Last night I was given a unique opportunity. I was invited in as a cornerman for three
MMA fights. Gold Dragon MMA was represented by one amateur fighter and two professionals, one of which was the main event and a title fight. I have been a fan of MMA for some time now, even though, I can only name a few professional fighters and do not follow closely, but I have enjoyed the sport since the early days of stealing pay per view cable. Last night, I was able to see a side of the sport that very few people get to see. It has changed my whole outlook on the sport, and I hope it does the same for you.
As a Christian, one has to wonder if enjoying such a brutal sport is acceptable. In fact, after the fighters and crew in the van found out that I was a seminary student those questions came up. After last night, I have to wonder how that is even a question? I look at Tim Tebow, one of the most fierce competitors in the sport of football, known for his desire to win, tears at loss, and love for Jesus, Tim Tebow has become a hero for Christian football fans. I have watched Tebow run full force, lower his shoulder, and plow through an opponent without remorse and with great celebration for reaching his goal. Having played football, I can tell you that those moments are intentional, thought out, and require a level of aggression in order to be successful. There is not a whole lot of difference between the brutal sport of football, and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Two people locked in a ring with the goal of trying to win the prize.
It is all too common for people to think that the two men in the ring hate each other and are trying to do nothing more than kill each other. This is partially the fault of promoters, after all, in our world violence and hate rule the day. In reality, behind the scenes, they are friends. Men with a common passion, and all with unique stories gather together in a competition that requires high levels of mental and physical training. It is not about getting in the ring with someone and beating the tar out of him, but out witting and out strategizing the opponent. These guys have to be in top physical condition and be able to keep their mental composure, react on a moments notice, and sometimes develop techniques on the spot. All of this requires sometimes years of training and the biggest battle happens just moments before the bout. The opponent? Your past, your nerves, and your fears.
They say that blood is thicker than water, and for the fight team at Gold Dragon Mixed Martial Arts lead by Sensei Lawrence Patrick, they have shed enough of both for them to be bonded together for life. Last night I was blessed to witness the tight bond of brotherhood that these men who train together share. It is not just fighting that these men share, but life. They are not just there to spar, but to encourage. They keep each other’s heads up, they laugh, cry, and hurt together. If something effects one of them, it effects them all. I have to imagine, based on what I witnessed, that there are few moments in life that ignite the emotions like the moments before one steps into the ring, and I believe that the fight team of Gold Dragon MMA would say that if it were not for the support, encouragement, and friendship of the guys they train with, they would not be able to experience the success they so often do.
At the head of this family is a man whom I look up to. A man who does not just train fighters, but invests in the lives of young, and sometimes more mature, men. Sensei Lawrence Patrick does not just look at the possibility of training champions, he trains these guys to show them how to, smooth out some of the “rough edges”. There are many people out there who open these types of gyms to generate a profit and capitalize on the growing popularity of the sport. Not him, he has created a safe place for people to feel wanted and loved, a place where they are not judged, and the world is not pushing down on their shoulder. Listening to a conversation between him and his rookie fighter in the locker room just before the first fight of the night, this is what I heard him say; “Remember, this is a place where you guys can go to forget your problems for a while, and leave your ego behind. No matter how hard your day has been, it is always a good day at the gym.”
These men allowed me into their moment, they accepted me into their circle, and included me in their victory. I got to pray for them, laugh with them, and experience the emotional side of the sport. These are memories and lessons that I will carry with me forever. I only hope that I get to spend more time with the warriors at Gold Dragon MMA, and pray a blessing over Sensei Lawrence Patrick while he invests in the lives of young men and provides an avenue for purpose, discipline, and passion.