Nick Denis retired from fighting because he was worried about the consequences of head trauma. He was in his prime at the age of 28. This was unheard of in the MMA community.
I knew that behind an unusually strong decision would probably lie an unusually strong man.
In this part of the interview we spoke about self-belief and how the media affects our perception of reality.
Hope you guys enjoy.
"After I die and come back, my next life is yours. If I do wrong to you, it’s like doing that to myself."
Did you always have the belief that you could become a UFC fighter?
When I was a young kid, I saw my brother training hard for Tae Kwon Do competitions. He went on to win the world championship three or four times.
I remember telling my friends that my brother was going to the world championship. But they didn't expect him to win. They were just happy that he went.
People think that other people are going to accomplish great things. I was fortunate that at a very young age I got to see that regular dudes do awesome things.
I think that’s really lucky that you found that at an early age. Most people don't.
Yeah, like my girlfriend. She’s really good at so many things, but she lacks a bit of self-confidence. She’s a pastry chef and a great artist. But she has a hard time believing that she can do anything.
It’s really sad when people don't believe in themselves. If you think you can’t do something, then you won't.
In your retirement post, you wrote that you don't define yourself by your work. What did you mean by that?
I’m not a fighter. It’s just something that I do.
Just because you do something for 'x' number of hours a day. Does that make you who you are?
I remember when I was growing up, I’d hear about how my grandparents' generation would have the same job until retirement. After retirement, they would have no idea what to do. You’ll hear stories about people committing suicide because they would identify themselves as being a lawyer, a doctor, whatever.
I think it’s really dangerous and very self-limiting. I believe I’m an everything. Today I can do this. Tomorrow I can do that or that. At the end of the day I’m just a dude with a mind and a body.
"I’m not a fighter. It’s just something that I do."
By defining yourself as a something, I'm sure it changes the way you think.
I know a lot of guys that expect people to treat them like a fighter. It warps their reality.
Take someone who is a computer programmer. They might think I’m a computer programmer, so I can’t do sports.
You're defining yourself on other people’s expectations.
Do you think having this mentality of not defining yourself as a fighter allowed you to step away from the UFC?
It was an easy choice.
The only thing that was hard about it was knowing that if I just kept fighting I would have made enough money to live off of for the rest of my life. I’m a minimalist, so I don't need a lot of money.
I’ll find a living no matter where I go. And if I fail, I have a family that will take care of me.
"I’m only on this planet for a certain amount of time. Do I want to spend two or three hours a night watching other people live?"
On your blog, you wrote how television can warp our perception of reality.
What other parts of the modern media can bias us to think in a certain way?
All forms of media.
People just a couple of hundred years ago got married out of survival. Most people think that's brutal and primitive. Why wouldn't they choose each other’s mates?
This idea of romantic love is a new Western idea. Modern media tells us that Mr. Right is out there and not to settle for anything less. The problem is that when there is any sort of conflict in a relationship, instead of working on it, she'll say he's not perfect and leave. But it’s silly because these kinds of people do not exist. It teaches people that problems are not resolvable.
You literally learn how to act socially from what you see. It teaches you that everything works out. It affects all aspects of life. It has to.
People say that we are able to tell the difference between what’s entertainment and reality.
I don’t think that’s true. Let's say in your life you have a million experiences. And let’s say someone was glued to the television. All million of their experiences were coming from the shows they watch. They would think what they saw on TV is the norm. Whereas, on the other extreme, if someone never saw any sort of media, then all million of their experiences would be from real life. Their concept of reality would be completely different.
The more you interact with actual people, the more likely that you'll create concepts based on how people actually work.
If the average family on TV had huge houses, you would think that the regular Joe is someone that has a big house. So if you have a small house, then you would think that you're below average.
There’s a thread on a forum that I go to, called Pic of the Day. Essentially people just post beautiful or interesting pictures. I realized that when I'm on there, I'm just getting a small dose of positive feelings that might make me less likely to go to those beautiful places, instead of inspiring me to go.
One of my roommates was on her Pinterest board. It was filled with beautiful places. With some people I’m sure it inspires them to actually go to that place. But I think a lot of people just get their fix, and they never end up going there.
What do you do to try to avoid media? Do you just not watch television?
I’m trying to quit.
I have been putting little restrictions on myself. Like last night me and my girlfriend didn’t watch TV at all. We just chatted. It’s much better. I'd much rather interact with another human being.
I’m only on this planet for a certain amount of time. Do I want to spend two or three hours a night watching other people live?
"I asked my dad what are the disadvantages of having kids. His answer was exactly what I thought. You spend your entire lifetime worrying about them."
If you have plans to have kids, what do you think you’re going to make sure to teach them?
I asked my dad what are disadvantages of having kids. His answer was exactly what I thought. You spend your entire lifetime worrying about them.
I would try to raise them to think for themselves, and to try to be their own person. To think the exact opposite of everyone else.
I’d tell them that there are many perspectives on an issue. I'd show them the pros and cons of each.
I’d try to teach them about the little h’s. Trying to find happiness in the big things is very dangerous.
I would tell them that you only alive once. I don’t know if you come back.
I'd tell them to be a good person. I remember reading about an idea that said that every single person is you. After I die and come back, my next life is yours. So if I do wrong to you, it’s like doing that to myself.