On May 29, 2016, I lost for the first time in my professional career via a split decision that saw my rival, Bryan Caraway, take away the victory. After the fight, I got up and I chucked my mouthpiece. I chucked it because I felt like I had the world by the nuts, and I blew it. I asked for this big push, for this opportunity. I asked for everything.
I put in so much effort in terms of the training, and after such a dominant first round, the way I had that adrenaline dump, especially in my arms… it felt like I was swinging two cinder blocks around.
It was pretty disheartening.
I couldn’t keep my hands up by my face, and although my feet were moving well, I didn’t want to keep running away and not engaging in the fight. I just told myself, “You’ve got to try to stay in this.”
After that first round, my arms got heavier. After the second round, my arms are even heavier. I made two critical mistakes by trying to get too fancy. I didn’t hear my coaches yelling, but I know they were. I don’t remember hearing anything at all, to be honest.
All I could think when the fight was over was that I’d had a great first round — I’d almost pulled it off. I was just so disappointed that I had everything I ever wanted and could ask for with that fight, and I came up short. I know I wasn’t blown out or beaten up. It was more about what I wasn’t able to do or what I didn’t do than anything else.
I’ve got to credit Bryan for his toughness and being able to capitalize on my mistakes and my over-eagerness to try to entertain too much, instead of doing what we’re supposed to do, which is to win.
When we were waiting for the decision, I’m clapping for him and I’m acknowledging his skill. In that moment I felt that he had won the fight. As they announced the scores, and it went to a split, I thought, maybe there’s a chance, but even if I won, I knew I would’ve hated winning like that.
The emotional dump I went through later that night… I was good for a while, but throughout the night my friends tried to help me keep it in perspective. My health, over everything else, that was the main thing, because I could’ve had the same ending as Almeida did, or like some of these other guys, ending up with a serious knockout.
I went to my afterparty with the intention of trying to have a good time and not dwell on the fight. One of my boys, he was pretty drunk, kept harping on me about me needing to do the things that he knew I was capable of doing. I kept telling him, “Bro, I get it,” but he kept at it, probably for a total of 30 minutes or more of the night. He just kept coming back and talking about it.
I was trying to walk away constantly. I kept telling him, “Hey, I’m not really in the mood to talk about this right now. I just want to enjoy the company and enjoy this down time.” But throughout the night, as I walked around, his words kind of stuck with me, “Get back on your shit. You’re too smart to let someone beat you at your own game.” The more I thought about it, the more it rubbed me the wrong way.
Later, about an hour before closing time, one of my other friends came over and then he starts talking about it — the same song and dance. It was like pulling out the right Jenga block, and in doing so it brought the tower down. It just overflowed inside me, and I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I legit broke down and just started babbling and crying inside of this club.
It was 3:30 in the morning and we were in a secluded area of the club, so there weren’t too many people around to witness it. I sat there like that for a good 20 minutes. Now, I’m a true believer that you should keep that sort of stuff behind closed doors. You don’t want to let people see you in that vulnerable state, but it got to me.
It hit me so hard. I know it’s a natural feeling, but I just didn’t think it was going to happen that night, in the club, of all places. I thought it would have been a delayed reaction, maybe a day or two down the road, but no, it had to be tonight. In the days following, I watched the fight, several times, and now that all that raw emotion was out, I could finally start looking at it with a clear head.