Sometime after his UFC 244 fight with Shane Burgos, Makwan Amirkhani had what you might call an epiphany.
“I’m not here anymore for the money. That was the old me,” he told Cageside Press of the fighter whose goal was always the purse, or the bonus.
“Now, this is what makes me happy. Especially when I succeed, when I’m planning to do something and it goes according to plan. That’s what makes me happy,” he revealed. “As long as I can invest in myself, and buy the things that I need to do this in a way that professional athletes are doing [it].”
It’s a subject he opened up about following his bounce-back win against Danny Henry at UFC 251. Speaking in a virtual media scrum following the event, Amirkhani admitted that “the New York fight was a game changer for me.” Which is why he wasn’t sweating a bonus following his anaconda choke of Henry on Saturday. Sure, a bonus would be nice. But there’s more to fighting than that.
His losses have taught him that. “When you lose, there are no people tapping on your shoulder and saying ‘good job’ and everything. You’re kind of lonely and you realize, you’re the only one who in the end will be there for you. Yourself,” Amirkhani explained.
And so he has a new outlook, and new responsibilities. “When I have something, if I have 100 euro, I want to spend 50 euro with somebody, you know. I’ve been that kind of guy, always thinking about other people,” he continued. With family, there was always a duty to tell them where he was, when he was going to see them. What he’d been doing.
Now, “As long as I’m training and my focus is on this sport, and the UFC, I don’t feel any responsibility that I need to explain to people what I’m going to do, today or tomorrow.”
With this new mindset — more focused on himself and his performances, less worried about money and who he might share it with — Amirkhani received the stamp of approval from his new coach. Who happens to be his old coach.
“I got back with my old striking coach. We haven’t been training with each other for three years,” Amirkhani said. “For three, four weeks I was training with him for this fight. At the end of this camp, he said to me ‘listen, that’s how a professional athlete trains. Two years of that, you’re a diamond.”
Watch the full UFC 251 virtual post-fight press scrum with Makwan Amirkhani above.