Events Shirley's Temple

Brian Ortega Talks Next Fight, Mental Health, Training & Fatherhood On Shirley’s Temple

December 6, 2023

Read the full interview on SheenMagazine.com!

Brian Ortega deserves all his flowers. Deemed one of the greatest Featherweights of all time, the California native is a legend in the UFC World. His nickname T-City derives from his signature move: the triangle choke, which he debuted at the young age of 15 years old.

Brian’s story is truly one of inspiration and motivation, from the moment he discovered the world of jiujitsu. And while his parents couldn’t afford to keep him in training, Rener Gracie (the founder of jiujitsu) took Brian under his wing and would train him personally — molding and shaping Brian into the fighter he is today.

For Brian, his hardships stem from real life experiences, as opposed to what happens inside the Octagon. Coming from the projects, the odds of someone making it out to be as successful as Brian is today are slim to none. It’s through hard work, passion, resilience, and unwavering dedication that Brian was able to turn pro and make a name for himself in the UFC world.

Most recently, Brian unveils the details to his highly-anticipated next fight, which he reveals to be “everything he ever wanted” and “dreamed of.”

On the 59th episode of Shirley’s Temple, I sat with Brian Ortega to discuss fatherhood, the reality of training, mental health & PTSD, 4 surgeries in one year, church changing his life, his near death experience in the ICU, getting shot at in Compton, his first triangle choke at 15, cutting weight (40 lbs specifically), taking cold showers daily, starting his own podcast, wanting to run his own academy & his next fight!

How old are your kids?

10 and 9. About to be 11 and 10.

You had them at 20 right? 

19/20.

Were you ready?

Nah. I mean… nah. I wasn’t ready for them until after they were here.

How did fatherhood change your life?

Kind of didn’t. That’s why I said I wasn’t ready. Father at 20 years old, I’m still trying to figure things out myself. The only thing that did change was having to provide money. In the beginning: as long as I was able to make money, I thought I was doing a good job. But then I realized later down the road that it’s not just about giving. That’s a hard lesson I had to learn

Your kids watch you fight. Do you ever feel like it’s too much? Like it’s too intense?

As they get older, I don’t think it’s so much now because they know what it is that I do. But in the beginning, I was not alright with it. I grew up watching my dad fight in the street and I remember what it did to me as a kid. It gave you this helpless feeling that you can’t do nothing. Well, what am I doing? Am I doing the same thing to my kids? I remember one time I told everyone don’t let these guys watch my fight. I already knew I was in for a war.

Which fight was it?

It was a long time ago. It was 2015, against Thiago Tavares. It was a bloody one.

That was the one that you took super last minute, right? 

Yeah, two weeks notice. I told them, I don’t want you guys watching it. I came back from New Orleans after I fought and they’re like, “Dad, that was a lot of blood!” I said no no, that was a movie. I didn’t know what to do.

How old were they?

3 and 4. I said no, that was just a movie guys. I go, it’s all fake. Look at my face, I look good right? I still got the makeup. I just didn’t want them watching it, till they understood it. Now, they understand everything and I can’t lie it about anymore. I have to try to explain to them it’s a job. It’s what I do. I’m not out here looking for fights. It doesn’t mean you have the right to go to school and do… you know. There’s a lot of things that happen with that. Because believe it or not, just because you’re a fighter, people assume. My kid got into a fight one time, everyone said “of course, because your dad’s a fighter.” How do you know it wasn’t because he was defending himself and doing the right thing? 

Kids are ruthless.

No, it was the teachers and the parents. They’re like, “Oh, he’s teaching his kids to beat up… Alright, I saw your kid acting up. I guess it comes with it. I just want them to be ready to understand it as much as they’re able to.

They’re starting to fight now right?

Yeah, they learn their whole life through games. It’s always been: who can hold the bear down? Or who can ride the crazy horse? I teach him jujitsu, but it’s a game. They go on to wrestle the other kids and they do it naturally. Yup, that’s me. Now they’re training. They just started last week.

How does that feel?

