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Why We Fight.

In the time line of the fighter's life, the last month before a fight should be monastic in spirit. To make sure he's walking into a cage prepared for a life-or-death affair, the fighter has to lock himself away and make an enemy of the world and anything that is not in him. Traditionally, boxers will disappear from their city homes to upstate rural campsites, finding solace in the boredom and disorientation of the natural world, better to focus their minds and immerse themselves in the long runs and bruising sparring sessions and the thousand and one acts of self-denial that will build up the necessary defenses around them. One reporter writing in the early 1960s described thenheavyweight champion Floyd Patterson's run-down camp in rural Connecticut as "an abandoned road house." While training there Patterson refused to see his wife and children.

Mixed martial artists, too, will go into a shell of self-obsession, not dissimilar from that entered by astronauts who fear falling ill before a mission. Their lives become focused entirely on their gym and their diet and their weight and their routine and their health. Jobs and domestic duties are ignored, friendships and romances cast aside, politics and pressures temporarily forgotten. Fighters come to believe their fight is the entire world. This is an ugly necessity. Without that kind of solipsism and single-minded devotion they'd be putting themselves into a suicidal position. A sense of perspective and proportion would be death to them. The best comparison is a Benedictine laboring away in a monastery. Monks fearful for the state of their souls absent themselves from the world to think on God. Fighters fearful for the state of their bodies absent themselves from the world to think on themselves: my technique, my pain, my struggle, my desire, my victory, my loss. It's a religion of the self.

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Author:Rosenblatt, Josh
Publication:Tablet Magazine
Date:Mar 4, 2019
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