Ep 19: Spiritual Life Lessons from Boxing, UFC, MMA, & Other Combat Sports


In this podcast, Amadon DellErba talks about the spiritual life lessons from boxing, UFC, MMA, and other combat sports. In the ring of life, we can learn a lot from the champions of discipline and self-mastery. Professional athletes display a level of fortitude and commitment to their goals that we can all use in life.

We can have the same warrior mentality in life that fighters use in the ring. The attitude includes courage, focus, discipline, commitment, and passion.

Amadon talks about some of the greatest figures in boxing, including Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr, Muhamed Ali (Cassius Clay), Ernie Terrel, George Foreman, Manny Paquiao, and Floyd Maywether. Being a champion can cause distortions in how we perceive ourselves. Success can bring a big ego, so it’s important to find humility and not get cocky.

Using The URANTIA Book, Amadon explores failure and defeat; how to lose gracefully. Even when you get knocked down for the 10 count in life, you need to get back up, get in the fight, and adapt to the present moment. The past is useful only if it is used to prepare for the future.

Our growth and goals in life can benefit from the lessons learned in boxing and other combat sports. We can build our spiritual muscles of virtue and character with the same focus and discipline as professional athletes and become Champions of Humility.



If you apply the same fortitude and the same discipline; the same passion and the same desire to be a world champion in the ring as you would apply in life; set that goal and apply that… These boxers get up and they train every day, all day long, and every decision is around that end goal of getting the belt. Imagine if we did that, whatever it is, we're setting that goal in life, and our every decision was around achieving that, we had that same type of focus, discipline, commitment, passion, we'd get there.

“Nothing You Do Matters Unless What You Do Matters”
I’m Amadon DellErba and this is “Get Real or Die Trying”

How we doing Tribe? Amadon DellErba here, welcome to episode 19 of my podcast. Today, I wanted to talk about the spiritual life lessons from boxing. 

I love boxing. I love combat sports in general, you know, UFC, mixed martial arts, I love it all. And it's kind of funny because some people act surprised when they hear this about me, especially spiritually oriented people and people who think it's “unspiritual” to watch a violent sport… and it's just come up several times where I'm like, “yeah I'm going to watch the UFC tonight.” Or, you know, I get excited, I'm going to watch the boxing match, and they're kind of like, “whoa...” But you know, there is a tremendous amount of life lessons you can learn from boxing and I want to talk about that. 

I think a lot of people can get self-righteous in their spirituality and what they think it looks like and... listen man, this shows about being real, so let's get real together. You know, my father taught me to love boxing. He taught me everything I know about boxing, which, you know... and my appreciation for boxing. I grew up watching boxing with him. You know, we used to watch a lot of the classic fights, the reruns. And we watch all the current fights. And I have to say that what I'm talking about now is really just a variation of things he's taught many times in his own spiritual teachings, and public lectures, and life, and the lessons we can learn from boxing. And I thought I would just, you know, talk about it and give my interpretation on that too, because we can all learn from boxing.

What can we learn from boxing? Well, let me just recite off a few things that come to mind: courage, discipline, self-mastery, humility, grace, perseverance, accountability, commitment, patience, restraint, adaptability, respect, honor, confidence, and that we need the support from others to succeed. So let's break it down and let's talk a little bit about some of these virtues that I find in boxing and how I, you know, analyze the fights and what I can learn from a good boxer and a good boxing match. And when I say boxing, I also mean UFC, you know, mixed martial arts, but especially boxing. 

Courage, obviously, is one that comes to most of our minds. You know, we think, “Wow, it takes a lot of courage to go toe to toe with someone, and step into the ring.” And just like life, it takes a lot of courage to achieve anything great. It takes courage to really dive in and to pursue things, to get out of our comfort zones and things that we're familiar with, and to reach new heights, to reach new lands. If you want to achieve greatness in life, you have to have courage. If you want to win, succeed, and get to the next level, you have to have courage in life… not just the boxing ring. But you know what, anyone who says they're not afraid when they stand toe to toe in a combat sport with someone... I don't think that's true. Fear is a part of it. Overcoming fear is a huge, huge part of it. So having courage to reach the new, you know, spiritual and mental planes of consciousness that we're trying to ascend to outside the ring, and in life, is so important. 

Another thing comes to mind, discipline and self-mastery. This is a big one for me and I really admire the boxers, man… and these fighters, and athletes in general… but the discipline they had to train every day, to cut weight, to watch what they eat, to work hard, to stay with their strategy…  It's really quite incredible. I mean, you really can't learn something new and become a master of anything without discipline. And you can't learn something new without making sacrifices. And so I respect these boxers who just day in and day out, train. They have more discipline than I do. And you know, you can't just live life and eat what you want to eat and do what you want to do. Your life and the decisions you make when you're an athlete like that are around your goals. We should have the same type of discipline in our daily life. Our decisions and what we do should be around our goals, whatever our goals want to be. If we want to learn a new language, we have to discipline ourselves to spend time every day learning that language.  It may mean some personal sacrifice. It may mean, oh, instead of spending four hours binge watching, you know, whatever on Netflix, you're going to spend four hours studying. That's discipline. You know, Muhhamad Ali said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” And so what he's saying there is that the preparation begins well before the fight and you win that fight through that preparation. 

