Being informed that you are elected to the UFC Hall Of Fame is as surreal as it gets.
To have my legacy preserved and my accomplishments enshrined among the forerunners and game changers in mixed martial arts is a truly prestigious honor.
With the second anniversary of my HOF coronation around the corner, I thought it’d be apropos to reflect on the powerful emotions I had to process upon learning of my induction.
Stage One: Fulfilment
After I got off the phone with Dana, I am itching to say the news took me by surprise, but I have to admit I never felt more fulfilled.
For a tough-nosed scrawny middle-schooler, there was nothing I could hang my hat on besides my work ethic. Every match I fought was a chance to validate my hard work and preparation. If hard work truly pays off, then I expected no less than victory.
There is no greater fulfilment in an athlete’s career than earning his/her place in the HOF. This has to be the greatest victory for all the hard work and sacrifice.
Stage Two: Appreciation
Then, I stop to think for a moment, and an overwhelming sense of appreciation hits me. This isn’t about me anymore.
I remember the missed birthdays or the family gatherings that got postponed because I was either fighting or in camp preparing for one.
I appreciate my training partners who, though sore from their own matches and camps, volunteered to put me through reps and get me ready.
I salute the coaches who sacrificed sleep and family time to train and travel around the world with me.
My HOF induction is the culmination of over a decade worth of contributions from everyone else –family, friends and colleagues – all of whom have sacrificed and worked hard to see my dreams fulfilled.
Stage Three: Shock And Surprise
No sooner than when the nostalgia and memories fade do both shock and surprise begin to take over.
After years away from the UFC, and with me being on this other side of the planet living and working in Asia, Dana and I lost touch and we haven’t spoken much since.
What Dana and I accomplished in the UFC will always stay with me. We travelled to shows all over the globe; Belfast to Cologne, Canada to China. Did press tours together. Commercial, media, PR, TV spots, interviews, the whole nine yards. Together, we rehabilitated the image of MMA and brought a once fledging sport that was unfairly stigmatized to the mainstream.
On the phone, we sounded just like old buddies catching up after a short break. I congratulated him on the success of the UFC and likewise he informed me that I was going into the HOF.
It was both a pleasant surprise and a shocker as I honestly did not expect to hear from Dana. Or better yet, learn that I was going to be inducted into the HOF.
Stage Four: Relief
After over a decade of hard work and sacrifice, it is such a relief to finally have your accomplishments recognized.
I’ve been mostly modest about my professional MMA career but I’d be lying if I say I didn’t think about my place in the UFC HOF at least once since my retirement.
Maybe my reserved persona, combined with a fight style that’s the antithesis of glamor, have clouded a remarkably consistent career. At the very least, it should have merited an induction sooner, but what little bit of indignation I have at being overlooked is now gone, replaced instead by a sense of relief.
Stage Five: Anxiety
Now that I’m in, being inducted is the easy part. The most nerve wrecking part follows immediately after – my speech. The mere thought of going up on stage in front of so many people is giving me a major bout of anxiety.
Just before my mind turns to dread, I realize I had already promised a friend to be at his wedding down in the Dominican the same week.
The plan is to fly back to the US from Singapore, then proceed to the Dominican Republic and stay for the wedding. Unfortunately with the HOF ceremony on the next day, I won’t be able to return to Vegas in time for my induction.
A televised recorded message will have to do. I can only trust and thank my fans and supporters from afar.
Stage Six: Gratitude
Where would athletes be without our fans? I am beyond grateful for the support of my fans, whose pleas and campaigns for my HOF consideration I believe ultimately moved the UFC brass to induct me.
From expectation to gratitude, I am thankful for my friends, family, colleagues and fans.
This moment belongs to you all.