It’s cool. It’s different. Because one, I waited for them to want to do it. Because I tried to force them when they were 4 or 5. I’m your dad, people are gonna start shit with you and you gotta be able to hold your own. As simple as that. In this household, you have to learn how to fight. Just because the world is going to try you. People are going to try you and you gotta be able to hold your own. We’re not here to start nothing and do nothing. But if it comes, then we welcome it. Wrong approach I guess. Do your own thing.

Now, they came to me like, “hey dad, we want to train.”! I was all happy. Hell yeah! They came in last week. But it is different because I have a father hat, then I have an instructor hat. It’s almost like two different people. When I walk in the building and I teach,  I’m professional. When I’m a dad, I’m goofy. It is something that I have to talk to them about. Not too much. Surprisingly, they understand it pretty good. But they do see it differently. They’re like “Hold up. Dad, you’re respected here.” They know me as the goofy dad. I go in there and fart on their face, or I’ll mess around with them. Whatever it is, then to go straight to discipline. Respect. It’s something they haven’t seen yet, so it’s different.

They’re learning from the best, because you learned from the best.

Absolutely. I’m under the Gracie family. They are the originators of jiu-jitsu. I’m straight as close to the source as I can get. It’s like getting your master’s from Harvard. That’s the only way I can relate it to.

How did it feel for them to believe in you so young? Your story is incredible. Your family didn’t have the money to support it so they took you under their wing. 

Sometimes in your life, things make sense later. This is one of those that made sense later. At that time, I was happy I got to train and they took me in. The other day, I was feeling gratitude. It was along the lines of this person played a major role in my life and I have no idea till now. Because my entire life could have been different. Although I heard it before, I didn’t understand it.

Now, I understand it because I see the way I am. I see everything I’ve been through and it changed everything about me. It changed everything. The way I view business, the way I view the world. The way I can walk in a room and be confident, not get scared or nervous. When you own things like that, you own your life. Besides fighting and everything else, I’m forever thankful because of that. Because I could’ve went down a different road. Right now as I’m getting older, I’m starting to realize a lot of things in my life and I’m starting to have gratitude towards them.

Growing up in the projects of San Pedro, did you ever see this for yourself? Was this in the cards?

Not at all. Not even close. It’s always a trip. Every time I show up anywhere and people are interested, want to hear you out, it’s a trip. Because to me, I’m with myself every day. I’ve done my best, always killed that illusion that I’m anything special. I’m as normal as everyone in this building, simple as that. When I pulled up, I pulled up by myself. I don’t have a crew. I don’t have a posse. I don’t have security, nothing. I kill the illusion right off the bat.

I never thought that I was going to be here. When people hear me talking, what do I do? What do I say? What messages should I…? God, what do you want me to do? How do you want me to tell people? How do you want me to talk to people? Because they weren’t the best. I’m seeing what I could do now.

Are you always training?

Always. 

What’s a day in the life?

In season: wake up, 6 or 7am. Run 3 to 5 miles. Shower, eat, take a little time for myself. Play with my dogs. Play with the tortoise. Backyard is pretty big, go water my tomatoes.

You have a garden?

I’m building it right now. I always do little things to zen out. I go to a practice that’s around 10:30am or 11:30am. I’ll train. Wrestling from 10:30am all the way to 1:00 p.m. We’ll do about 20 rounds, which is a good two hours solid. 20 to 25 minute rounds, but they’re all different. You pick it up by technique and drilling, this and that. You go lives which is hard go’s, then we have cool down.

After that, come home, eat, shower. Sleep for about 20 minutes, take a little nap. Chill, get stuff done, then hit another training session. It’ll be strength and conditioning from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. That’ll be a day. It’s two hard sessions, then one, we call it a low base run. Fast cardio, that’s about it.

Are you exhausted by the end of the night? 

