"Mom, Dad, I am packing up and moving to Texas to learn Jiu-Jitsu." "Your doing what?! to learn what?? What is Jiu-Jitsu?? why can't you learn that here? Why do you need to move to Texas to learn Jiu-Jitsu?"
As you can imagine telling people I was going to pack up and move to Texas. To learn Jiu-Jitsu in 1997 was a hard sell to say the least. For a lot of them I might well have said guys I am moving to Mars to start a colony there. They didn't understand and really couldn't imagine why in the world I would want to do that.
In 1997 the UFC was basically an underground Sport. Almost the only people who knew about it were the ones who did it. Everyone else viewed it as barbaric. Any news of it that hit main stream media was all negative, led by the likes of Senator John McCain. Boxing people hated it, news people hated it, even Senators hated it. Why would anyone want to move a thousand miles away to learn something that everyone hated?
But I was 23 years old, and had moved out and had lived on my own for a few years before. I was putting myself through college with the help of Uncle Sam's loans and working as a bartender. So there was no reason in my mind I couldn't pack up and move to Texas to pursue my dreams of learning Jiu-Jitsu. You see the MMA dream hadn't even started at this time I just knew I wanted to get good at Jiu-Jitsu and that was it.
I didn't have any money back then I was a broke college kid. Going to a small State College (Northern State University) in Aberdeen, South Dakota. (Think really cold and then double that to get the feeling of where I was).
I had grown up wrestling, and in general, doing things the hard way. Lutter's you see are aware that there are easier ways to do things in the World. If given two options like to tag a calf in the middle of the night and risk being mauled by the mother cow in the dark. Or wait until morning, my dad always choose to do it in the middle of the night. I remember waking up one morning getting ready for school. Coming down the stairs to find my dad looking way worse then I ever have after a fight. You see the night before he was tagging a calf when a cow hit him from behind in the dark. And then the cow beat on him until he managed to roll in under his truck. He eventually managed to get in the bed of the truck. And then crawl thru the sliding window into the truck with cow trying to kill him the whole time.
This happened every few years to him until a final run in with a mother cow in 1993 hurt his neck. It was bad enough it required him to have a Neck Fusion similar to mine. I had a 3 level fusion he had a 1 level.
I always refused to tag calves in the middle of the night opting to wait until the next morning. When I had day light to level the playing field, and try to stay away from the angry cows. So maybe this was my version of doing things the hard way. The only thing I really knew was that I wanted to learn Jiu-Jitsu. And I could learn Jiu-Jitsu in Dallas Texas from a cousin of the now famous Royce Gracie. All I had to do was move to DFW pay him money and I would be on my way.
Come to think of it nobody that I told thought I should move away. "Why would you want to move to the big city, all those people and concrete everywhere??" people would ask me. My boss offered me a raise to stay and work. My friends all thought I was crazy except for Paul who was moving with me. Joining the side of crazy in most people eyes.
Convincing Paul was harder than it sounds. This coercion required lots of coaxing with phrases like, "well it really isn't that far away." It eventually ended with me finally setting a deadline for him to decide. I had to set my deposit on a Apartment and also the size of the moving truck I was renting. So why did I think it was good idea? I could have stayed in South Dakota or a surrounding State and probably lived a nice, easy, normal, life. I remember discussing my plans with my sister. And her asking me if I would come back to South Dakota after I learned Jiu-Jitsu. I said I didn't know, I wasn't sure. I would need to wait and see.
Fast forward 17 years and I am still here still learning Jiu-Jitsu. I know a lot of different guys who moved to a different areas of the World to study Jiu-Jitsu. Guys like Anthony Perosh moved to Texas from Australia. But he eventually moved back home. Other guys moved to California. With some of them moving back to where they were from and others staying in California.
Both Paul and I stayed in Texas and it look's like moving here in 1997 was a pivotal moment in my life. If I had taken the easier road. Staying in what I knew, with friends, family, gotten a job in law enforcement or went to work in agriculture. I am sure life would have been easier in the short term. I would have never learned Jiu-Jitsu. I would have never fought in the UFC. I wouldn't have saw near as much of the World as I have. I wouldn't have met my wonderful wife. I wouldn't have the Jiu Jitsu family I had found here.
One of the biggest benefits that I never could have foreseen. Was how Jiu-Jitsu would allow me to make so many friends. From so many different walks of life. All the people I have in my life are connected to Jiu-Jitsu in one way or another. With the only exception being people I know from Motorcycles.
Conclusion: My parents eventually came around to me moving to Texas. And even to me teaching Jiu-Jitsu. It basically took until the Ultimate Fighter 4 for them to really understand what I did. Then they became my biggest fans. When I was getting ready for my last fight, my mom even talked about coming to watch me fight. It didn't work out, but I really feel like that was for the best. When I wrestled my mom hardly ever missed watching me, and win or lose she was always there. For me, jumping in with both feet worked and moving a 1000 plus miles away was a big step. But I really can't imagine my life without that move.
Yes I could have moved here and two months latter moved back home. So it wasn't like I sailed some place and then burned the ships saying well I guess we have to make this work. But there are just so many things I would have never did if I hadn't jumped in when I did. When I go home now I sometimes feel a little bit like a outsiders. But I am lucky that I had a dream and I followed it all the way to Texas!!!!