Don’t listen to the haters.

This is a line I keep coming back to. It was true when I was a professional UFC fighter. And it still holds true today as I’ve moved into executive and management roles within MMA.

The sport of MMA has always had detractors—people who mistakenly label the sport as barbaric and violent.

The industry had to fight misconceptions and legislation to progress and evolve into its current state of success.

Yes, I’m a proud advocate for MMA. That was essentially what I was first hired to do in the nascent days of ONE Championship building its brand in Asia.

I am grateful for what this sport has given me. And I sometimes wonder how I got here in the first place.

But there’s no time for the past because the future of fighting has never looked brighter and more exciting.

Professional fighters enjoy better career prospects today than ever before. The money is good (we’ll get to that) and the sport is growing in popularity every day.

I genuinely believe that fighting is quite possibly one of the greatest career choices one can make – provided you have the aptitude for it.

It sounds mad that I would put fighting right up there among the likes of consulting, tech, and medicine, which are all highly competitive and lucrative fields.

But, when was the last time you felt truly excited, pumped, or experienced the highest and lowest of emotions in your job?

Because that’s exactly what every fight feels like.

Where corporate America talks about engagement as a key factor to job satisfaction, MMA fighters instead are locked in by default.

It’s never a dull moment, especially when you’re the man or woman in the arena.

Yes, it’s a grind and like many other jobs, it’s tough, with plenty of low days and bad moods.

But many office jobs in comparison feel bland and unmotivating because just like a single-player video game, you’re just doing grunt work going up against artificial intelligence and bots.

That’s also why multi-player video games have such a big following. You’re actively competing against real players in real-time. 

You have to outwit, outsmart and outperform others. 

Just like in a mixed martial arts match, it’s especially exhilarating when you get the win over someone relative to your skill level.

Then, there’s the issue of actually using what you’re learning at work.

How often do we really find ourselves applying our skills and knowledge in our daily job and tasks?

If work is indeed what takes up most of our time- 40 hours a week give or take- then how much of that time are we actively applying ourselves?

This problem dates back to when I was teaching math in high school.

While learning trigonometry or calculus is somewhat useful from a critical thinking and problem-solving standpoint, how much will the kids actually absorb, or more importantly – use in their lives?

This tweet explains this conundrum so well.

And even after graduating high school and college, many of us find ourselves facing the same issue at work.

We are often left uninspired and unchallenged. Spending time working on things far below our level of capability.

Over time, office politics, bureaucracy, and red tape further sap our drive, natural curiosities, and hunger to learn and experiment.

Fortunately, I was able to avoid this for the most part by being a professional fighter.

I had some of the greatest moments of my life. Fighting in 4 different continents, going into new markets, and headlining cards around the world.

I’ve met people that inspired me and opened new paths and opportunities that have enriched me mentally, spiritually, and financially.

I will admit that towards the tail end of my career, the fight business had somewhat dulled my competitive drive.

But still, the benefits far outweighed the negatives.

Then there’s the issue of money that people constantly bring up.

If you’re not among the top-ranked fighters, you’ll never make enough money in MMA. There’s corruption in the industry. What if you get injured?

All of these could be true. But it’s also true that the fighters have a much better-earning potential today than when I was competing.

There’s no denying that the money can always be better. I’d argue that the service industry and the workers of middle America all deserve a pay raise. Doordash riders shouldn’t have to rely on tips to survive, etc. I could go on.

The point is, ONE Championship doles out multiple 50K bonuses for great performances on each card. There’s a plethora of leagues to ply your trade. PFL, Bellator, ONE, UFC, RoadFC, etc.

What was once a fringe sport is now a media rights juggernaut. 

Just look at what we managed to pull off during the ONE debut on home soil at the 1stBank Center earlier this month. 

Its phenomenal success speaks to why I’m encouraging the younger generations to consider a career in mixed martial arts.