Saturday, 4 May 2013


Last group training session of Wimp 2 Warrior - yours truly in the middle.

Wow. The past 18 months has been quite a doozy for me. I started out nice and comfortable, running a store for Games Workshop (which had been my goal for the past 6 years) in North Sydney. I’d just bought a car (a 1988 Jaguar Sovereign, no less), and other than that, I wasn’t doing very much. I was weighing in at about 138 kilos, well over-weight, even for me. I gotten into a routine get up, eat, go to work, eat, go home, eat, play my PS3/Computer for a few hours, and finally sleep. I’d been on this cycle for a couple of years now. Come the weekend I’d usually try to make it to a local bar to watch a UFC event if there was one on. All in all, I was extremely lazy and unmotivated. I was one of those guys who often thought up some activity or dream to chase, try it, found out it was too hard and wallow back into my everyday meanderings.

And then I saw it - on the old Facebooks, someone was looking for applicants for a T.V show, called Wimp 2 Warrior. The concept was to get one person, an average joe, train them for 6 months in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA, an amalgamation of fighting styles) and have them fight at the end in a semi-pro bout, with the point being made that anyone could do it.

Now, I’d been an MMA fan for a while now. Ever since my older brother had introduced it to me somewhere back around the 2003-2004 mark, I’d kept a passing interest in it, and over the past four years or so that interest turned into a deep respect and admiration for not only the sport, but for its competitors. When I saw this Wimp 2 Warrior thing, I thought to myself “Why not? I’m about as average as you can get. Probably even below average,” and sent in my application.

I was to find out later that there were somewhere in the number of over 300 applicants to the show. I didn’t rate my chances that high. So it was a great shock when I received an e-mail stating that I had been picked to attend the W2W Tryouts.

Now, I won’t got into too much detail here about the W2W journey - it’s all going to be adequately covered by the show itself, which can watch via the link at the bottom of the page (I’ll be also doing a blog for the shows official website). I went pretty well for me overall - I dropped to about 116 kilos (so 22 kilo weight cut), learned some great skills, met some amazing people in my coaches and fellow contestants, and had a fight  - a fight that I ultimately lost. Now this is where the story picks up for this blog.

I fought a bloke named Francis Cullimore. He was physically smaller than me (I’m 6’7”, and at the time of our fight about 119 kilos. He was probably a little over 6 foot, and about 104kgs), and we both went into the W2W training regime with a similar knowledge of MMA, as far as I know anyway. But the advantage he had over me, was that he had been an elite athlete most of his life. He was an ex-professional rugby player (played for the Waratahs apparently), was very strong and muscular, and quite obviously a tough resilient kind of guy. We were matched up half way through the show, and I was terrified of him. There were four heavyweights on the show, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why they had matched me, a guy who had NEVER done any sport in his life and was a perpetual couch potato and had NEVER really been in a fight, against this bloke who was a already physically powerful, and tough as nails. I thought I matched up better with Tom, another contestant who was physically in the same boat as I. The concept of facing Francis down in the cage was a scary one. There were moments that I thought to myself “what the hell am I doing? I’m going to get hurt. I should just drop out now before I get crushed.” Right up to the weigh-ins I was shitting myself, almost literally (I had a bad case of gastro for a couple of weeks just before the fights that had me calling my coach, saying that I might have to drop out because I was physically weak and ill). But I didn’t back out. I kept going. I kept training. That probably surprised me more than anything. I’d been a habitual quitter all my life. If there was a time to break the habit, that time was now.

Come the fight night, I was actually quite calm. As I looked around at my fellow contestants, they all had varying degrees of the jitters. I couldn’t stop pacing, but I found that I wasn’t scared anymore. I was excited. My fight was the sixth on the card, so I had the opportunity to see my teammates (the W2W contestants had been split into teams - I was in Blue Team) leave the changeroom for their fight, and come back in, with mixed results. Some had won, others had lost. One guy, Adam was in good spirits despite losing, getting about and chatting with everyone. Another, Sheldon, was so overcome with emotion he had to sit down, despite winning. It was amazing to see all of the different reactions to this intense situation.

When it came time for my fight, I walked out, bit down on my mouthguard, and faced this guy who had me quaking in my boots only days before. Again, the video of the fight and the show will cover this more clearly than what I can remember, but I recall throwing some okay jabs, some terrible leg kicks and doing okay with my footwork - that was until he slammed my lead-leg with some nasty kicks that had me hobbling for days after the fight. He hit me - VERY hard - a couple of times, connecting pretty solidly. My face is still tingly and numb a few weeks later. I didn’t back up though, or panic. Mentally I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t move well because my leg was mashed up, but I wasn’t scared anymore. I was determined.

