Totowa MMA: A look inside NJ United Mixed Martial Arts Academy

The Danger of Having an Un-Crushed Soul as a Fighter

The Toughman boxing contests of yesteryear did not always showcase great technical skill. However, they certainly revealed what fighters were made of after victory or defeat.

The Toughman boxing contests of yesteryear did not always showcase great technical skill. However, they certainly revealed what fighters were made of after victory or defeat.

In the early 2000’s, before beginning any martial arts training, I was a fan of Toughman boxing contests on TV. The draw of these bouts was their human-interest factor: two non-professional fighters would don headgear and 16oz gloves, meet in the ring, and slug it out for three one-minute rounds. This premise was ridiculous but appealing, and the entire show was a soap-opera that revolved around pride and broken egos. But championship-level martial arts are different; champions are champions partially because they embrace loss and defeat as a lifestyle. This is especially true of MMA, as there will always be some specialist who is several steps beyond you in at least one aspect.

In my previous blog, I noted how the clichéd but invaluable principle of “Cry in the dojo, laugh on the battlefield” implied training hard AND smart, which held true for Dominick Cruz’s lifestyle and accomplishments. But on the other side of the coin, it’s also a principle that Ronda Rousey ignored in her recent and often-discussed fight against Holly Holm. Sure, Rousey trained hard, but her strategy against Holm cannot be described as smart by any means. She struck with and overly aggressed against a counterpunching, professional boxer, which led to her one-sided defeat, which led to the breaking of her ego, which led to an odd existential crisis of sorts. This led to her going AWOL for about a month as journalists had a field day wondering what was going on in her head. Rousey’s sister Maria Burns-Ortis stated that the loss crushed her sister’s soul, and that “[W]e expected Ronda to win. Just like we always do. Just like we always will. But she didn’t.”


Rousey is a great fighter, but she now faces a crossroads where her loss can either make her greater or end her career.

At the risk of sounding cold, I’ll admit that this whole situation of Rousey’s doesn’t garner any sympathy from me. Rousey’s ‘soul crushing’ disillusionment is what I and many other martial artists experience on a daily or weekly basis. We’re able to keep going because we know how to rebuild ourselves after each crushing, so therefore getting re-crushed really isn’t all that bad. True, if you’re a dedicated and champion-caliber athlete, then you’ll interpret your losses differently than the average fellow does. But you will suffer disappointment rather than disillusionment, and the former is far, far easier to deal with than the latter.


The Gable vs. Owings matchup form 1970 is a legendary display of wrestling technique, incredible endurance, and heart.

Legendary wrestler Dan Gable owns a near-perfect record of 181-1, having lost the final match of his collegiate wrestling career and describing it as “like a death in the family.” But I’ll never put Rousey and Gable in the same boat. His loss against dark horse Larry Owings was by a razor thin margin and a miniscule tactical error (you can watch their match here). And of course, Dan Gable is Dan Gable, so he soon bounced back from it stronger than before. However, Rousey’s loss was due to approximately six minutes of consistently bad strategy. The old cliché of “Insanity means doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” applies perfectly to Rousey vs. Holm, and there’s already plenty of internet-debate out there regarding whether or not Rousey has learned a transformative lesson. I think she has, although what she’ll do with that knowledge remains to be seen.

There’s really no end to the coulda’-woulda’-shoulda’ of post-fight analysis. But it is very dangerous to fight while possessing a soul that has yet to be crushed and remade several times. After all, there’s a reason why those old samurai swords hold their mystique – their steel was carefully refined and folded over upon itself to create thousands of layers of enduring toughness and beauty.


JJ Mike



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