No. You’re exhausted by the end of the week. Yeah, but the time you hit Friday, then you’re tired, you’re sore. And then you have to spar. So then you spar, you know, five rounds. And you go hard with people and then it’s full contact everything so then we basically beat each other up. No one holds back. Then you go home shower or whatever. Then Saturday you do track work, like strength conditioning there. And then you’re done for half a Saturday and Sunday is your day off.

What do you do on your day off?

I used to sleep all day. Sunday, that’s it. After the track, I don’t exist. My phone? I throw it away. Saturday, I eat and binge watch shows. I go to sleep. I sleep in, call in a massage therapist. They come over. You get massaged, fall asleep on the table. Thank you very much, goodbye. Then you go back to sleep. By the time nighttime hits, I feel good. Fuck, I gotta go to sleep. I gotta do the shit all over again, then you repeat.

How do you have the discipline to train, even when you don’t feel like doing it that day?

Well, that’s when you gotta tap in with who you are. Purpose over emotion. It doesn’t matter how I feel, I gotta get it done. If I want to be somewhere that my family or my people never been, I gotta do things they’ve never done. For the majority, you feel a lot of bad things. There’s a lot of life things going on while I’m in camp. There’s friends that died of mine while I’ve been in training camp. You gotta tough it out. You go in there, you train. Take a little sidestep over there, you cry it out. You wipe your tears. Get your ass back on the mat, cool. Get back in the car, keep going. You gotta fight in two, three months. Sometimes in two weeks.

Shirley’s Temple has a focus on mental healthHow are you doing? How’s your mental state?

A lot better. This last year was a rough one for me. A lot of things happen in my personal life. Career-wise, everything. When it rains it pours, mine was raining every month. I lost 3 friends. One of my best friends, a lot of things. Close friends betrayed, a lot of things kept happening. This happened, then this happened, then this happened. Cool, I got this. Alright, this happened. Let’s keep going. I had 4 surgeries in under one year, everything hit me. My only way of coping with things was through working out.

But when you have 4 surgeries, you can’t really do the thing. Your outlet. For a small bit, I decided to numb myself with different substances. Even I told myself: all of this feels good ‘cause I’m on timeout right now. I know it’s not a long-term thing, so I had to snap out of that mentally. I finally reached a point where I broke. Where I’m so strong for so long, I finally broke.

Then I started going to church. Since then, everything has been different. I see things differently. A lot of things that happened in my life are making sense now. I see why that happened, why this happened. Accountability is a strong word. I wasn’t able to really be accountable for my stuff, a lot of time spent alone through all that. It’s making me more who I am and understanding a lot of things differently than I ever did.

MMA is a physically demanding sport, the injuries that come with it can take a toll on a fighter’s mental health. Fighters are at risk of sustaining traumatic brain injuries (TBI) which can lead to conditions such as PTSD. How taxing is fighting on your mental health? 

It’s different. You go in there, you have 18K, 20K people screaming, to either win or lose. The training is exhausting. The hits you say cause brain trauma. When you get in there, it’s a roller coaster. I’ve been the main events since 2017. So I’ve had nothing but main events and packed arenas for the last couple of years of my life. With that comes a lot of love, hatred. It’s a big up and down.

You lose, then your mental health you find out who’s who. Everyone loves you. You lose, everyone hates you. You win, they’re all back again. “We suported you,” then you get injured. I’m 10 surgeries in total. I broke my nose, my orbital, my hands, my shoulders, my elbow. I messed everything up. I was talking with someone the other day, because they were saying I fell off social media. People were saying “yeah man, you used to post a lot. I used to do this…”

I had to think deep, why is it? I go yeah, I know you’re right. You know what it is, I had to come to terms with what social media is. I wasn’t in terms with it. But I took it personal. Because here I am breaking my face. Broke my body, here I am sacrificing my health to entertain you guys. Just so you guys can have a fucking memorable night. You guys drink right now like “hell yeah!l Then you go home. I go in here to deal with this. My celebration’s not at the club, I’m at the ER right now.

Every fight is it like that? 

