The Red King’s Mortal Moment

It is often said that high-level athletes, in any sport, are mentally exceptional. They can remain focused on their goals, even in the face of extraordinary adversity. In the gym, they maintain a maddening regimen of physically grueling drills, conditioning and “live” practice — almost always at the expense of the trappings of a normal social and personal life — and then on game day they must deploy those skills in an atmosphere of extreme pressure.

MMA is no exception, and on a near-weekly basis we are reminded of the mental fortitude it takes to persevere and succeed in one of the world’s most grueling sports. We hear fighters talk about injury-imposed layoffs and financial precariousness, frustration at matchmakers and cruel twists of fate. The staples of being a professional fighter — from the social isolation to the murderous weight cuts to the largely invisible trials of recovery once the curtain has closed and the parking lot is empty — would be enough to drive most ordinary people insane.

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