Mark Bocek, who is to return to the Octagon against Matt Wiman at UFC 145 in April, recently took time out of his schedule to speak with a number of students about a number of different topics at Pickering High School in Ajax, Ontario.
“I introduced myself, I spoke a little bit about myself and my background in martial arts—a little background stuff,” recounted Bocek, 30. “Then I touched upon how difficult the sport actually is, a bit about direction, persistence, following dreams and goal-setting.”
“Then I touched a little on anti-bullying.”
Although Bocek admitted that he’s not used to addressing such a large group of people, with the help of some “strong coffee,” the Toronto product feels his presentation was well-received.
“I think it went fine,” Bocek said. “When you look back on things, there’s always something that you could’ve done better or said better, but I think it went fairly well...Most of them seemed kind of happy to have me there.”
According to Bocek, who first realized that he was viewed as a role model several years ago, it is important for him to take on leadership role in the community—specifically regarding the issue of bullying—for a number of reasons.
“I was a bit of a loner growing up and I was bullied a bit until I decided to stand up for myself,” Bocek explained. “It’s still going on today, so if bullies and victims get the opportunity to hear about this from someone that’s gone through it—even if it’s just one person—I think that might help them understand the situation better. If I can help just one person, it’s worth it to me.”
“It also makes me feel good about myself and the fact that I’ve stuck with the sport after all of these years and now have the opportunity to tell my story and help people out.”
Although Bocek’s presentation in Ajax was the first speaking engagement he has taken on, the long-time UFC lightweight emphasized that he intends on further taking advantage of his position in the public eye in the future.
“I’ve spoken with the UFC and I said, ‘Look, you know, any appearances you guys want me to make, I’m there. Bullying, anti-bullying, following your dreams—anything,’” explained Bocek, who has claimed six victories in the Octagon since making his UFC debut in 2007.
“I’m trying to be an ambassador [for the sport]...Training and martial arts gave me a lot of confidence and direction, so if I can take on that position as a role model—as well as a fighter and a coach—then absolutely. I’d like to be someone that people can look up to.”
Ed Kapp is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained first-hand.