The last couple fights, I been at the ER. ‘Cause I don’t like to quit. I don’t know how to quit. Even the odds against me, I’m losing, I don’t care. Let’s keep going. As long as I can breathe and swing and chuck, I’m gonna do it. That’s who I am. Who I am, people like. But it builds up a weird relationship where here I am doing all this, well fuck you guys. You guys are still assholes. At the end of the day, you guys still talk your shit.

I think more people like you though than not like you.

I know, but you can’t help but be human and have feelings. It’s a roller coaster. It was not till recently where I’ve understood things. I have to take things for what they are. Keep on pushing, but it takes a lot on you man.

I have this flashback of a video when you were busted and gave a message to your kids. How painful was that? 

Let me tell you the story behind that video, and I won’t get choked up. I fought for the World Title, I gave it my all. I fractured my orbital, I took a lot of hits. I won Fighter of the Year, people loved it. I loved it. I didn’t walk away with the World Title, but I was maybe inches or seconds away from it. It showed me a lot of who I was. Big arena, I’m going to put you through my lens.

I’m fighting in a packed arena, everything’s crazy. The energy, everyone’s screaming, I can’t even hear my coaches. That’s how loud the whole time it was while I was fighting, lost by decision. As I’m walking out, there’s no time for anything. They said “get him.” I literally walked from the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas, straight to ambulance. From the ambulance, I go to the hospital. From the hospital, it’s a shitshow there. Because that night, everyone decided to get into some stuff outside in Vegas. There’s two neighborhoods and they shot each other, so I’m sitting in the hospital with everyone and everyone’s dying in there. There’s this guy who’s all shot up, he had bulletholes in his face. I’m sitting here all messed up too. I see him reaching and I’m looking at him, not saying anything. I see everyone working on them.

What am I doing here? But I can’t stop looking at him and we’re making eye contact. Then sure enough, he flatlines. Yo, I went from 20K people to this fool dying right here? I was weird right now. It started fucking with my head. I’m looking around and everyone’s dying in here. Everyone’s screaming, everyone shot. I’m over here thinking fuck, they brought me to the “you’re gonna die room.” I’m gonna be that fighter who took a lot of hits, who they’re not trying to tell nothing about. But my time is coming tonight. Fuck, I have to leave something behind for my kids. Alright just in case, I’m not saying I’m gonna die, but it’s what it feels like right now.

So I made a message. I said you know what guys, I love you. I will always do this for you guys. I will never quit, I will always push for you guys to have a better life than I did. Your dad doesn’t give up. Your dad will never give up, and that was it. I saved it. Because if that happened, here take my phone. You guys will see it. It was something thought in that moment where if I do go tonight, let me tell them something. Let me show them something, because I never made a video like that. Because you never think of stuff like that.

What was your reaction when you watched it back?

I’m happy that I’m here still. It was weird man. I remember being in there and I’m not gonna lie, the way my mind was at the time, man I want I don’t want to die like this. Fuck, I wanna get high. Hey,man, can you give me more morphine please? They’re running around the place, they’re like “oh yeah sure.” Fuck yeah. Hey man, this ain’t working. Can you get me something stronger? Can you give me some fentanyl? They gave me some fentanyl, hell yeah.

I was high. I was arguing with people, I was arguing with everyone. Some guy started pissing off the nurse and she’s the only one that talked to me. Everyone walked right past me, so I had her back. Some guys started fucking with her, but this dude’s leg was missing. That shit was dangling. That room was fucked up, a lot of things going on. I said hey bro, stop talking shit to her man. He’s like “what? Fuck you!” I’m like fuck you. Don’t make me get up and fuck you up — I was so high I couldn’t even get up. I was bluffing. I’m like that’s why you lost your leg bitch! He’s like “fuck you!” Some other guy said, “hey fuck you! That’s why you got shot.” Then I feel like  I’m going crazy now. Man I’m dying, this is all weird man.

Did you have people with you?

No, I was by myself. They didn’t let no one in, ‘cause that room was so intense. You’re not allowed to go in ICU. So I’m in there alone, the thing kicked in. [laughs]

How long did you have to recover in the hospital?

