When I step into the #Bellator cage on January 21 it, will be the first time I will feel fully at peace with my life, my training, and my future. But in order to understand why I haven't been in that mindset before you need to know a little about where I came from.
As a child I lived on the streets. My mom and I traveled from shelter to shelter and ate regularly at soup kitchens throughout San Diego county. It was there that I met Katie, a woman who volunteered in the soup kitchens, who would later adopt me when the state threatened to take me from my birth mom.
She taught me how to be a good man, how to live a life that would serve God, and instilled self respect and discipline that I still live by today.
She was a huge competitor and helped me fall in love with sports — she even bought me my first pair of wrestling shoes. She was my biggest supporter.
But like most teens, I rebelled and left her home in San Diego and moved to St. Louis, MO, where I refused to speak to her and started falling in with bad people. I knew she wouldn't approve, and I didn't want to hear the disappointment in her voice, so I cut her out of my life. Then I had a brush with death, I nearly overdosed, but by the grace of God I survived. I immediately reached out to Katie again and made plans to come home to San Diego.
That never happened. Katie passed away suddenly before I could come home. I was devastated, but I knew that in order to honor her memory, and life, I had to do something with mine.
Now, flash forward to today. I'm working my ass off to make it in MMA (something I know without a doubt she would support) I have also dedicated my life to living drug free.
But I've made some mistakes in my career. It hasn't been the kind of beginning that I had hoped for. I started my pro career and basically went right into Bellator. And, unfortunately, due to unforeseen stresses in my life (and being paired with two phenomenal opponents), I lost.
I had to take some time to reevaluate my approach at the game, my training camps, and even my life. Now, I am with a new camp — training at RVCA with Bryce Krause and Jason Parillo.
I am settled more to life here now too. When I fought previously, I was in the middle of moving cross country, testing out new gyms in the area, and finding a permanent place to live. All of these things should not be happening in a normal fight camp — let alone a fight camp for one of the biggest promotions in the world.
Now I have a real home, family here, and a support team fitting of a high-level athlete. I'm determined to prove this time around that I am destined for the spotlight, and will make this fight my redemption.
Watch me take on Jacob Rosales on the preliminary portion of #Bellator170 which will stream live on Bellator.com and Spike TV.
Photos by Amy Kaplan