I was fortunate enough to walk through the doors of Lions Den MMA, Exeter, in the South West of the UK over a decade ago where I soon met my coach, close friend and mentor Dave Matthews who has offered guidance support in every direction life has taken me.
Dave has given me support over the years in many forms and has never let me down once. I know I’m not the only person who can make that statement. Taking tough defeats in the sport and going on a 3 fight skid early in my career which mentally and physically battered me, Dave was there to not only pick up the pieces but to build me into a stronger version of myself.
Few know, but during the 3 fight skid one opponent I lost to was Joe Orrey, the fight went to decision and the more experienced Orrey got his hand raised. I spent the whole fight camp in California training with team alpha male, 3 months total away from the UK.
During this time I would regularly chat to my Mum via Facebook to check up on her and tell her about my trip, she had been my number one support and had gone to great lengths to make sure was doing ok. During the trip, she had informed me that the internet was being replaced and if I don’t hear from her not to worry so totally oblivious to the reality of what she was really telling me I agreed and carried on the final 3 weeks of my trip.
One week out from the fight. it was time to fly home and with my mum's internet being down I hadn’t been able to update her, so I was eager to get home and tell her all about it and finish my fight camp with my home team Lion's den.
I soon landed at Heathrow and Dave had driven 200 miles to collect me, this wasn’t the first time he had done this. Something was different this time though, on the way back he just seemed preoccupied. Soon I would find out why.
Dave pulled into the closest service station and bought me a coffee, black with no sugar as I was cutting weight for my fight in 5 days time. As we both sat down he said he had some bad news to tell me, my heart sank I knew something was seriously wrong. The words seemed to come out of his mouth in slow motion: “Your mum has cancer, and it's bad”
This information hit me like a truck, my mother had decided to keep her struggles and fight for her life from me to protect me from worry and prevent me flying home early and miss my fight. Dave informed me she had already had one operation but required one more and said he fully supports if I wish to back out of the fight. All I could think about is how hard my mum was currently fighting and that she had always supported my dreams and been proud of me win or lose, so in a way, I felt I had to make the walk for her.
I went into the fight physically prepared and despite the mental stress of my personal life that wasn’t the reason for the outcome, it was purely the better man winning on the night.
The loss hurt, however more importantly I couldn’t wait to get home and support my mother through the real fight. She would push through tough chemo sessions, and another huge operation to finally get the all-clear, I have honestly never met anyone as strong and resilient as my mum.
This was a tough time in my life but my mum's strength gave me the drive to push forward and keep fighting despite getting knocked down and losing. Remember “Losing is not the same as being defeated”. She has been a huge support and inspiration in my life, and when she was busy fighting for her own life the one person who was always there for me to encourage me and lift my spirits was Dave, and I’m forever grateful.
Dave Matthews runs LD Fighters in Exeter in the South West of the UK, you can follow LD fighters on Instagram here 👇🏼
You can catch up with my Instagram here 👇🏼
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