Nick Denis retired from the UFC in his prime at the age of 28. His retirement caused an uproar in the MMA community. It was unheard of MMA especially when your doctor does not force you to retire.
He didn't have any more concussions or damage than any other fighter. He just knew what the consequences of head trauma were, so he left.
First he left his pursuit of a PhD in Biochemistry to chase gold as a UFC fighter. And now he's leaving that into the unknown.
I knew that behind an unusual and strong decision would probably lie an unusual and strong man. For someone to leave money, fame, competition, and glory for his health must have something to say about life.
This series of posts is a result of that. We spoke on his views on achieving your goals, focusing on what's important in life, and how the media and defining yourself shape our perspective on reality.
In this part of the interview we spoke on achieving your goals. In the second part of the interview we spoke about the little things in life and his aspirations for a minimalist lifestyle. And in the last part of the interview we spoke about self-belief and how the media affects our perception of reality.
To read his musings on life, science, and the Universe, check out his blog here.
"I removed everything that I knew would prevent me from training."
In one of your blog posts, you wrote “Once a person knows how to execute their goals in one thing, they know how to do it in anything.” What principles have helped you achieve your goals?
It's important to break your goals down into smaller subgoals. If there’s only one rung on the ladder, your goal is very hard to achieve, but if as you add more and more rungs, it becomes more and more easy. If I want to earn a million dollars, my first goal wouldn’t be to get a million dollars. It’s to get $1000, or $500, or $100. That’s accomplishable.
If you want it enough, you’ll do whatever it takes. For fighting, sadly, it meant a lot of sacrifice. I had to sacrifice a lot of relationships. It's important remove whatever keeps you from accomplishing your goal.
You were doing your PhD at the same time as you were training. How did you get over the days where you really didn’t want to go to the gym?
On days where I’m like 'God, I really don’t want to go to the gym,' I found it helpful to just tell myself, 'Okay, just get in the car.' It’s easy once you’re there. But getting there I find is super tricky.
My lab was at the Ottawa Hospital, and there you had to pay for your parking pass. But there was free parking a 15-minute walk away. But I knew that with an extra 15-minute walk, especially in winter, I might skip training. So I paid for the parking.
I removed everything that I knew would prevent me from training.
Some people are on these paths where it’s very easy to get stuck like medical school or law school. On your blog, you write a lot about following your heart. In your life, have you ever felt that what you were doing was ‘wrong’?
I liked Biochemistry, but it was also a means to an end. I had a scholarship. It was literally paying my bills and then some.
But I just couldn’t see myself doing it as a career. That’s when I decided to quit and focus on fighting. Everyone said that in one more year, I’d have a PhD. But I never wanted to use it.
To me that’s crazy. In one year you have a surefire backup plan.
Yeah, but I don’t want to use that backup plan. So as far as I’m concerned it’s not even a backup plan.
It’s a year of your life, and I only have so many years on this planet.
Alex Honnold is a free solo rock climber. Essentially he's a rock climber who doesn't use ropes. I think you might be more successful as a climber if you don’t have any ropes because you’re less likely to make mistakes.
I think there’s something to say for that.
I don’t like the idea of living safe.