The other day after spending time with an old friend and fellow athlete, chatting about the past, I found myself reminiscing about the my earlier fighting career, sitting there wondering "is this it? Maybe the best days of my life are all behind me?"
And like most athletes, I know I'm my biggest critic. As most of us know despite walking the talk there's often that little nagging voice in our minds that keeps us driving forwards, but also makes us question are we really good enough. "Have I still got it?". Often I'd do a magazine interview and despite feeling confident and holding my own, when it was published, I'd be scouting the internet insecurely looking for people's responses, their acceptance maybe?
And guess what, despite the confidence, perhaps even arrogance of youth, that feeling used to be terrible and at times all-consuming and although I'd push it to the back of my mind, it would often come back to me, in the early hours of the morning, between waking consciousness and the dream world. The devil on my shoulder keeping me on my toes! And the crazy thing is that even when the comments were more than 90% positive, I'd still focus on the negative ones! Thinking how I could do better.
And although I have continued to have a diligent hard working ethos thanks to my solid upbringing, since my dad's recent passing, other distressing personal issues and stagnating challenges surrounding my career, I have been left feeling nonchalant and if I'm honest, a little despondent, a little like "what's the point in anything"? But this all changed when at a recent family gathering, my brother in-law, seeing me feeling down, gave me his friendly big brother advice and suggested that I need a project, a focus of some kind, something I can really get my teeth into and focus on once again. A new mission perhaps! "Why don't you run a marathon or something?" he said, but well, just a few weeks i ran for Sport Relief, and although a great cause, I wasn't feeling empowered, fired up! It wasn't enough, I wanted to fill a void. I needed a greater challenge. Something I could truly be passionate about!
So, In search of inspiration and reigniting that fire that I once felt, a week after the Sport Relief run, I went to a big fight promotion show, and it got me feeling really sad. As I stepped inside, I couldn't keep the voice in my head quiet, that said "I coulda been somebody, I coulda been a contender!" The main event was with the ex middleweight champ of the world, which I was offered to fight 10 years ago, and the winner of the gruelling fighting realty show TUF, whereby I was also selected to go in when I was in my prime, but due to contractual issues I had to say no.
And although I hid it, sitting quite a way from cage side, deep inside I was really upset. I couldn't stop thinking that that should be me up there! I should be sitting cage side! No, I should be in the cage!
To make matters worse, as I walked into the arena, my mates, asked if I was ok. Ok!! I was hobbling?
"I'm not, I argued, this is my normal walk! But all I could think was, "You have 300 fights under your belt and see how you walk?"
We all laughed, but I felt old!
Then, a week or so after, I got a call from an old promoter who'd looked after me many years ago. "Hey Alex, how old are you? When did you last fight? Would you fight again?" I responded, "Are you crazy, I can hardly walk properly, I'm in pain 24/7! Thanks for the offer, but I'd rather be a presenter."
That night, in fact that whole week, I couldn't stop thinking about, what if?
At least once a week, I'm asked: "When's your next fight Reidy?", to which I reply
"I can't fight any more mate, my body's knackered, but hey give me enough money and I'll fight any one, right now!"
Well, Mr Reid, I said to myself, it's time to put your money where your mouth is!
I love a challenge, and although there was no real money on the table, I was, and am now inspired to get back on the horse, and actually enjoy it, and with this attitude, I feel truly inspired once again! And perhaps I can even use something I've done and I've loved for years to promote a new gym. An opportunity to inspire and help other fighters to follow their dream just like I did mine!
And I may not win, and although I'm back training to win as I have for the last 25 years in competition across the world, first and foremost, I'm a martial artist, not a competitive fighter!
My whole reason for putting myself back in a competing arena isn't to knock up a victory on my record, (although that would be nice), but to get back into serious completion shape, to once again live in vibrancy and to be full of energy, to embrace life and everything in this glorious world. To lead by example, to others like me, who once had something, to inspire others to not rest on their laurels if they're not satisfied and to push themselves and enjoy a new journey back into fitness. Just like I am.
And maybe not everyone is going to go take on a fight, but it might be something as equally challenging in their own chosen arena.
So here I am, not re-energised and rejuvenated physically, but spiritually and mentally! I'm like the little kid Alexander who just watched his first Bruce Lee film, the eternal Peter Pan back where he belongs, metaphorically jumping around the room, throwing kicks and busting moves.
And what I know and more importantly what I truly believe is this, where the mind or thought goes, the body follows!
It just leaves this one last thing to say!
"Itssssss, Reidernater time!"