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What Makes a Person Choose to Become a Professional Mixed Martial Artist?

TUALATIN, OR - JUNE 26:  (Editor's Note: This images was converted to black and white.) Chael Sonnen takes a break during a workout at the Team Quest gym on June 26, 2012 in Tualatin, Oregon.  Sonnen will fight Anderson Silva July 7, 2012 at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Matt JuulContributor IIIAugust 26, 2012

For most people, fighting professionally as a mixed martial artist may seem like an extreme profession.

Let's face it, it's a bit shocking to think that men and women are actually getting paid to break limbs and knock people out.  Now obviously, the sport is far more intricate and not nearly as brutal as it's detractors claim, but there is no denying that being an MMA fighter is one of the most physically and mentally-taxing jobs in the world.

While outsiders are quick to call these athletes "hardcore" or even "crazy", in reality, they are actually quite sane because they are expressing their natural, human competitiveness in the purest form possible.

As a whole, sports, from MMA to even curling, are emulations of war.  

Since the dawn of mankind, humans have used games and physical activities as a safer alternative to real life combat in order to compete against each other.  We are wired to want to test ourselves against our fellow man and sports allow us to do that in a controlled and relatively safe manner.

For those who choose the path of the fighter, however, other sports just don't satisfy those primal competitive urges.  Hitting a baseball or scoring a touchdown just doesn't do it for them.

For some athletes, they need a much more "purer" form of competition, a more accurate simulation of war.  

Well, you can't get much closer than MMA.

But that's just part of the reason why people choose to fight.

The way of the warrior goes beyond just the time actually spent fighting in the cage.  It's about the lifestyle of trying to reach that technical perfection as a martial artist, devoting your life to trying to become the best fighter you can be.

Mixed martial artists may attract a lot of attention for their accolades and accomplishments, but it's the work they put in at the gym that means the most to them.  Training doesn't just improve a fighter's skill, it also helps mold them as a person.

Learning how to push through the pain, to keep that fiery spirit going even when the body wants to quit, that's what martial arts is really about.  It fortifies the willpower and dedication of a person through a very intimate form of physical competition.

And that's why, for many people in the martial arts community, fighting takes on a spiritual role.

Many fighters find a sense of serenity in the chaos of combat.  It's the almost daily routine of training, of giving everything one has both mentally and physically, that helps a person find that inner bliss.

For some reason, fighters are able to find inner peace through MMA despite the inherent violence, making for a surprisingly harmonious relationship between both a fighter's primal and spiritual side.

While this balancing act may be confusing for outsiders, a true warrior of the cage wouldn't have it any other way.

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