Johnson: “I’ve had my ups and my downs. It’s been a roller coast from when I got cut from the UFC, up to the point of getting two title shots. I pray every day to keep focused.”
Music, The Motivator
In the words of the great Chance The Rapper, music is all we got. When things get hectic, and even in moments of triumph there’s a song for the occasion. Me? I play Rick Ross’ “Hustlin” every single morning before I take on the day. It reminds me that yesterday doesn’t matter, I have to get my hustle on today.
Music is that well-known, but unmentioned ingredient to getting us through any experience. For a UFC competitor, it’s no different. From the soothing harmonies of R&B to the wordplay we’ll forever love Mr. Dwayne Michael Carter for, music is here to guide us.
Cormier: “Music relaxes me. It takes me away from everything. When I’m riding with a bunch of guys, I don’t want them listening to my R&B. Not everyone wants to hear Gerald Levert's “Made To Love You.” It gets me to the point where I can go home and just rest. I listen to a lot of R&B. I’ve got this one playlist that’s got like sixty songs with New Edition, The Isley Brothers, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Gladys Knight, and Angie Stone.”
Johnson: “My favorite artist is Lil Wayne. Sometimes Drake has bars that are just ridiculous depending on the beat. Of course, if I want to slow things down, I listen to Drake. To me, three songs pop in my head when it comes to music that means something to me: Jay Z’s 'I Miss you and Puffy’s 'I’ll Be Missing You' both make me think about my granddad. Puffy and Mase's “Been Around The World” reminds me that I’m blessed to have been around the world and seen amazing things.”
High Stakes On Fight Night
Life is a game of survival. Only the strongest prevail to reach higher levels of achievement and prosperity. On fight night, survival and achievement are the bottom line for both gladiators on either end of the octagon. When it’s all said and done, we all want to leave a legacy in our own right. None of us are working hard for no reason. It’s all about leaving your family, and hopefully the world, in better shape than you found it.
Cormier: “Every time I fight, I think of my legacy. Legacy matters. I think of how people will remember me in this game. It’s always that deep. When my kids look back at this they can say my dad did it the right way and represented us.”
Johnson: “I feel I’m meant to be a champion. I feel like it’s my time right now. It’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m just riding my wave and enjoying myself. 'The Moment' by Lil Wayne is my intro song. He says, 'never question greatness' in the beginning. People have questions about me, but some things you don’t ask you observe and watch.”
On April 8, fortune will favor the man who has prepared best and executes at the highest level. When you’re watching, observe the fight from the perspective of the fighters. It shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, they’re just like you.