8 Life Lessons from the UFC Octagon

8 Life Lessons from the UFC Octagon

Your best ability is your availability for a big opportunity.

If you are from the United States, you may have heard, “Everything is bigger in Texas.”   Well, I just returned from Dallas this weekend and the experiences I had led me to believe there might be some truth to the statement.

Yes, Texas is the largest U.S. state in the “lower 48”, second only to Alaska. It’s so big, if Texas was an independent country it would be the 40th largest in the world!  Complete with a capital building bigger than our own nation’s capitol, when you visit Texas, you will also see the big boots, the big hats and even the legendary big Texas hair (look it up for a laugh!)  Well, after flying into the Dallas/Fort Worth airport (which is bigger than Manhattan), I had a couple of big jobs to do: visit Texas Christian University to tour their big football stadium and meet the Training For Warriors students and teach a big class at TFW Stockyards.  But my biggest job of all was to watch a “little” guy make some big history.

The main reason I was in Dallas was to help an athlete at a big sporting event.  Since he always wanted to be a bull rider, Dallas seemed like the perfect place for this person to put on a show.  Even though he is from New Jersey, this athlete owns cowboy hats and numerous pairs of boots.  But this warrior is no bull rider.  Instead of entering a rodeo, he became the first fighter in history to enter the UFC Octagon for the 30th time in the “less intense” sport of Mixed Martial Arts.  This unlikely cowboy from New Jersey is Jim Miller.

I first met Jim over a decade ago after one his fights.  Although he was not a UFC fighter yet, his grit and determination impressed me so much, I knew he was going to do something in the sport.  We started training together and 6 months later, he got a last-minute call to the UFC.  10 years later, and having cornered him for so many of his battles, there was no way I would miss his shot at history.

The day before the fight is rough.  Not only does a fighter have to painstakingly cut weight, then he or she has to sit in the hotel to recover for the fight the next day.  One job of a coach is to keep the fighter’s mind off the battle ahead.  To do this, Jim and I spent time that day reflecting on the lessons he has learned from his 30 fights in the cage.  As we talked, I took notes and compiled a powerful list for you.  In honor of the 8 sides of the UFC Octagon, here are 8 lessons Jim and I discussed that can be applied to whatever it is you do:  

8 Lessons From The Octagon
1.  Always Be Training 

One of Jim’s secrets was never having an “off-season.”  As a result of the commitment to train, he stayed healthy and injury-free.  This preparation developed the best ability you can have:  Availability.

Action Item:  If you are not competing in what it is you do, then you should be training.  Tell yourself there is no “off-season.”  This week make a commitment to consistent training so you are available when your time comes. 

2.  Say “Yes” To Opportunity 

Jim got his first fight in the UFC because another fighter got hurt and dropped out.  Other fighters were given the chance to step in before him but weren’t ready.  Jim said “yes” and won!  After that fight he still didn’t get a contract and had to have the same thing happen again to finally get signed.

Action Item:  You will experience a constant supply of good opportunities. It is not if you can recognize them, but if you can say “yes” when most other people say “no.”  This week challenge yourself to say “yes” to an opportunity that has been waiting for you.

3. Develop Your Process

Jim had to both develop and then believe in the system of training, nutrition and skill work he would need to succeed in the UFC.  This took not only years of homework, but also years of hard work too.

Action Item:  There is a system of strategies for anything you want to achieve.  Do your research, develop your system and the confidence to carry it out.  This week identify someone who has done what you want to do and learn how they did it.

4.  Win Your Inner Battle  

Jim, like any other fighter, has experienced anxiety, stress and self doubt.  Before he could ever defeat anyone inside the Octagon, he first had to defeat himself.  The real battle was outside of the cage.

Action Item:  Before you step into the arena, you too have to do battle with your doubts, fears and limitations.  Make a list of your current doubts and then your plan to eliminate them.  Overcome those obstacles and the other battles will take care of themselves.

5.  Focus On The Task At Hand

Jim said that his was one of the most important secrets of both competing and preparation.  The key was to be present in the moment and live not just fight to fight, but also moment to moment.

Action Item:  Although that may sound easy for a 15 minute fight, being present takes practice.  Remind yourself each day this week of your priorities and make sure you are taking care of what is most important right now.

6.  Learn From Loss

After 30 fights, Jim feels the biggest lessons came from the defeats, not the victories.  Although you can learn from both, it is important to learn what the defeat was trying to instruct.  

Action Item:  Like a fighter, things are not always going to go your way.  There will be ups and downs. The key is to to be ready to learn from both. Write down some of your biggest lessons from your latest challenges.

7.  Give Your Best Effort

Having won many UFC “Fight of the Night” and also a “Fight of the Year” honors, Jim is known as a fighter that gave his all in every fight.  This skill was definitely one of the reasons he has been given more fights than any other fighter in UFC history.

Action Item:  Win or lose, you will never regret giving your best effort.  If you go all out in what you do, I promise you and everyone else will be ok with the result.  Make your best effort today in something.

8. Commit To Evolve

If Jim hadn’t continued to improve and update his training, nutrition and skills, he would not have been able to stay competitive over the last decade.  His feels his open mind might be a bigger weapon than his hands or feet.

Action Item:  You must continue to evolve or go extinct. You have to adapt or run the risk of getting weeded out.  Do an inventory of the skills you need to succeed in your career and make sure you are staying up to date.

On Saturday night, Jim won his 30th fight in dramatic fashion.  Even as an underdog, Jim hurt his opponent early, jumped on that opportunity and submitted him in just 89 seconds!  This win in his historic 30th UFC fight also gave him the most UFC wins in his weight class and had him literally jumping for joy in the cage.

After the fight, we had a great dinner and rightfully celebrated the historic evening.  When the night came to a close, I left him with the four words I always shared with him whether he won of lost as a reminder to keep training:

This Too Shall Pass.

Just like a pro fighter, your life will be filled with the highs of highs and lows of lows.  Knowing each one will come and go allows you to not only keep everything in perspective, but never forget to go back to #1 on the list above.

Now take those lessons and make your own history.

Yours in Strength,


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