No shortage of inspiration for UFC 136
Inspiration is a priceless commodity as far as I'm concerned, and it's something that forces us to become better fighters and, more important, better people. When we are inspired to do something or achieve something, it becomes a whole lot easier to wake up, snap into action and tread the necessary steps to fulfilling that goal.
On Oct. 8 at UFC 136, I will walk into the Octagon to face Chael Sonnen, the universally recognized No. 2 middleweight in the world, and, yes, it's fair to say I haven't had to look far for inspiration or, indeed, motivation.
I'm currently in Albuquerque, NM, training with Team Jackson/Winklejohn and putting together the necessary game plan to grab that all-important victory on Oct. 8. I've been here training for the last nine weeks now and, with so much at stake against Sonnen, it hasn't exactly been difficult dragging my body and mind to the gym each day.
In terms of how the days pan out, it goes a little something like this: We have team practice at 9:30 a.m. for the heavier guys — those weighing 170 pounds and above — and that usually goes on until about 11 a.m. Then I come back in the afternoon and work on my kickboxing with coach (Mike) Winklejohn. After that, I'll usually have a private session with coach (Greg) Jackson, which will be a lot more fight specific. We will work on tactics I plan on implementing in the fight and discuss the finer points of the fight itself.
We have our second team practice at 5 p.m. that usually consists of extra grappling and wrestling. That session is heavy on technique and is also geared toward getting the rounds in.
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Although that all may sound like one big chore to some of you, I will never, ever complain about training. I truly feel blessed to be able to make a living from this sport and to be in a position where I am able to train, learn and improve on a daily basis. For those very reasons, training is only a fun and enjoyable experience for me. Each day is new, different and exciting, and every session presents me with a platform upon which I can build for a better future.
Having worked regular jobs my whole life, believe me, it really is a privilege to be a professional athlete. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't pause to think just how lucky I am. As just a small cog in this mixed martial arts adventure, I have been allowed to go places, see things, feel things and spend time with people who I will value and remember for the rest of my life.
Of course, pretty much every fighter will tell you there are some days you go to the gym and you're beat up, sore and broken down from the day before. That happens to all of us.
Even the champions in the UFC are not granted immunity from that feeling. We all graft hard and suffer for our art. In many ways, it's one of the prerequisites of this profession. If you're not hurting just a little bit in training, you're probably not training hard enough.
Every single day there will be a workout that is deliberately planned to test you to your limits and push you to the point where weaker individuals will tap, wave the white flag and find something else to do. The thing is, we fighters are aware of this when we decide to get involved in this sport from Day 1. We all know what we are getting ourselves into, and we know it's not meant to be easy. Nobody has ever said fighting is an easy profession or an easy option. It isn't. You have to allow this thing to take over your life and become a lifestyle, as opposed to just a hobby or pastime.
When I left the military and switched to the UFC in 2009, I really wasn't ready for the big guns of the sport. I wasn't ready technically and didn't have the experience to fall back on. I was still caught up in the learning process, and there were many rough edges that had yet to be sharpened. I was an extraordinarily incomplete fighter back then, and everything was done on a whim. We weren't working with anything solid as far as my foundations were concerned. I was still building from the bottom up and adding dimensions to my game. As many other fighters can attest, the UFC can be a rough place to learn your trade.
I had a clear choice to make at that point. Either I trained all year and dedicated my life to improving my skill-set, or I throw the towel in and find another profession. Two-and-a-half years on and I'm still here, still motivated, still inspired and better than I've ever before.
I'm starting to think I made the right choice.
Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianStann
Leading UFC contender Brian Stann meets fellow middleweight Chael Sonnen on Saturday, Oct. 8, at UFC 136, live on pay-per-view from the Toyota Center in Houston.