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Don't Let Your Sacrifice make you a Martyr

The road to being good at almost any skilled endeavour such as a martial art, musicianship or sport is a tough one but to truly get to the top of your game as any one from such a background will testify requires an exceptional level of commitment, sacrifice and dedication. One side effect can be getting too accustomed to a Spartan lifestyle and then finding the transition to realising you deserve more, what a mentally difficult switch.

The subject here was inspired by a conversation with a good friend of mine who was ranked #1 in UK Muay Thai before signing with international Kickboxing and Muay Thai organisation One FC.

The conversation came about after an interesting visit to see my friend and English UFC Fighter Arnold Allen at BKK Fighters in Colchester I commented on how much he had matured in his perspective towards the business aspect of his sport and where once he would only have looked from a sports or fighters angle now he had a much more rounded perspective and realised he was part of a multi billion dollar business and had a right to a share of it. Without a shadow of a doubt Arnie’s positive change comes from being in and around the very top level of the sport (Mixed Martial Arts) rubbing shoulders with people who have achieved great things and are now reaping the benefits of it such as George St Pierre or his coach Firas Zahabi. Gaining the mindset of not just a sporting winner but a life winner too is not quite as simple as it may sound.

Juan made an excellent observation:
“In order to have gained the skills to compete at a high level in this sport (in his case Muay Thai) its almost necessary much of the time to turn your back on materialistic goals, when the time comes that you could maybe earn some real money your focus or even maybe desire for material wealth has often disappeared ”

Juan’s insight is both absolutely on the money (or off it as the case may be!) and at the same time represents an issue for those wishing to have their cake and to eat it. How do you gain the skills you need but when you emerge from the gates of the temple a master switch your mind to the task of success without losing what you gained in the first place?

One of the first mistakes I have often observed is that from the outside looking in most people and very importantly most people aspiring to be the people they are looking at firmly believe fiscal success is simply a direct consequence of success in a particular area. Whilst this may well be true in some cases I know its the exception not the rule especially in sports pursuits.

The top of the top make a lot of money for sure especially if in a sport where there is a lot of money available to sportsmen however I’ve met boxers who had world title fights for major organisations (WBC, IBF) who ten years later are as broke as when they went into boxing. The message here is it is not automatic.

I once heard someone describe making money likened to a man catching fish on a fast flowing stream; the opportunities pass by at speed, sometimes there are many sometimes there are few but whats important is to make the most of when they are abundant and capture whats available when they are few.

I loved that analogy. Many Fighters, Musicians and sportsmen assume when the opportunities are good they will never end. This is a massive mistake that any decent look at what has gone before will teach them otherwise. Its easy to look at the success stories but very difficult to look at the instances where things didn’t have such a happy ending.

The main issue is often appalling management with fighters and athletes solely focussed 100% on what is real to them at the time rather than what may become real later. Their focus is their sport and the transition from amateur, pro, to the big league to a champion often from their perspective is less of a change than many outside of the business would imagine. The fans see the rise, the glory and the TV coverage but the athletes see the same training, diet plans and only the stadiums get bigger and the hotel rooms hopefully better in their mind not so much changed. You only need to spend a little time with guys in the top ten of their combat sport to realize for the most part they have not changed much from their amateur days.

Great management such as that delivered by top guys such as Audie Attar at Paradigm or Jason House at Iridium Sports Management will certainly make a major difference to a fighters long term career but often guys don’t even consider management until they are hitting a brick wall in terms of progression and sadly this can often be too late. One of the impressive things I heard from Audie in a brief conversation a long time ago at UFC Manchester was how much attention they paid to “Post Career Planning!” A quick look at who Paradigms impressive roster includes would suggest they know what they are talking about!

A simple summary of this article for any aspiring athlete is to go into the sport with your eyes open. You are going to spend the best part of your career getting to the point where you have an opportunity to make hay in the sun but keeping an eye on your opportunities all the way through and making sure you develop your longer term strategy just like you would for a fight may pay massive dividends later.

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