A huge thing you can learn from boxing is humility. We're all humbled in life and we all have to experience defeat. We all have to suffer at some level and we all have to have grace in defeat. We have to have good sportsmanship and we have to have commitment not to give up in life. You know, when our ego gets too big, we're humbled. You know, Mike Tyson, a great heavyweight boxer, quite a controversial character in life, made a lot of mistakes, took some wrong paths, but I believe he's on the path to redemption. He's made a lot of change in his personal life. He was a great boxer in the ring. Outside of the ring he wasn't always a great example of a man, but he's getting there (in my opinion). But you know, recently, he said something… He's coming back by the way, eight round exhibition fight in September with Roy Jones Jr. Which is pretty cool… 54 years old, to have the discipline, again, to start training and do that fight, is pretty cool and he looks pretty good. But he was doing a video on one of his little promos for this fight coming up and he was talking about humility. And he said that…  “You know, I'm humble. I'm humbled right now. I was the heavyweight champion, now I'm 54 years old. I'm getting back in shape.” And he said, “You know, a lot of people think that we're born humble and that we develop an ego over time,” and he said, “You know, I think it's the opposite for some. ‘Cause I think we're born with egos and that we have to get humbled in life. You know, we're born and we grow up thinking we know more than we know, we're smarter than we are, we think we're stronger than we are, and we grow up, and life humbles us. So we're not born humble.” And I think he's right in a lot of ways. We have to be humbled by life. 

And so defeat is a huge part of life and having grace in defeat… and that's a huge, huge part of boxing. When you're a world champion and you're undefeated and you lose your first fight, I'm sure it is tremendously, tremendously painful. And you have to be able to bear that defeat with integrity, with character, and keep going. And so defeat is a huge part of boxing, and with defeat comes humility. Sometimes our heads get too big. In life we're defeated all the time. So we have to think about how that applies in our life. Do we just give up the first time we suffer a defeat or do we keep going? We learn from the mistakes, huge lessons there. 

The URANTIA Book (which I study and I quote often, as it's a huge spiritual guide and text for me to facilitate my own personal spiritual growth) talks about defeat. I want to read a couple of quotes from The URANTIA Book. 

One of the quotes is, 

“There is an art in defeat that noble souls always acquire; you must know how to lose cheerfully; you must be fearless of disappointment. Never hesitate to admit failure.” 

It’s an important one. And one of the most profound quotes in The URANTIA Book that I refer to often in my own personal life regarding defeat is, 

“Defeat is the true mirror in which you may honestly view your real self.” 

Wow. And I think we often have such an opposite understanding of that, we think that we'll discover who we are once we get what we want, once we become successful, once we do this, once we do that, once we're feeling good. No, no, no. Your true character and you discover who you really are is when you're defeated, and you have nothing, and you're broken-down, and you're in the mud. Then you have to pull on something bigger, deeper, and more profound than your surface level aspirations. You have to go to a spiritual place within your heart, mind, and soul, and the facades fall away… again, it's about getting real; your real self. So, a true man's character, a true woman's character is often evaluated in the face of defeat. 

Another quote from The Urantia Book, 

“Religious insight possesses the power of turning defeat into higher desires and new determinations.” 

Super important. I've really made the mistake of not letting my own failures in life, my own mistakes, my own periods of life where I feel defeated, to set new determinations, like that quote says. And to set new goals and to learn from it. Higher desires and new determinations, it says. And so what is it that we can do to learn, to reevaluate, and reinvent, (which is something I came up with today) you know? In my life I have to reevaluate myself and reinvent myself every day. If there's an aspect of my being that's not working, I need to change it. I need to evaluate it and I need to change it. Just like a boxer in the ring. If you've got a game plan; you're in there and you're boxing and what you're trying to do isn't working, you have to mentally reevaluate, real quick, your game plan and adjust, adapt, and change or you’re going to lose. 

Another thing about defeat is that we're not supposed to dwell on it. You learn from it; you move on. The past is useful only if it is used to prepare for the future. Another thing is that usually the best competitor and your hardest challenge is your best teacher, you know? And so, when you're in the ring and the person who challenges you the most, and fights you the hardest, and pushes you to the limit; you're going to learn the most from. Same thing in life. If there's people in life who are the hardest people to deal with; you know, they’re your hardest challenge, they're going to teach you the most. And I know for me personally, I have to accept that and learn that. We as human beings can often associate ourselves with the people that are easy to be around, that we can control, that we're bigger and stronger and faster than, and so forth in life… instead of associating with the people who are bigger, stronger, faster, smarter than us. And those are the people we can learn from. 

