Nick Denis – Ninja of Love Blog: …And Then What Happened?


I would like to think that I don’t have an ego. Sometimes though, I think it might just be so big that it can’t be hurt.

I really believe in living life. I always tell people, quite casually, “follow your heart.” I don’t just say it for the sake of having words come out of my mouth, it is something that I truly believe in and do. I couldn’t imagine living my life and ignoring my true feelings and desires, just for the sake of living a ‘rational’ and safe lifestyle. That is why I quit my Ph.D. in biochemistry to move to Montreal, train full-time and make my way to the UFC.

To me, it was the only available option. What other choice did I have? To graduate, get a research job, work in a lab and never really dedicate myself completely to my passion and dream? That just doesn’t make sense. You know, my girlfriend put it perfectly. I will put my own twist on it. Imagine going on a vacation to a far off land that you’ve been planning for all of your life. You get there, and for one reason or another, you don’t get to see or experience something that you really wanted to do. You go back home, and tell yourself ‘next time…’ We all know there is no next time, usually. Now, imagine if that was the only vacation you ever took your entire life. How horrible would that be? The one trip you have ever taken, and you didn’t get to experience what you wanted to. What a waste. Now, imagine that trip was your life. Imagine never doing the things you wanted to do. Whether it is a career choice, a random hobby, a personal goal, a trip, whatever. There is always a reason NOT to do something; timing isn’t right, money, risks, doubts, etc. You can rationalize any decision you want, but rationality can’t speak to your dreams and to happiness. You can’t rationalize your way to happiness.

SO, with all that rambling, I am trying to say that I follow my heart. In doing so, I accomplished one of my goals. I made it to the UFC, signed a 5 fight contract, made an amazing debut, some said one of the best debuts in the UFC ever, and had a great second fight that I am very proud of, but ended up breaking my orbital bone and ultimately losing by submission with a second left in the round.

I am going to hold those moments close to me, because they will be as far as my dream goes. I have decided to bow out of MMA.

After my first loss, a devastating knockout where Marlon Sandro dribbled my head on the canvas like a basketball, I did lots of research on concussions. As a graduate student at the university of Ottawa, I had access to all peer reviewed scientific journals. No surprise to find that concussions = bad. However, I found something that had never occurred to me. Sub-concussive trauma. Basically, a blow to the head that doesn’t lead to a concussion. When it happens, you feel fine, and continue on. Maybe you feel like you just had a little brain scramble, nothing big. Those who spar, know what I am talking about. However these add up. They accumulate, from training session to training session, year after year. The research papers found that men who never had an actual concussion, rather only sub-concussive trauma, (they used football/hockey players) when brain scans were administered to them (can’t remember if it was mri or ct), their brain morphology was decayed like that of individuals with later stages of neurodegenerative disorders.

I told myself that if I suffered one more concussion, whether it was in training, in a fight, or just slipped and fell outside on ice, that I was going to be done fighting. Well, over 3 years later, and I haven’t suffered a concussion. I told my best friend Nick, while climbing a never ending mountain in Petra a few months ago, before I made my decision to retire, that I hope one day I will get knocked out again. Funny, I know, but it would give me a sign of a definitive concussion. I would know for sure, decisively, and be able to follow my own rule and retire. But what if I never do get knocked out again? What if for the next decade I keep training hard and competing. I get in ‘wars’ and receive tons and tons of sub-concussive blows. Wouldn’t that be orders of magnitude worse than one concussion?

In the last couple years, and especially in the last few months leading up to my May 5th fight, while sparring I would notice that when I got hit, it would affect me more and more. When I first started sparring I would run through punches unaffected. Not only that, but now training at Tristar, I am literally training with the world’s best. We are all training at the highest level, all for the same reasons. Could I fight in the UFC, against the best fighters in our solar system, literally trained killers, without sparring in training? Not really, so what was I to do? I have made the decision to retire.

Some might judge, but that is fine. Maybe I have already suffered brain injury, maybe I never would have. That is the problem with the brain. You can’t really see the injury, it will take years and decades to manifest itself. When you get rocked in sparring, you shake your head and regain your composure, and within 10 seconds say ‘ok, I’m good let’s keep going.’ But are you actually ok? You are no longer dizzy, true, but do you have any idea what physical trauma your brain has just experienced? I have told this to a few people before. I make the analogy of my love for MMA as being a drug addict – I know that it isn’t healthy for me, but holy fuck do I love it. I love MMA, and I have loved my experience with the UFC, Sengoku, and every other promotion along the way, but I am a human being first. I don’t define myself by my work, and nor should you. I am a human being, and I was born with only one brain, and I want to take care of it so that I will recognize the ones I love when I get older.

The decision wasn’t that hard to make either. Yes, I am deciding to give up a passion of mine. A passion that I have sacrified MANY friends and relationships along the way for. Instead of going out at night, or to parties or what not, I trained or stayed in to make sure I got enough sleep and healthy food for the next day of training. But in the end I know I will find other passions. I already have plans to build an earth sheltered cordwood home, it has been something I have been obsessing about lately. Which is good, since I have an obsessive personality. I have a big question mark as to what I will do for work now, as I don’t really have much desire to work in a lab research setting, but I will figure something out.

