Shah Bobonis Blog: The Grind

Shah Bobonis picks up the unanimous decision win over Cornelius Godfrey at XFC 20 LIVE on AXStv.

More and more I’m hearing the term “The Grind” used by fighters. Some guys use the term to refer to their training schedule, others to the mental stress of a fight camp; really the term is being used to encompass every obstacle an athlete must deal with in his journey for success.

Recently I have come in contact with friends coming to a cross roads in their fighting careers and life. I wanted to write a little something to maybe steer young athletes into making the right decision for them.

Every warrior has their own path. “The Grind” can push us towards or away from our athletic dreams; just be sure of the choices you make because time is of the essence in an athletic career.

My senior year of high school I was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and it might have been one of the worst days of my life. I felt I should have been drafted much earlier than I was and the disappointment mentally broke my desire to excel at the sport from that day on.

At the time I didn’t know it but now looking back having much more experience in life and having witnessed mental breaks in many avenues of life, I definitely broke.

All I was bread for from an early age was to be a professional baseball player; the hours of practice were countless. I felt I had built a resume that was comparable to many pitchers that had been drafted in the first 15 rounds of the draft the year before.

In my mind I was going to sign a minor league contract and in a few short seasons I’d be pitching in the show. Day of the draft came, I was drafted very late and the scout who drafted me said he wanted to see how I did in junior college baseball; that I would have been drafted higher but being a 5-foot-8-inch pitcher he needed to make sure I hadn’t reached my “talent ceiling”.

Pitchers who were 6-foot-4-inches and had similar ability in that year’s draft were signing contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was crushed and I let this one event ruin a lifetime of training.

I continued playing baseball but I was never the same, the grind broke me. For years after I hung up the spikes I had vivid dreams I was pitching, so real I could smell the freshly cut grass and distinctly feel the seams of a baseball under my finger tips.

It really did haunt me for a while. But I moved on and started domesticating myself and becoming a productive member of society. Before I knew it I was engaged, managing a restaurant and looking to buy a house.

Thank god I didn’t. This was around ’07 before the housing crash. All the while going to this MMA gym called the Freestyle Fighting Academy, just to have fun and stay in shape.

Then one day Master David Avellan asked me if I would be interested in taking a professional fight. I gave it some thought and even though I was only training about three days a week due to my work schedule I decided to do it.

Next thing I know I’m in Costa Rica getting ready to fight on the top level of a parking garage. I was thinking to myself the entire time I was warming up how stupid I was for letting someone talk me into getting into a ring with a man who wants to kill me for money.

“I went to college I don’t need this in my life” I kept repeating in my head. To make matters worse, I walked out to the ring and when I stepped in I look down at the canvas I see huge blood stains. At that point I almost started to hyper ventilate but it was too late to back out.

The fight only lasted 19 seconds and I won by KO and from that point forward I knew that I wanted another chance to be a professional athlete. It was maybe a week later Master Marcos Avellan had a lunch with a few of the guys from the gym selling the idea of quitting our jobs and making money in the martial arts.

Everyone who knows Master Marcos knows he is a great salesmen/public speaker. Needless to say I was on board. Now breaking the news of a new life plan to the woman I was engaged to wasn’t addressed in the speech at lunch with Master Marcos.

So what I was proposing to her was me leaving a job where people in my position were making close to six figures within five years, putting plans of a wedding, buying house and kids on hold so that I can work at a gym and fight professionally.

That did not go over well to say the very least. Finally, she told me “it’s me or your dream”, so we went our separate ways. I tell this story not to expose women for the evil creatures that they really are but to give an example of what this fight grind is going to put in your path as an up and coming fighter.

Other examples include: Being dead broke training for a fight for six weeks and then the paycheck bouncing (never getting paid), injuries that change your body for the rest of your life, losing, cutting weight and the temptation of groupies (I’m still having a hard time with this one).

It took one life event to mentally break me from my goal to be a professional baseball player when I was younger. In comparison, I have been through ten times the trials and tribulations as a fighter but the second time around I wasn’t going to let “what if’s “haunt me in my dreams.

Point being, young fighters if you have a dream or a passion let nothing at all stand in your way. You got to want it more than anything. There are times in life and in the cage you’re going to think you have nothing left but if you want to win at both you just have to keep pushing forward.

Hope this helps anyone thinking about giving up on a dream.

Shah Bobonis is a professional mixed martial arts fighter from Miami, now living in Savannah, Ga., who competes at bantamweight and is currently under contract with Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC). Follow Shah on Twitter at @shahbobonis and on Facebook at Facebook.com/shah.bobonis.

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