Just like in the ring, and in life, your reactions can help determine your success. You know in the boxing ring, while you may not be able to take control of the situation, you can react to what's happening. And it really… boxing really relies on how you react to things. If your responses are slow, you will allow your opponent to win without a doubt, you know? Your attitude is important. Your attitude of how you deal with things in the ring and in life. And the way you react to success and failure and other hardships in your life define who you are. And so it's really important, again, to not let your emotions get the better of you. Boxing teaches us to stay cool under pressure. When you're in the ring, if you get too emotional and you start throwing wild swings and you start losing it, losing your composure, you’re gonna get knocked out. Same thing living life. If you start getting wild in life, you start losing your composure, you start getting impatient; you're going to get knocked out. You're going to fall down face flat and you're going to have to learn from that mistake again. So stay cool under pressure, something I fail at every single day, practically.

Boxing teaches us accountability. We all make mistakes, but when you make mistakes in the ring, you get knocked out and there's literally nobody to blame. It's just you and your opponent in the ring. Yeah, there's the ref, but if you make a mistake and you get knocked out, it's your fault. In life, we blame other people. It's not quite so absolute. And that's what I like about boxing, it is absolute in that ring. You falter, you make mistakes, you get egotistical, you get impatient, you're getting knocked out... No one's fault but yours, no one to blame, everybody sees it. It's absolute.

Life is like that too, but we trick ourselves into blaming others. We try and get around the absoluteness of it because it's a little different than taking a punch to the face. We have to have a warrior mentality in life. And that means that we have to accept, immediately, the consequences of our actions. 

So what's the lessons there? Don't drop your guard, don't get cocky, you know… and take accountability. There's no one to blame for when you do get knocked out in life, except for yourself; you faltered. 

Huge thing to learn in boxing, respect. You’ve got to respect your opponent. And in life, you need to respect the other people around you. And you need to respect the people who have accomplishments, more wisdom, more ability than you. And it's really... the one thing that is different about the box ring and then in life, is that in life it's a recognition versus competition. You recognize your elders. You recognize those that have gone before you. You recognize people who've achieved more than you've achieved through discipline, through sacrifice, through practice, through commitment, but you’re still in the ring, you have to recognize all of those things about your opponent, too. If you don't respect your opponent and you don't take your opponent seriously, you're going to get knocked out. And in life, if you don't respect people… and I'm not saying that in a competitive way, “you respect your competition.” I'm talking about the parallel of just having respect, because we lose respect in life. Young people don't respect. You know, I don't have enough respect for my elders sometimes. And it's a painful thing because that's not how I was raised by my father, who taught me respect. It's not how I was raised by my mother who taught me respect. These are learned behaviors that I picked up along the way and my ego picked up, but really respecting people is so important. 

And an example this in the boxing ring is one of the greats of course, Muhammad Ali. And when Ernie Tarell fought, Ali, you know, he got his butt kicked. He was pummeled for 15 rounds straight. You know why he lost that fight? Because he had no respect for Ali. And it started with a consciousness. He refused to recognize Muhammad Ali, and call him Muhammad Ali (because he had recently changed his name) and so he kept calling him Cassius Clay. And that's the famous fight where between every hit he kept… Ali was yelling to this guy, “What's my name?” and is hitting him. This guy's face was rearranged when it was done. I'm surprised he made it 15 rounds. I mean he was destroyed and Ali would just keep hitting him and say, “What's my name?” until he got it right. That man didn't have respect for Ali, not for his skill in the ring, but not in life either. That lack of respect is what got his butt kicked.

Patience and restraint; another couple of things we can learn from the ring. If you rush in, you get knocked out. In life, same thing. You can't force things. You know, you have to be tactical. You have to be practical. You have to have a game plan. You have to be, you know, smart and you have to exercise restraint. And I'm saying this because I have to learn this. These are all things that I'm lacking. Sometimes I feel like I can just force my way in, strength my way in, pummel my way in. In the ring with your opponent if you have too much force at the wrong time, you’re going to get knocked out. If you're not patient, you're not tactical, you're not practical, you're going to get knocked out. 

George Foreman is a great example of a boxer who drastically changed his fighting style. He was fierce when he was young. He just went in there and he just… he didn't have patience, man. And he got away with it because he was just such a formidable beast and so strong. He just knocked guys out, man. I mean, Tyson the same way. The difference is that Foreman wanted to keep fighting. And so he stopped fighting for years and when he came back and then his second chapter, so to speak, he really had to change the way he fought. He was older and he had to be much more patient; much more, you know, practical, and he couldn't just… but he still had the power. He still had the power. And even at 45 years old, he was knocking guys out, but he had to do it. He had to be patient. He had to wait. He had to wear them down and knock them out later in the rounds. If he would have been too egotistical to recognize that about himself, he wouldn't have won those fights later in life… but he did. 

