With two weeks left of training, my foot is currently resting on the throttle, not quite off it, but not pressed down on it, either. It's a balancing act and one I am now used to. We are currently in the peaking phase of training, and that means I am in and out of the gym on a daily basis, but not to the point where I'm likely to collapse in exhaustion at the end of a session. The aim is to keep my body ticking over, but to not overdo it or peak too soon. I have to know my limits and prepare myself to peak at the right time – ideally, October 1st, the night I defend my UFC world bantamweight title against Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson, live on Versus.
I'm no longer doing those long, gruelling and grimey two-hour workouts like I've done in the past. Instead, I'll warm up, do five or six rounds of sparring with alternating sparring partners, and then do two rounds of shadowboxing to finish off the session. That will keep me invigorated and fresh, but won't cause me to break down or peak too early.
I'm already in fighting shape at this stage. I could do five rounds tomorrow if it was asked of me. The emphasis at this juncture is purely on sharpness, timing and getting the game plan prepared to the point where it becomes second nature to me once I step inside that Octagon.
Training is a mixed bag for me, in the same way I'm sure it is for many other professional fighters. Some days are very enjoyable, but others are horrible and long and painful. Sometimes the gym is the last place on Earth you want to be. Your body hurts, your mind is exhausted and yet you've got to drag yourself down to the gym to go through it all over again.
Also, if you train right, it should never really be easy or enjoyable. You should never feel as though you are winning in training. If you are training and sparring with the right people on a daily basis, you should grow accustomed to that feeling of turning up to the gym having had your butt whupped the day before. The key is to take those experiences and rebound and learn from them.
Ultimately, although bad days come and go, more often than not I am happy to be in the gym. I love the feeling of improving. There is no more satisfying feeling for a professional fighter.
This is, after all, where I want to be in my life right now. I live my life for this sport and have dedicated every ounce of energy, time and effort towards becoming a success as a mixed martial artist. I have put all of my eggs into one basket and I simply don't have anything else to turn to. This is me. I didn't finish college and go get a four-year degree like a lot of other people did. I didn't set myself up with other options that I can then pursue if my fighting career didn't work out. Instead, I did the opposite and quite college to dedicate myself to a dream I had of becoming a professional athlete. I had no idea whether it was going to work or whether I'd end up regretting my choice, but I felt it was just something that had to be done.
At some point we all have big decisions to make. We reach a crossroads in our lives and are forced to choose to either go left or right. I'm very much an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and there is no way I could multi-task or spread myself thin. If I am going to try my hand at something, I will do so to the fullest of my ability. If I chose to turn left and stick with school, I would have quit MMA on the spot and dedicated all my energy to getting the right qualifications and perhaps becoming a firefighter or personal trainer. It worked the same way when I headed right and chose mixed martial arts, too.
I dropped everything else in my life at that time to become a success in mixed martial arts. I didn't want to look back on that decision and have any regrets, so I sacrificed relationships, friendships and family to make my way in this sport. My family live six hours away and it's never easy to visit them while training. I also sacrificed vital commodities like money and a house on the way up. While most guys my age were trying to put foundations down and build for the future, I was taking a chance on a sport and profession that was still relatively new.
All in all, though, I am happy with the sacrifices I made and also the decision I made as a 19-year-old to leave college and take a punt on a dream I had. That is all it ever was. Nobody told me I was any good at mixed martial arts, and nobody ever complimented me on my athletic ability. Nobody saw it coming. I simply had a dream that one day I'd become an athlete and UFC world champion. This is now all I do and all I think about on a daily basis. Nothing else consumes my life like mixed martial arts does. The dream is now happening...
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