Less than three years ago, when the WEC merged with the UFC, Kamal Shalorus was one of the lightweight division's top prospects, making the transfer alongside names like Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.
With an undefeated record and a decorated wrestling background, Shalorus was looked at as a raw, but talented fighter who, with the right time and training, could become an elite competitor.
That all changed when he made his UFC debut in March 2011, and he received a rather rude welcome courtesy of Jim Miller, who finished Shalorus with strikes in the third round of their fight at UFC 128.
Shalorus only fought in the UFC two more times, and while the competition he was facing was among the best in the lightweight division (Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rafael Dos Anjos), the fighter that showed up on those nights was not the same person who competed in the WEC just a couple of years earlier.
At the time, Shalorus was a man living two lives—one where he tried his best to be a fighter and the other where he lived in shame because his family did not approve in his choice of careers.
"For my last few fights I lost in the UFC, honestly mentally I wasn't ready. I just moved by myself to the United States, and my family expected different things from me," Shalorus told Bleacher Report recently. "They wanted me to finish my college or something like that, and go into business, but no fighting. They disagreed so much with me, they said "fighting is not a career for you". So I had so much mental challenge, and really mentally I don't want to fight, but I have to."
Shalorus grew up with his family in Iran before eventually moving to the United Kingdom where he competed in wrestling, making it all the way to the Olympic qualification tournament. From there, Shalorus was expected to finish school and find a career in business or some other occupation, as his family back home had no desire to see him compete in a cage.
The division inside of Shalorus cut so deep in fact that by the time he approached his final fight with Dos Anjos in May 2012, he just wanted out of the sport for good.
"It was so difficult. To be honest, even in my last fight I really couldn't focus. I was fighting myself," Shalorus admitted. "Honestly, myself defeated myself, I shot my own leg. It was two people inside the Octagon, and I get confused. I'd say I want this fight over and I want to go home."
Following the loss, Shalorus was released by the UFC and the pressure to compete in fighting was over. He decided to listen to his family and started his own contracting business in Washington D.C., where he continues to work today.
The new career choice made his family very happy, but Shalorus still had an empty feeling inside his stomach that needed to be filled. It was a desire to compete again, but this time for his own enjoyment of the sport not because it was the only way he could survive financially.
So Shalorus put back on the gloves, stepped back on the mats and began training for his return to action.
"Now that I have a job in D.C. and really I'm so excited for this fight. Fighting is not a career, it's a passion, it's a love. I want to do it," Shalorus said. "I'm focused and happy and now I want to do it. The mental is everything."
Once he decided to get back in action, it didn't take long for Asian promotion ONE FC to pay attention. They signed him immediately to compete on their upcoming show this weekend taking place in Manila in the Philippines.
Shalorus is now a fighter with a purpose, instead of a fighter trying to survive. The losses provided him with an exit to pursue other goals, but it also reads on his record that he was released from the UFC after three straight defeats.
That's not how Shalorus wants to be remembered when his fighting days are finally over, so he's stepping into the cage this weekend with a whole new objective.
"I needed to get my pride back. Because in my last two fights, I didn't fight. I just got beat up, and that's not me. I didn't fight back," Shalorus said. "The winning and losing doesn't matter. It matters whether you fight, you do your best. If you lose, that's okay, you gave your best, but I didn't try.
"Now I need to get my pride back. A man lives with his pride. I need to get my pride back, I need to fight."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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