By former Paratrooper and rising MMA star Cameron Else
When I was in the Paratroop Regiment, my life was on a very clear path. I was part of an elite unit and the next step was becoming a sniper, doing my Special Forces selection and then on to a career in the SAS. That was my plan and as far as I was concerned, nothing was going to stand in my way.
Then my hearing was damaged by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. When I got back home I was assessed and the hearing loss meant that I was no longer able to do a frontline combat rule.
Being taken off the weapons was a massive loss of pride for me. Everything I had been working towards was gone and my dreams were shattered.
Because I didn’t want to work behind a desk, I left the Army. It seemed as though my life was over, and I was only 22 years old. At 21 I’d been on top of the world, and now I felt like nothing.
One minute I was serving in an elite fighting unit, and then I found myself living in my car out the back of Tesco’s.
Life was rubbish at this point, but the one thing the military mindset gives you is an ability to crack on. So I just knuckled down and pushed forward with things for a while. So even though I was sleeping in my car, I put a brave face on, and I kept working, driving a lorry around Europe just to get some money coming in.
Big cracks soon started to appear, though. I would go out drinking and I started getting into more and more trouble, fighting most weekends. This all came to a head when I had a big fight with a friend who’d been in the Paras with me. Unfortunately he got hurt and I ended up before a judge.
I had it coming and probably should have been sent to prison. But appearing before that judge was a turning point for me. I’d already started training seriously in martial arts and told the judge that I had stopped drinking, was sorting my life out and was going to be a UFC fighter.
The judge must have decided I was worth a punt, because he decided not to send me to prison. Thankfully my friend recovered, and ever since then I have been completely focused on becoming the very best fighter I can be. Getting to the UFC was mind-blowing. I still have a long way to go in my career, but reaching the best MMA organisation in the world already means so much, as did getting my black belt in jiu-jitsu.
However far I get as a fighter, I have learnt that being focused on your dream, dedicating your life to something and giving everything you’ve got is the most rewarding thing any of us can do.
I am lucky that I have had a second chance after my first career was taken away. But things all happen for a reason and that loss makes me all the more pleased that I have been able to switch from the military to the Octagon. Two super tough ways to earn a living, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cameron fights in UFC Fight Night: Lemos vs. Andrade on April 23rd. He was talking to Richard Holt.