Work that jab, fat-boy! And get a tan!

The fight ended when he caught me with a nasty lead hook (at least, I think it was) a couple of minutes into our 3x3 minute round fight. I saw a flash, and was suddenly on the ground. I put up my hands to protect my head as Francis came in to finish the job. I was already thinking “Now, what is it that I do in this situation? I need to get up...” by that time the ref had stepped in and stopped the fight. It wasn’t a bad stoppage - I think Francis would have had me anyway had the ref let it continue on, I was reacting so slowly and was trying to figure out what I was doing after getting my brain scrambled. After ten seconds or so, I stumble to my fight, and my thought are suprisingly clear. My leg hurts, and my face hurts. Other than that, I felt dandy. I don’t know if I remember it correctly, but I think I was smiling. All I could think of was “Wow. That was amazing.” Francis was interviewed by the announcer. He was pretty humble in victory, and thanked me for the fight. Seeing as I was up and lucid, the announced interviewed me next. I can’t remember what I said, but I was happy. I think I said that Francis “hits like a truck”.
See? He hits like a truck.

I hobbled out of the cage - my partner, Jazmyn, was waiting for me, with tears in her eyes. She gave me a big hug. “I’m okay darlin’.” I told her. It was true too - I was physically beat up, but mentally I was soaring.

As I limped back to the changing rooms, I was interviewed again by the shows producer on camera. He asked me “You thoughts Ben? Not the outcome we wanted, but...”

I don’t remember exactly what I said to him, but it was along the lines of “Actually, this is exactly the outcome that I wanted.” I’d made it. I’d trained for seven months. I’d lost over 20 kilos. I was the fittest I’d ever been. And I was happy. Thes rest of the evening was spent visiting family and friends who had made the trip to support me in my MMA debut. As I walked about the crowd, many people I didn’t know shouted out to me “You did well mate!” shook my hand, patted me on the back. The overall atmosphere of the audience was phenomenal. And my family and friends were outrageously supportive.
Yeah, I could do this again, I thought.

So, the question is now, where to from here? One thing I need to do is get back into work and start paying off the debt I’ve accumulated over the last few months, of which there is a considerable amount. However, that is something that will be overcome with time. The main point to consider is - do I look to compete in MMA again.

Fuck yes is the answer, as far as I’m concerned. However, rather than attempt to run before I can walk, I need to improve some key aspects.

  • I need to be fitter and stronger before considering a pro-mma contest. Most of the other contestants from W2W are looking to compete professionally straight away. I’m convinced that I am no-where near ready enough, especially considering my performance against Francis. I need to improve myself physically, and by a great margin.
  • I need to train diligently and often. This seems like an obvious point, but the training in W2W was more to get you ready “enough” to put on an entertaining fight. I want to be ready to WIN, so I’ll need to start from the ground up, and start earning those Brazillian Jiu Jitsu stripes and Kickboxing accolades.
  • I need to compete in amatuer level competition. Experience is a key component for winning fights, as far as I’m concerned. I need to enter BJJ comps, MMA comps etc as often as possible. In NSW if you have competed at a professional level, you are no longer allowed to compete at amateur levels, so I want to compete as often as possible before even considering going pro to get as much experience as possible.
  • I want to drop to light-heavyweight. Now this may seem like a ludicrous notion, but bear with me - I currently sit at about 116 kilos. I’m still noticeably fat - I still have a lot of excess weight to lose, easily 15-20 kilos worth. Although I may gain a bit of muscle mass as well, I don’t think I’ll be more than 105 kilos at a very fit level, maybe even less. From there it’s a cut to 93 kilos before competition.

Now, to achieve all of this, I’ve got a very simple plan (at least for the immediate future). Get back into training, and eat healthily. Easy, right?

I’ve already decided to go back into training with Sinosic Perosh Martial Arts (SPMA), and I’ll be looking to attend 3-4 sessions a week. Combining this with a healthy diet, I aim to get my weight down by another 15 kilos or so in the next 3 months. I’d like to get into competition again ASAP, and there is an amateur MMA comp coming up in July, but I’d like to compete at below 105 kilos for that, so we’ll see how it goes. If not, there will be other events to enter I am sure.

So, this blog will be chronicling my efforts to improve myself to a point where I think I can compete at a professional MMA level, cutting weight and gaining experience. I’m expecting this process to take a while, probably 18 months or more, but if I’m lucky it could be less. Unless there are any major time constraints involved, I’ll be looking to update this blog every week or so, so keep an eye out!

If you have any advice or comments, feel free to whack them in!