MMA Opinion: Getting A Black Belt (and a Gold One) in Blue Collar

Black Belt

It may surprise the reader that not everyone agrees that being in a state of flow is the only way to perform optimally. This is not the place for that philosophical debate. You can feel free to look up current thought on such things from scientists like Andrew Huberman and his colleagues. It is introduced here to make a more specific point. When do you know when you are doing the best you can at something? When do you know if you are successful at an endeavor? If you ask Jim Miller, he will tell you he has yet to have what he might deem a perfect fight. If you ask new champ Glover Teixeira he will tell you the belt is not an end of his story, but one of many milestones.

These two men have fought recently and both not only accomplished something amazing individually, but also reminded us that martial arts has at its core a need for the development of patience and hard work. Everyone knows those people in their lives who seem to be good at whatever they do. The person who has a good ear in music, the person who thinks math is fun, even down to the schoolyard and the kid who is never it when playing tag. But some people – regardless of natural ability – choose to embrace the hard work associated with success. These are clichés to be sure, but this is martial arts we are talking about. It is the arena where we ponder such things.

Jim Miller recently (albeit relatively quietly) broke a whole boatload of records. Before listing these, remember that there is almost an event every weekend with anywhere from eight to a dozen fights on a card and there has been for a couple of decades some Miller numbers: most UFC appearances (38), most lightweight fights (36), most lightweight fight time (5:51:47), third most UFC victories (21), most lightweight victories (19), second most lightweight stoppages (12), his 10 submission wins tie Royce Gracie for third and are only bested by current champ Charles Oliveira (a lesson himself in dogged determination and patience) and Demian Maia, but his 9 lightweight submissions are best in the division. We could go on – most submission attempts, tied with Nate Diaz for third most bonuses, etc. Yet – and what an important 'yet' it is – he still says he has not fought what he deems the perfect fight.

He is candid about having missed his best window for a championship. But still, he has a very clear unattained goal. Instead of a flash knockout, a payday, a boxing match with a Youtuber or former champ, he has his head down in that old-fashioned, blue-collar grind seeking something he can accomplish in his mind. More impressive considering in this 38th outing he landed a perfect shot on Erick Gonzales that crumpled him like a heavy jacket that fell off of a hanger in the closet. Still though, more to do for Jim.

Glover Teixeira

chumley.barstoolsports.comChris Unger. Getty Images.

With similar grit and patience looking at newly crowned champ, Glover Teixeira it is awe-inspiring – and just plain inspiring too – to consider he has fought for twenty years. In a sport where so many athletes rocket and plummet, there is the slow steady burn of hard work and determination in the champ. It would be a challenge to think of a pretty or flashy victory from Teixeira. No, it is more of that thing we see old carpenters and carpet-layers do. Yes, MMA has its mythical heroes who seem larger than life, but Teixeira and Miller are just about life-sized. But they work. They keep working. They win. They lose. They don't quit. Then they win again.

Teixeira talked about being inspired by the older guys like Daniel Cormier who kept grinding. He still wants to do more. Jim Miller said he wants to be the only guy who will have fought at UFC 100, UFC 200, and UFC 300. It would be stupid to doubt he can reach that. Like many people in many areas of life, there is an elusive 'best' goal. Whether it be a perfect great song for a musician, a beautiful painting for an artist, or even a well laid- out kitchen for a contractor, success and how to define it can be tough to pin down. But without question, success is not always seen in brief flashes of brilliance. It can be and is also seen in tenacity.

No one ever talks about 38th hurrahs – only last ones. And few ever put top-control and effective ground and pound in highlight videos - yet it just won the belt. MMA fans love style points. But it behooves us to not miss the lessons of deserving a Black Belt for a lifetime of Blue Collar effort.

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