I would like to thank some people. I’d like to thank everyone at Ronin MMA. My first MMA coach, Ben Meireles. The instructors at Ronin over the years, Mark Loft, Sean Ragnitz, Phil and Karim, Felipe Heidrich, Jamie Helmer and of course my sexy friendly friend Wade Shanley for being with me all along the way. There are too many training partners over the years at Ronin, but you guys are awesomeness and know who you are. Nabil ‘the thrill’ for being a badass training partner, all the promoters that helped me out over the years, Ken Kupsch, Alex Caporicci, Nick Castiglia and Motoko. Robin Black for getting me signed to the UFC of course, and always looking out for me. Everyone at the UFC for sure, these guys are super professional, helpful and just generally great. Matt Veal for wearing beautiful banana hammocks. Bobby BKB for having a man crush on me ;). Dan Allaston, and new moon tattoo in Ottawa for sponsoring me from day one. My Montreal family, Firas Zahabi, Howard Grant, Kru Ash, Eric O’Keefe – these guys deserve all the praise they get and more. All my training partners from Tristar and Grant Brothers boxing, these guys are all killers and deserve to be on the biggest stage in the world. Of course I have to thank my family for accepting my fighter lifestyle (UG/OG shout out) and supporting my decisions. My brother Joe and sister Kim for following me around the world and watching me fight live, often loudly and drunkenly. Jen for supporting me and a pre-thank you for making me fat with all your yummy cakes and desserts! Of course to all the fans for supporting me, win or lose, especially in loss, that has been really special. Finally, a re-thanks to Wade Shanley, for being my friend along the way, and looking out for me and always supplying the grease!

I am sure I missed 100’s of people, but I don’t take anything for granted, ever, and appreciate everything big and small that was done for me over the years.

With all that said, I have some serious things to face. Like, without the UFC, is there a point to my twitter account? Stay tuned for my ninja romance book series and movies!

Peace out xoxoxo <3 <3 <3 <3

16 Responses to “ Nick Denis – Ninja of Love Blog: …And Then What Happened? ”

  1. Bobby Karimi says:


    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Bobby Karimi says:

    In all seriousness, Nick is and has always been one of my favourite fighters. I’m sad to see retire, but happy that he chooses to do so on his own terms and for reasons that are smart and important.

    All the best Nick!

    I’ll always have man crush on the Ninja of Love! ;)

    Well-loved! Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. Tank Neal says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated... Thumb up 5 Thumb down 27

  4. Jamie Locke says:

    Sad story, but these are the words of a smart guy.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  5. Kid Lightning says:


    Well-loved! Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. I had the pleasure of sitting cageside at Nick’s UFC debut in Nashville. It was my first time with UFC creds.

    That KO is something that I will never forget.

    From that KO, to the Mamalis choke slam, to his Sengoku debut, to his blogs on the site, I would like to thank Nick Denis on behalf of Top MMA News for all that he has done in mixed martial arts.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  7. Robin Black says:

    Proud of you Nick. Lots of amazing adventures ahead for ya.

    Working with you is the greatest privilege.

    Love you man.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  8. CM says:

    Best of luck in the future Nick! You had an awesome career & did Canada proud.

    I do blame you & your article for my shawarma addiction though!

    Well-loved! Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  9. Wade says:

    A sad day for MMA but I am happy to have been a part of it from begining to end.

    Looking forward to the next adventure Nick!

    Well-loved! Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. Mike Davis says:

    sad to lose a great fighter but you gotta look after yourself. Best wishes in your next journey Nick, had a amazing run.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. harry balls says:

    The only time I got to see him fight was the Mamalis tilt. How fucking awesome was that fight? Whatever this dude winds up doing , he’ll be good at. Hope the blog stays up.
    And big ups to New Moon. Dan did my sleeve.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  12. Steve hill says:

    Best of luck in whatever path you choose …..

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. jay says:

    Nick will always be a warrior in, and out of the ring. What this man has accomplished ALREADY in his life,, is amazing. Tank Neal,, let me refraze this for your small litle mind. Nick has a massive wealth of knoledge, has accomplished equally as much in school as he has in his mma carrer,, and has a long life ahead of him which will require his brain to be 100 (well 96%)%. See Nick Denis is a made man. SHOW SOME FUCKIN RESPECT.
    Love ya Nick. The years we trained, your first fight, to my still naging shoulder injury you left me with…Best of luck,, and keep the beard its bad ass. wait till you see our pic

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Jerobe says:

    Finally a fighter who is intelligent enough to realize that his health is the most important thing in life. Thanks for the great fights Nick. You are a true inspiration to all Canadian MMA fighters. I really hope other MMA fighters in the Country read your article and sit down and seriously think of the health risks they are facing when they decide to keep fighting after having multiple concussions.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. taosu says:

    Fuck you Nick Denis….

    …..for breaking my heart!

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Mr. Creosote says:

    I found this while looking for details of Nick’s next fight.

    Thanks, Nick, for the exciting fights you gave MMA fans and kudos for once again following your heart.

    You should keep your twitter account for when Ninja of Love action figures hit it big.

    All the best in 2013

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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