The fight ended around 10:30pm, 11pm. I got out at 4 in the morning, not too bad. They let me loose. They did a bunch of scans on me, said everything was cool. They said everything’s broken. The lady, I asked hey man, I’m not going to die? She said, “No.” I said you’re not just saying that right? I saw you guys talking to homeboy over there and he died. Don’t fuck with me. Be honest, I can take it. They let me loose and I was good.

But then I started throwing up a lot because because all the things they gave me. The second the car started moving, I started throwing up. It was a trip. From being loved in an arena to this, to hospital, to this, to seeing this guy flatline, to talking shit to other fools. Seeing other fools flatline, it’s hard to process it at that time. You gotta take some time: okay well this happened. You gotta make sense of that shit. Because otherwise, it fucks with your head.

In that moment, are you second guessing your career choice? 

No. I’m second guessing if she’s lying to me or not, but that’s it. I’s been like that too. In Canada, they did the same thing to me. But the room was not crazy like that one, that’s the first crazy room I’ve ever been into like that. That was some of the mental things that happen that people don’t know.

How do you have the mental discipline to get through those situations?

I saw things at a young age, that messed me up and I later understood. It made me a bit more understanding of that. You learn what it is, and you learn to accept it. I had a problem with acceptance of what someone dying is. But once you understand it, the pain don’t go away, but the acceptance at least is there. I’m not trying to run from it, numb myself from it, or ignore it. You take it for what it is, and you let that pain do its job. It helps move you to something that later on you’ll see that it was a good thing.

Death is really hard for me too. 

My first time I experienced something, I was 13 years old. I saw dead bodies, that right there hit that trauma button for me. Later on, I understood things. But for me now, I’m not numb to it. I have a better relationship with the pain now. That’s it. I know how to take it without running from it, numbing myself with drugs or ignoring it. Because that puts me in a messed up cycle that 2, 3 years down the road, I’m sitting there like well shit. This didn’t work, let me do something stronger. Next time a problem happens. Sure enough, I’ve been there before where I’ve been on all kinds of shit, then my problem’s still there. Hold up, the one thing I didn’t do though is accept the pain for what it is. Whatever if it takes: you cry it out for a couple of months or whatever it is you gotta do. Do it, and let it push you somewhere. I learned to listen to it.

I would assume fighting was a healthy escape?

Yeah, a healthy escape. There’s healthy escapes, I call them breaks. A little break, where you’re in the present moment, you can’t think nothing but that. The pain ain’t going nowhere, it’s still there. It  decides when you want to go clean it up and deal with it. So I learned how to deal with it.

How do you deal with PTSD?

There’s things that happen outside of fighting. There’s a lot of things. Fighting compared to my outside life has given me no PTSD. If anything, it’s a trip to go through a rollercoaster of that night in Vegas. But I have more PTSD outside than in.

How did it feel to get that first triangle choke?

Felt dope. I was 15 years old. It was on YouTube: 15 years old, first fighting cage. There was no gloves.

Your dad lied and said you were 18?

Yeah, he said I was 18.

Were you scared? A bare knuckle fight..

You don’t get scared because you know they’re gonna stop it. The ones I was afraid of were street fights. Street fights are crazy because if they let you out, good luck man. Somebody’s gonna stomp your head. You never know whoever you’re fighting’s intentions. But to me, this is a safe street fight. This is dope. Because if the fight’s over, I need to walk away. I need to even shake the person’s hand, be like hey that was a good one. But other people didn’t though.

In fighting, that was the best part because once we lost, we shake hands. They raise your hand and you go home. It was respect there. It literally was to see who is the better man? That was it. Why do we fight? Because I think I’m better than you. Let’s see who’s a better man. But the street is a little more trickier. The better man now is not really the better man. You get stabbed, you get shot at, you get jumped. Now, it’s who can win this war? Outside, it’s wars. In there, it’s a fight. And I like to fight.

After your first triangle choke, were you like damn, I’m doing this from here on out! 

