GONAZLES: In Memory of a Fighter and a Fighting Spirit – Josh Samman

By Frank Gonzales, MMATorch columnist

December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Josh Samman throws punches against Tamdan McCrory during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

I didn’t know Josh Samman.  And I don’t know what happened the night he was found with his friend in Florida, or any of the events leading up to it.  But I know I’m saddened by the loss of not only a fighter, but a fighting spirit.

I also know a thing or two about addiction, which is why Josh’s passing hits so close to home.  I know OD’s and DT’s, and grand-mal seizures.  I know rehab and recovery.  I know self-destructive behavior.

And let’s not sugarcoat this, Josh Samman was a self-destructive dude.  He battled personal demons his entire life, some inherited, but most self-inflicted and self-perpetuated, because that’s how we do it.  We intuitively find ways to hate ourselves; it’s part of our wiring.

Josh was all too aware of this, and anyone who read his work or listened to him speak couldn’t help but admire his attempts to make sense of it all, and his efforts to change his life and his thought processes. 

For any of you trying to make sense of this, here’s a hard truth – most addicts die from their addiction, either directly, or as a manifestation of it.  Look at any success rates for any rehab center or any recovery program, and what you’ll find is the overwhelming amount of patients don’t get better.  They don’t get clean.  They don’t get sober.  They don’t survive.

So for Josh see it to the other side at all was a statistical anomaly.  And for him to share his journey so openly was not only courageous but therapeutic, for both himself and all of us who’ve shared his struggles.  His emotional victory at UFC 181 was so much more than head kick to Eddie Gordon.  On that night, Josh defeated himself and his doubts and his demons.  His victory was ours.

Even though this news was shocking, in no way was I surprised.  There’s no cure for addiction and it never really goes away.  You can train your mind to process thoughts differently, but the thoughts never stop coming.  Even when you learn to deflect them or ignore them or redirect them, they never disappear.  All of us are one stupid decision away from doing something stupid, but some of our brains naturally throw out more stupid opportunities than others.

That might be what all this was, a stupid decision, made by someone with a history of self-destruction, competing in a sport that attracts self-destructive people.  Well-adjusted folks don’t enjoy torturing themselves physically and mentally and emotionally.  Fighters get off on it. 

And we get off on it as fans, oftentimes forgetting the circumstances that lead a fighter to the cage, the already damaged souls willing to take more damage for our entertainment and their personal glory.  Josh Samman reminded us that these men and women aren’t just well-trained pieces of flesh, but fragile, human souls, fighting so much more than just their opponents.

Thanks for fighting, Josh.  You fought your ass off.  I know you did.

 (Frank Gonzales is a new MMATorch contributor. Look for his column once a week here at MMATorch. Follow him on Twtter @frankieagogo.)

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