Black Thoughts on MMA Career
I’m 41 years old.
I used to fight Mixed Martial Arts. You know, in a cage, against another man who is trying to hurt me.
It was intense. It was exhilarating. It was scary. It was awesome.
I wanted so badly to be amazing at it. I wasn’t, really.
I fought 8 times, losing more than I won.
I had some good moments. But, in the end, I wasn’t able to perform well with any consistency.
I wanted to be great. I ended up being rather mediocre.
Now I need to look back at it, analyze it all.
Strangely, I’m kind of excited to do that.
I am going to try to look back at my training, my preparation, my journey and my fights with absolute honesty. I feel its the only way a guy can learn the lessons he needs to learn.
As someone who is immersed in MMA, I’ve heard the reasons and excuses of a hundred fighters who have lost. I’ve heard “The weight cut killed me”, “My rib went out”, “I shouldn’t have taken the caffeine”, “The promoter set me up”, even “The ref stabbed me with a pen when no one was looking.”
Maybe these fighters need to look at losses this way to preserve their view of the world, to maintain their confidence, or to explain their losing record to every guy in a Tapout shirt at the bar. Maybe they need to create a feeling that they are unbeatable, despite evidence to the contrary.
I’m not looking for these things. I don’t care what people who can never understand this think of me. This is a journey.
Don’t get me wrong. While training and cutting weight and fighting, I was doing it not to gain experience for the future but to WIN, and for no other reason. And make no mistake, despite everything that my losses have taught me, I would be thrilled to be an MMA analyst or color commentator or agent who was undefeated and was a monster in the cage. It would be much easier to be an analyst dripping with credibility from a career filled with wins, than an analyst whose knowledge was compiled by learning from mistakes. But, if this stuff was easy, and great results were guaranteed then it would be no fun. And everyone would do it.
One thing that I have definitely learned is the true pain of failure. The pain of putting literally everything you have towards a goal and coming up short. It is a very real pain and it makes you take a good long look at yourself. It is a pain that will only really be known by those that take risks and put themselves out there. People who don’t try will never know the pain of failure.
But they will also never know the bliss of victory.
And maybe they are not living life to its fullest.
There is a lot in these few years of being a Professional Mixed Martial Artist that I am very proud of. I always worked hard. Always. I always, with the help of my conditioning guru Geoff Gervitz from BANG! Fitness, came in elite shape physically. I always made weight, despite the fact that it became very, very hard in my last few fights to do so. I never canceled on a fight. I was always professional. I always treated the sport with the utmost respect.
When I was interviewed around my fights, I always tried to speak more about the beauty of the sport than about myself. My priority was always to do right by the sport of MMA.
Fighting-wise, the high points came the two times I evened my win-loss record.
When I won in Moncton, I moved to 2 wins and 2 losses and captured the regional Elite 1 Bantamweight Title, a belt that I will always have on my wall and will always mean the world to me.
And when I won in Edmonton and evened my record at 3 wins and 3 losses, the fight-ending “ear explosion” TKO made the HDNet Inside MMA Hilite of the week and was later nominated for a Bazzie award. That was really cool.
But, fighting-wise, there were more failures than victories.
Like I said, I really must examine my failures honestly if I’m going to learn from them and use the experience as I try to improve as a color commentator, analyst and manager.
After my first fight, a loss, UFC Lightweight contender Mark Bocek said to me “Well, now you REALLY know that it is mostly mental”. He was so right.
To really be an MMA fighter, you have to constantly win mental battles with yourself. In training. In dieting. In preparation. And, most of all, in the cage.
You have to know when to be aggressive, know HOW to stay relaxed, be able to think under pressure, how to take control of time and movement. You need to be mentally incredibly strong.
I lost fights because my mind failed me at times my opponent’s did not.
For example, in my last fight. I had trained my stand-up to take control on the feet and trained to, when I saw my opponent standing between the 2 red pads in my red corner, to explode for the takedown. Then I trained safety-first Ground and Pound from guard. That was the whole game plan and the focus of training.
Well, the fight started, I tagged my opponent a couple of times, shot in when he was in my red corner, and took him down. Then I set up in his guard to do some damage. I was excited! Everything was going perfectly.
Then I was armbarred and it was over. Just like that. I was retiring from MMA with a quick loss.
Now, take nothing away from my opponent Mike Reilly. Dude laid a nice, quick, tight armbar in there and cranked the arm. It was a great job.
But the opportunity for an armbar will arise EVERY TIME the guy on top lets himself get excited and grabs the back of the head to punch. I know that. Everyone knows that. But, under pressure, in fast motion, under the lights, WHEN IT COUNTED, I didn’t know it.
I worked really hard with Billy Martin, the best boxing coach in MMA, and KJ, Mike Sandy and my great training partners to develop a really solid and explosive stand-up game, which I wanted so badly to show. I learned a couple of nice hip-pocket takedowns, cage work, and strong takedown defense from Claude Patrick, and I worked diligently on my Jiu-Jitsu, positioning and Ground and Pound with the great people at MECCA MMA, especially Mark Stables, Lachlan Cheng and Alaina Hardie.
I worked hard to put together a package of skills and was excited to finally perform them under pressure.
But the meeting of my mistake while under pressure and my opponent’s good work under pressure cut that performance so short. It really hurt bad. Still does.
After the fight, in the cage, I said it would be my last. I was feeling sad and tired and old. Frustrated. And so disappointed.
And I’m becoming busier and busier now, and training time is shrinking. I’m doing broadcasting and color commentary and really fun stuff at The Fight Network and The Score, which I love, and I’ve got the great fortune of having ring-announcing or color commentary or post-fight interviews for cool MMA shows like CFC, AFC, WRECK, Ringside, MFL, and lotsa others. I’m also a managing partner at “Black and Associates”, a fighter agency and management company started by my friend Lachlan and I, and we’re managing 20 fighters and I’m so excited to help them achieve their goals. I’m working hard in The Canadian MMA biz and truly loving it.
And, most excitingly, I’m getting ready to marry my best friend, Erica Peck, in 11 months and really want to give her a good life.
In other words, maybe it is time to hang them up and focus on my future wife and my broadcasting career and continuing to learn the game.
But you know what? I trained for an hour with Billy the other day and I immediately wanted to fight again. Just like that. That’s the crazy thing about this sport. If you love it, no matter how much pain you feel from losing, and how draining failure can be, you just want to experience it one more time.
I’ll probably fight again. I mean, I’m only 41.
* Robin Black also writes for and can be seen on The Fight Network
** All photos by Jason Bouwmeester|pixelens.com