I wanted to it to be, but not every fight could end like that. The last time I got a triangle was 2016/17. It’s been a while, but that  means I gotta go work more.

You have to cut weight like crazy, like 15 pounds?

Nah I cut more. Put it this way, I weigh 185 right now. I fight at 145.

How long does it take? This straight discipline. 

It’s not discipline, that shows undiscipline on my part. That means I ate a lot. Plus I’m Mexican man. Every food that we have is carb, carb, carb, carb, protein. It’s rice, beans, tortilla, and a little bit of meat. Yo! I’m stacking up.

How do you cut 40 pounds? 

You start within time. We have what’s called a pre-camp, it’s 3 months out before your fight. One I should be living my life discipline with consistency every day. You live in the 7, but you train at the 10. Which means every day I workout, I do everything. Only reason why I haven’t is my injuries. Other than that, everyday you’re working out. Everyday you’re training. This is my job, I gotta do it twice a day no matter what. I hit strength and conditioning in the morning, then I hit boxing at night. I hit wrestling in the morning, I hit jujitsu at night. I hit lifting, then I hit cardio. But every day, you workout.

This is the time off-season where you say this last fight, I sucked. I’m always gonna be the hardest critic. Well now’s the time to fix it, but at a slower pace, because I don’t have to worry about fighting in 2 months. You live there. And if you live there properly, my weight will always be 168. Which is not bad. But right now because of all the surgeries, I haven’t been able to workout as much as I like to. The second I get more clearance to move more like I am right now, then okay, do this, do this, do that. Then fix your diet. My nutritionist just sent me my plan right now, his name is Andy Gaplin. He’s working with a lot of things with Jeff Bezos, the guy’s a mad scientist.

How do you prep right before a fight? 

That’s the hardest. The week of the fight sucks. I used to enter heavy, but now I enter at 160. Today is what, Tuesday? That’s typically the day we show up. I’ll be 160. But by now, I cut carbs, sodium, salts, anything. You only eat enough to not die, because you’re cutting weight now. They’ll give you enough so your body functions, it’s purely healthy fat and protein. No seasoning, nothing. Maybe lemon. You’re allowed lemon, that becomes your best friend. They’ll give you 6 ounces of salmon and a little thing of avocado. That’s it. Your breakfast is 2 hard boiled eggs. Your lunch is the little salmon-avocado. AYour dinner is chicken and a little handful of almonds.

Are you hungry?

Hell yeah! Because you gotta think about it., then we’re running around. We’re doing media, interviews. We’re doing a lot. We’re signing posters, we’re talking. They have a schedule for you, an itinerary the second you get there.

Is that the fun part? 

No. Because I speak Spanish, so they make me do everything twice. Other people, they speak English and they’re done. They get there at 10am, they arrive to the place. You sign about 300 posters. Fom there, you go straight to media. You leave around 5:30pm, 6pm. I leave around 10pm because I have to do everything in English and everything in Spanish. The next day, everything in English, everything in Spanish.

What do you prefer?

English. Sometimes my Spanish— compared to my dad. He’ll get upset because I make up some words. He’s like,” Yo, what was that? You said an English word, but made it sound Spanish.” [laughs]

Did you speak Spanish growing up?

That’s my first language.

What are you most excited for next?

I already got news when I’m going to fight next. I can’t say nothing, but it’s going to be dope! It’s everything that I’ve always wanted. Location-wise, opponent, everything.

Where’s it at? I’m pulling up. 

I can’t say nothing yet. But you’re going to take an airplane, I’ll tell you that much. It’s gonna be dope, everything I always dreamed of. Befor, I fought everything local. I fought at the Forum. I fought at the Honda Center. The only one missing is Staples Center, I ain’t calling it the new name. That’s the only one that’s missing. Vegas, I did.

How often does it happen at Staples Center?

Last one was Ronda Rousey when she fought, so it’s been a cool minute. But I want to fight there. After that, I hit everything locally that I wanted. Now, yo I want to start fighting out the country. Take me other places. Let me go over there. Let me experience places such as Brazil, Europe, or London. Let me experience these places during Fight week, then let me stay there after Fight week and just chill and enjoy. That’s the next chapter in my life. I want to film everything. All the hardship that it’s going to take to get there, film the fight, then let’s keep pushing and moving.

