Let me be honest with you: This isn’t the nicest of stories. I didn’t have the most conventional upbringing, and there’s a lot of violence in this tale. Even for a UFC fighter there’s a large amount of punching involved in this one. And not regular punching either. Your typical five-round MMA fight is miles away from the stuff I’ve been involved in.
I just wanted to give you a heads-up because this is going to get kind of heavy, and I want you to know that going in. This is my story and I think the best place to begin is when I got hit by a drunk driver when I was 16 years old.
The weird thing about it was, this was the second car crash I had been involved in. Back in the fall of 2001, when I was a freshman in high school, I had been in the passenger seat in a one-car accident and got a nice little chunk of change from a settlement. I put that money toward a little drop-top 1983 Dodge 600, which I would drive around my neighborhood every chance I got. I’m from a place called Rootstown, this tiny place about an hour southeast of Cleveland. After soccer practice late one Sunday afternoon, in January 2003, my car broke down when I was driving with my friend Michael to the home of another friend of mine, Ashley. If you’ve ever been on a country road in the Midwest it’s not uncommon to drive on a stretch with no centerline and not many lights overhead. Things get real dark and kinda dangerous pretty quick if you don’t know what you’re doing.
When my car broke down that evening, I pulled off to the side of one of those dark, unmarked stretches of road. Then I walked to a friend’s house and called my father to come pick me up. (It was 2003! Not everyone had a cellphone!) My father was a trained mechanic and showed up about 20 minutes later in his freaking huge ’89 Dodge Ram pickup and started tinkering with my car, telling me to pop the hood and chewing me out about not looking after the alternator. He was kinda miffed that he’d been dragged away from the TV. We had a deal on Sundays — I’d get out of the house and he’d have his boys over to watch sports all day. He was grumpy because he had been watching the Browns-Steelers wild-card game when I called him out. But things were O.K. between us.