About 10 months ago, a young guy walked into my gym asking about being a fighter. From Detroit, he sported a variety of tattoos and a whole lot of Eminem-esque attitude. He told us stories about his upbringing and the reasons he moved to Chicago, all significant factors in his life (and too personal for a blog), but needless to say they painted a difficult picture. Regardless, there was something honest and genial about this guy. Something that intimated that if you could peel off the hard exterior, there was a hard-working, honest person just looking for opportunity. So he started to work with my trainers. His innate physical talent was on display immediately. He showed the quick hips and explosion that echoed from his high school football past. His hands were powerful, if not extremely rudimentary. Still, in sparring sessions, his inexperience showed. After one particularly difficult session with my jiu-jitsu coach, I thought we might never see him again, but the next day he dutifully walked in the gym, bruised face and all. He never complained, he just worked. After a few months, he began begging all of us for his first fight. With some trepidation, my GM (his head coach) got him on a card at Bourbon Street. Unfortunately, I was going to be in London during the fight so I was relegated to watching it on an internet feed from 5000 miles away. No, this isn't a fairy tale. He lost that evening. But he lost a close decision and never once did he quit. Four months later, he took his second fight and won in the second round by a highlight reel head kick. Now, every day he walks into the gym, ready to work harder than he did that first day we met him. Except there is no attitude and even fewer excuses. His sailor vocabulary has been largely replaced by one of humility and respect. He's garnered the respect and support of the entire gym and all of us who work and train there. You see, for all the horror stories that the media likes to spit out about rogue MMA fighters, I have personally watched one grow up before my eyes. And while his path is still unclear, I cannot help but think it's also extremely bright and I believe MMA has played a large part in that journey. So here's to you Mr. Bergeron. Hopefully, someday, we can all tell this story after your first UFC fight.
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