There needs to be a Brian Ortega documentary, ASAP. 

Oh man, we talked about that too. Because I have everything filmed since… I have a lot of footage that I never shared. I tell people I started in the garage,. I have all that footage. I have all the training in the garage. I have all the sparring inside. I have everything

Do you have a loyal videographer to capture all that? 

No, this is just the homies with a camera. They had a camera, they have them all. They have everything, so it’s cool. So hopefully one day… that’s the goal. Let me achieve all this first, then let’s do something else. That way I can teach people like me the what not to do’s.

I know you want to open your own academy. Have you found a fighter that you would want to mentor?

I’m gonna run my own place when I retire. We all need some sort of purpose in life in order to keep going and pushing forward. Once fighting is done, it’ll be that purpose. My kids will be grown up, so that’s always gonna be my purpose. But outside of that, because by the time I hit 38, they’ll be 18. I’ll be a young dad, so I’m going to want to do something else. I’m going to run my own place.

A lot of people don’t know it but the jujitsu location right now, Grace University, has over 1000 students. It has over 300 schools around the world called CTCs, franchises of that place. It’s a massive, massive success story from the Gracie’s, from Henner. People don’t know that, but I was with Henner when he was 18 years old. I stayed with Henner, and I lived with Henner. I’ve spent the night with them. I’ve traveled with him. Everything that is now, that everyone looks up to. I remember being in the office talking with them while it was being born. So I know how to run a business. To this day, I’m the person who’s brought the most students to that place. Because my thing was, that’s my passion. My passion is to teach jiu jitsu.

You’re really good at it. You were teaching it back then too right?

Yeah, that’s my first job. I never had a legit job. My first job was at 16. I taught jiu jitsu. Right after that, 19 I went pro.

How did it feel to go from $75 to $75,000? 

The rent was paid. I was gonna quit that day.

Why? 

Think about it, you’re fighting in the UFC and you try to buy some Jordans and you can’t afford them. Everyone outside is saying “he’s a UFC fighter,” but I can’t fucking pay the rent. What good is it to have this thing if I can’t even pay for nothing? When I teach jiujitsu, at least I made money where I can pay things. I can provide my children with things.

Did that fuel you go into the fight like bro, I need this?

I always feel things happen in your life that keep you going to where you are, or tests if that’s what you really want. These are one of the things that helped me push forward to what I wanted. Because I told myself that day: if I lose, I’m done. I took this on 2 weeks notice. This guy thanked me for taking the fight, basically thank you for getting your ass whooped. That’s what it felt like.

I’m not going to lie, it was embarrassing that I couldn’t even put shoes on my own feet. The rent’s paid for, this is done. I’m on Wick. I’m getting formula and things for my kids. I live in a back house that’s small. Tiny man. I ha my girl and my two kids, she bummed it out with me. I’m already thinking like damn, I’m chasing this for me, but really they’re suffering while I’m I’m doing something selfishly.

I said I’m doing it for them. But at the time, really I wanted this. Because if it’s to provide money, I already knew which route paid more at that time. I told myself: if you don’t win tonight, I’m done. My first total winning was $25K. That was it. I don’t even think we got paid a lot either. We got paid $12K to show up, $12K to win, and $1K for your sponsorship. That was it. But I won the bonus: $50K, because it was Fight of the Night.

You get $50K If you get Fight of the Night?

If you get a performance or bonus, yeah. Fight of the Night. At that time, I got hit with it. Yo, this is dope! I said I guess we’re fighting. [laughs]

Did you blow it? 

No, I learned my lesson from my first fight. I thought I was rich. I won —

$3K right?

After everything was done, I had $6K total. But I went to Sam’s, I threw five G’s in the air. I came back and I go fuck, I’m broke. I was watching them all pick it up like pigeons.

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