The Dominator mindset

Dominick Cruz was the UFC's bantamweight-division championship - twice over. When he first entered the fight game, he was only around 20 years old. He amassed an amazing 9-0 record in his first fighting organisation, "Rage in the Cage", before joining the now-defunct WEC and then later the UFC. By the time he was 27, he was near the peak of his game, with completely bewildering footwork, the ability to throw strikes from just about any angle with almost total unpredictability, and savage wrestling skills.

The combination made him nearly unbeatable in the octagon. His only professional loss at that time was at the hands of Urijah Faber, and that was down to Dominick's relative inexperience with grappling and choke escapes at the time. He accepted the loss, took it like a man, and figured out how to improve.

By 2011, Dominick Cruz was ranked near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings and was regularly defeating the best in the world. He was, quite simply, one of the best mixed martial artists of any size anywhere in the world.

And then it all went horribly wrong.

He tore his ACL and had to undergo surgery to replace it with one from a cadaver. Then his body rejected the implanted ACL and he had to go through more surgery. He was sidelined from the fight game for three years.

Those were three years that he will never get back. For most fighters, that would have been the absolute end of their careers.

Dominick Cruz is not like most fighters.

It is fascinating to listen to him talk about how he had to basically re-wire his mind in order to meet his own personal demons head-on. Very few people, no matter how successful or strong, can stand to face their own problems like this. Fewer still can claim to conquer them.

Yet Dominick did it. And he did so by accepting who he was, and by learning that his identity was not tied down merely to physical combat, but to a much broader and more powerful set of skills and attributes.

He redefined himself. He rebuilt himself from the ground up. He became a better analyst, a better fighter, and simply a better man in the process. And in so doing, he gave himself a tremendous gift: he achieved peace with who he is.

He came back from three years on the couch to lay an absolute beat-down on Takeya Mizugaki, one of the UFC's rising bantamweight stars. And then, he tore his right ACL in training and was sidelined again for another 9 months.

The difference between that injury and the previous ones was that he was able to accept his fate. This time around, he was resilient and strong, whereas previously he had been fragile and weak. He was able to define himself as something beyond a mere fighter, and in so doing he achieved a very rare feat for any man, no matter how successful:

He became anti-fragile.

Because of this, he was able to come back, yet again, and fight against first T. J. Dillashaw and win back his belt - and I do consider the UFC Bantamweight belt to be his, given his record of triumph, tragedy, and comeback - and then defend it again and retire Urijah Faber in the process.

And then, once again, everything went pear-shaped for him.

He lost his belt to Cody Garbrandt, in a very lopsided fight in which Garbrandt did to Cruz what Cruz has been doing to his opponents for years. If you watch highlights of that fight, you will see that Cruz was whiffing on many of his strikes - he was hitting air. Garbrandt's footwork, speed, and movement were almost a carbon copy of Cruz's own style - but Garbrandt executed everything faster, sharper, and better than the master himself.

It was a very strange thing to see, and yet there it was. Cruz had been outfought by someone who had trained specifically to imitate and then nullify his own advantages.

Many fighters would have made excuses or tried to duck away from criticism and commentary on their own performance. Ronda Rousey, for instance, was hyped up as the greatest female fighter of all time - until she was simply destroyed by far superior strikers who made her look like a complete amateur on the biggest stage in the world. And she did not face up to the press afterwards but instead ran away and hid.

Dominick Cruz did not.

He faced the press. He accepted the defeat immediately, took full responsibility for his own shortcomings, and owned up to his failures. He took it like a man:

In all honesty, there are not too many fighters that I genuinely admire. Do not misunderstand me - I respect the hell out of any man who is willing to put his body and mind in harm's way and is willing to pit himself against the very best in the world, under pressure, beneath the glare of the bright lights, in front of an audience literally baying for blood.

But very few such men are genuinely admirable.

There are a few, to be sure. But the majority of such men are also deeply flawed human beings who use their achievements within the arena to cover up their considerable failings outside it.

What makes Dominick Cruz special is that he accepts his failings, and understands the most fundamental, painful, and terrible truth that every man must grapple with:

Every single thing in your life that has gone wrong is YOUR FAULT.

That is all there is to it.

However, this is a truly terrible, soul-shattering truth. Most men cannot bear to hear it said. It means accepting complete and total personal responsibility for the outcomes of one's life. Without this acceptance, there is always someone else to blame, some quirk of fate or randomness that stops you from achieving your full potential.

To accept this most awful of truths is to embrace freedom - and that is why most people are so frightened of it.

For freedom is not the right to do as you please, as is so commonly, and stupidly and incorrectly, understood.

Freedom is instead the substitution of self-discipline for externally imposed discipline.

And it is only possible to maintain one's discipline over oneself when one accepts, fully and completely, that everything that has gone wrong in one's life is one's own fault - and nobody else's.

For here is the priceless benefit of accepting this most stark and devastating of truths:

If everything that has gone wrong in your life is your fault, then you, and you alone, can fix it.

Therefore you, and you alone, can make yourself happy.

Thus, you, and you alone, are also responsible for all that will go right in your life, from this day onward.

You were given a gift beyond value, beyond measure, by your Creator. You were given free will - and with free will comes the attendant responsibility to make the most out of your life that you can.

Dominick Cruz understands this, which is why he has come back, time and again, from injuries and setbacks that would have destroyed the soul of any other man. He did not run from the darkness within himself - he embraced it, and in so doing he became something more than what he had been.

That is the mindset that every man should aim for - where he is at peace with who and what he is, where he can redefine himself almost at will, and where he can bounce back from almost any setback because he accepts full and total responsibility for himself.


  1. "Freedom is the substitution of self-discipline for externally imposed discipline."

    This. a thousand times this. Everything that has gone wrong with our country, our culture, and our people, can be traced to ignoring this reality.


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