A Slave to Patterns: You Will Not Kick Me in the Head

(Daniel Cormier | UFC 214)

(Daniel Cormier | UFC 214)

“That is a weakness that I am smart enough to understand when there is a weakness and I go and correct it.”

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

In a previous article using the examples of Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, I asked the philosophical question: Does free will exist or are we slaves to our patterns? Most of us recognize we have certain habits that we repeat every day but assume we can change them at will if we really wanted to. There just isn't enough incentive, like money or self-protection—or so we tell ourselves.

Fighters, then, have the most incentive to change at will since they are incentivized by both money and self-protection (not to mention pride). But if fighters, too, are slaves to their patterns, where do we stack up?

Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, and the Chase for Enlightenment

Take the case of former UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. On August 5, 2014, longtime rival Jon Jones told Daniel Cormier during a press conference that he has a certain bad habit, which he won't name, but one in which Jones knows he can capitalize on.

Cormier responded by saying:

I know that there’s one thing that I do that has gotten me in trouble—if you want to call it trouble... That will be figured out ... so don’t think you’re going to kick me in the head with your left leg.

What Jones was referring to was Daniel Cormier's habit of overextending his head to the right to avoid attacks, especially when uncertain of which attack was coming.

Cormier reiterated:

So do not think you’re gonna kick me with the left foot in the head.

The interviewer asked if that was the pattern Jones was alluding to, to which Jones replied, yes. That's what his team had noticed and were preparing him for.

Cormier then said:

Yeah, of course you did because it’s freaking glaring.

Jones replied:

Well, you better fix that.

Cormier told the crowd:

That is a weakness that I am smart enough to understand when there is a weakness and I go and correct it.

Jones said that the Cormier fans must be worried.

Cormier told his fans:

It’s okay. It’s fine. I will fix it guys. I promise.
Jon Jones knocks out Daniel Cormier

On July 29, 2017, in the rematch, Jon Jones kicked Daniel Cormier in the head with his left foot, separating Cormier from consciousness. Even with the self-awareness of his own tendency, and with three years to prepare, Cormier still became a victim of his own pattern.

With Jones winning both of their fights, Cormier declared that the rivalry was over.

What makes the Buddha the Buddha? What makes one enlightened? People assume it's about gaining mystical powers—to have such a powerful mind you can levitate and move objects with your mind. But it is none of these things. Enlightenment is the ability to be both aware of every aspect of yourself and to be able to change any of these aspects at will. (In neuroscience, this is known as consciousness.) Yet for nearly all humans, this has been practically impossible—just as impossible as flying or walking through walls. (Do not confuse being able to notice and change a few things over time with absolute control over yourself.)

But this elegant yet impossibly difficult ability, to be both aware of oneself and to be able to change oneself, is greater than any super power imaginable. To look at any unhelpful habit and to tell yourself, "Hey, I should stop that." Then to simply stop.

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