It has been an unusually busy week for me. Nothing like the go, go go of New York or Los Angeles, but it was more than the regular schedule I have become accustomed to in rural Illinois.
Part of my old world collided with my new world this past week. On March 31, 2017 my friend King Mo Lawal was coming to town to fight Rampage Jackson in Bellator 175 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. I first met Mo many years ago at Jokers Wild Fighting Academy one day during a fight class. I was told that day that I would be working with him, which was a huge step up for me. We trained a lot more over the following years.
As his trip to Chicago approached, we made plans to meet up when he arrived in town before his fight. He had told me to bring my gear because we might train. I arrived at the hotel and left my gear bag in my car since I wasn’t sure what our plans would be. Right when I walked into his room he asked me if I had my stuff, so I went back out to grab it.
Soon we were inside the “blue team” training room. It was nothing more than an empty conference room that had wrestling mats laid down wall to wall. He had his coaches from American Top Team there, and he had Jeff Mayweather started running him through some boxing drills. They had him do three minutes of boxing followed by three minutes of wrestling with me, back and forth. It was a surreal moment for me. Here I was wrestling with the headline fighter for a Bellator fight in front of coaches from one of the premier mixed martial arts gyms in the world – in Chicago of all places.
It got even stranger for me when I looked up and saw former UFC champion Matt Hughes watching us. After we finished the training session Mo had a press interview to do and I ended up sitting next to him for the interview. Dinner came next, where I found myself speaking with the matchmaker of the Bellator promotion as well as Royce Gracie, the man who really brought Brazilian Jiujitsu into the mainstream.
The next day I drove back up to the city again to train with Mo. This time I brought an Illinois friend who is a casual MMA fan with me. I was worried that he would be bored, but we ended up having a great time. When we were hanging out with Mo I was watching to see if he was affected by the upcoming fight – less than twenty-four hours away. Was he stressed? He was not.
We sat around talked about old times, people we know and politics. “King Mo” is the character the fans see in the cage, “Mo” is the guy his friends know. Mo cares about others and is a genuine person.
Driving home later that evening I thought about my life, and all the old memories of helping other fighters prepare for big fights. I realized I missed the time I spent hanging out with my fighting friends, but not the life that came with it. I found myself very happy to be headed home to my new life on the farm and the nearby town of eight hundred and thirty-seven people.
I thought about all the things that fell into place in throughout my life to bring me to this place. I have been truly blessed in life by being in the right place at the right time. I was able to recognize that and make the most of my situations.
This past week somebody posted an old picture on facebook and I was in the background. It brought back some memories both good and bad of my past life. While I am not proud of many decisions I have made in the past, I am thankful for where they have brought me today.
The army friend I’ve often written about on this blog posted a picture this past week that was taken when he was deployed in Afghanistan, laying against a dirt berm, geared up with his M4. He wrote, “You know, I kind of miss this. I remember vividly this moment and being so tired. It seems a lifetime away and I have almost completely disconnected myself from this old me.” I too have disconnected from my old life. I recognize who I was then, but it no longer seems like me. I have changed.
I was written about in the local papers this week. This time, the spotlight was not due to my past. The article was about what I am currently working on. It made me realize just how grateful I am for my life. My past has brought me here, to this place. Training with top coaches and athletes for all those years has prepared me for this important endeavor.
This time I am not fighting for money, I am not training an athlete for a big fight or an actor for a big role. Instead, I am using all those skills to train up a new team of people to fight back against Parkinson’s disease and all the degenerative effects that come with it.
I am so blessed.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.