You know, sometimes in life we get knocked down… huge lesson from boxing. You get knocked down, you got 10 seconds and you got to get back up, and you gotta get back up and get back in the fight. And that's a huge lesson for all of us, because some of us, we don't get back up before the 10 count. We wallow in self-pity. We stay down and we're out of the fight. Sometimes in life the 10 count can be years, you know, but you still got that time to get up. Something happens in your life, a tragedy, you don't get what you want, you lose something, you suffer… suffering happens in life. Again, you got 10 seconds to recover. Let's just say in life, it's 10 weeks. If you wallow for too long and you stay down, you're missing opportunities. You're missing the chance to get up and to go forward. So how we handle our mistakes and our failures in life is really important... Huge lesson from boxing. I think that parallel is used all the time, you know, getting up from being knocked down. 

And then on the same end of the spectrum, it's really important how we handle success. We need to stay humble. You know, a lot of boxers get big heads, and big egos, and that's their downfall. That's why I love boxers who are humble, like Manny Pacquiao. That man has not forgotten where he came from, and he has stayed humble, and I respect him, and he's a good man at heart, and he serves his country. I mean, he gives millions back to his country. He fights now for his country. Not for fame. Not for the title. Not for his own ego. He's just fighting to maintain what he started in his country and to give back to his country, and he stays humble. And he's a humble man. And he's a beautiful man. Someone I don't like who's basically the opposite of Pacquiao? Floyd Mayweather. That guy's an egomaniac. He only serves himself. He has no respect for the act of serving others with his millions and millions of dollars. And he's all about the ego, about the self, about materialism, and he has no problem flaunting it. I don't have respect for that. Is he a great boxer technically in the ring? Yes. Is he a great man? No, not at all. And you know, he's a tactical boxer. He was smart. He really rarely… I don't think he ever really took a fight where he faced an opponent he knew he was going to lose to. And that's why he's 40 and 0. So how great is he? He's a great defensive boxer; he's a smart boxer. Is he fearless? I don't think so. He never fought Pacquiao in his prime cause he knew he was going to lose. 

So, how we handle success is really, really important in life. I think sometimes we become champions because we, whatever, we get the promotion. We become the CEO. We get what we want. Our heads get big. We finished the book. We become the author. We're giving lectures. We're giving speeches. We get the Academy Award; we’re the actor. We get the Grammy Award; we’re the musician... Whatever it is, ego kicks in. Success. And then you lose respect of people. You think you have masses of people following you and respecting you, but they don't respect you. Adoring you and following you because you're famous is way different than somebody respecting you. A lot of boxers lose respect when their egos get too big. Same thing in life, when you get successful, you achieve things, stay humble. Remember your roots and remember the people around you who helped you get there. Every boxer has a support team. They have trainers. Just like in life, we have elders. We have our fathers, and our mothers, and our spiritual teachers around us who help us get to where we got. If I fail to recognize my mother and my father for what they have taught me and trained me… (and they happen to be my spiritual teachers) If I fail to recognize them, then I'm completely failing. Great boxers always honor their trainers and their team and their support system. 

You know, some of us will never reach the levels of recognition and fame that I was just talking about as a pro boxer, or an MMA star, or whatever, but we can reach the same levels of discipline. We can reach the same levels of, you know, self-mastery, commitment, all those positive attributes that I just talked about, that they have to get to where they got in life, to train hard, and to be the champions. We can pursue those same traits, and we can excel in them, and we can excel past even what they have. And I think that people forget that. If you apply the same fortitude and the same discipline; the same passion and the same desire to be a world champion in the ring as you would apply in life… Set that goal and apply that. These boxers get up and they train every day, all day long, and every decision is around that end goal of getting the belt. Imagine if we did that, whatever it is, we're setting that goal in life, and our every decision was around achieving that; we had that same type of focus, discipline, commitment, passion, we'd get there. So you can learn a lot from boxers, you can learn a lot from the boxing match and the concepts around all of that. And you know, my friends, we can all be champions of humility. We can be champions of people who serve others, who give to others. We can be champions of the spiritual battle, the spiritual climb, you know, we're trying to be better human beings and refine ourselves. And so, as I've mentioned, in other podcasts, we can go to the gym of life. We can lift the weights of those virtues; the weights of humility, the weights of spirituality, the weights of commitment, and build our spiritual muscles so that we can be champions of men and women. We can be champions in the ring of life. 

Thanks for listening to everybody. I'm Amadon DellErba. This is Episode 19: “Spiritual Lessons Learned from Boxing.”

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