The most famous line from the movie Fight Club is “The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.”

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As a currently retired professional fighter, I guess these rules don’t really apply to me?

Over the years, I’ve gotten tons of questions related to my career as a UFC fighter. 

Anything from “Have you ever passed out in the steam room?” to “What happens if you need to take a dump while in the cage?”, I’ve heard them all.

Can’t wait for the day I do a Reddit AMA. That should be fun.

In the meantime, here are three uncomfortable truths about being a pro fighter that no one really talks about.

All or nothing

A fighter’s life is an emotional roller coaster.

The highs are amazing but fleeting. And hitting the lows can become a pit of despair if you’re not careful.

There’s a feeling of desperation before the fight and afterward, it’s almost melancholic and depressing.

During fight week, you’re mentally locked in. Forget everything and everyone. It’s all or nothing. It’s either you or your opponent.

You fly across the country and lose as much as 10 percent of your body weight. Then there’s the training, nutrition, media, press conferences, weigh-ins, etc.

Depending on the outcome of your match, you could either leave nursing a sore thumb or end up with stitches and fractures. 

Maybe it’s 15 seconds or maybe it’s 15 minutes. But once the fight is over, it’s all over. 

The screaming fans, the pounding of your heartbeat, the diets, the intense workouts of the past days, weeks and months – all gone in an instant.

Before you know it, the UFC has packed up and they’re on to the next. New state, new town, new show.

Whatever structure that kept you solid, locked in and focused is dismantled. 

Trust me, win or lose, you’ll leave the cage hurting physically and emotionally.

I’ve grown so accustomed to the boom-and-bust nature of this life that it’s almost a binary part of my configuration – I’m either on or off

And honestly, I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

Don’t discount luck

If working hard was all it took to become successful, there would have been a lot of UFC Champions.

This business is nose in the dirt, hard work. 

Working hard is literally a default just to survive as a professional fighter. 

Whether they were more physically gifted or better athletically, I never wanted anyone to outwork me.

Seeking to become the most conditioned athlete, I invested years of my life in nutrition and training.

Judging by my career, one can reasonably conclude that my efforts paid off. 

In my 13-year fight career, I won the UFC Middleweight Championship, fought on four continents and competed in two weight classes.

Despite my accomplishments, I am under no illusion that luck played an important and sometimes critical role.

As a fighter, you’re just one freak injury or training accident away from losing your pecking order in the food chain. 

You have to fight and keep on fighting to earn your place. And I’m pretty sure there were lucky breaks that fell my way.

There are so many variables that it’s hard to objectively define a fighter’s legacy. 

When you speak about a sport that has grown men throwing haymakers in a cage, anything can happen. A single well-timed punch can nullify all advantages in speed, power or technique.

But this complexity and intriguing randomness are almost true of every sport and even life sometimes.

We can’t control the what-ifs, but that doesn’t mean luck doesn’t exist.

As they say, everyone has a fighter’s chance.

Finding freedom locked in a cage

Looking back on my peers, I noticed something ironic about fighters.

We love the freedom that this sport gives us. But some of the most important moments of our lives are spent inside a cage.

Fighters get to decide how they want to train, eat or sleep. Naturally, this freedom comes with a price. 

If you don’t have a proper regimen in place and a team to support you, it’s unlikely you’ll go far in this business.

You have that freedom of hanging out with whomever you want and not be chained to a desk for eight hours. 

Many fighters travel and live overseas to train, spending time in different locales for months at a time, with no restrictions. 

Even so, you’re never fully in vacation mode. There’s always the thought of that looming fight keeping you on your toes. 

Getting your hand raised makes everything worth it. And suddenly there is meaning to your day-to-day struggles.

There’s something uplifting about knowing you just beat somebody who was training specifically for you. 

It’s an incredible process of self-discovery and I learned a lot about myself with each fight.

I wouldn’t trade this freedom for anything.